What will they think of next, you ask? How far are television network bosses prepared to stoop? Be afraid, is the answer. Be very afraid.
Apparently not content with taking the mickey out of all things adults in the reality TV genre, production chiefs have now turned their gaze on to the most vulnerable members of the community – kids.
Yes, yes, I know. We’ve already been tortured by nonsense such as Supernanny, The World’s Strictest Parents and I Know My Kid’s A Star; not to mention the execrable Kiwi initiative, The Politically Incorrect Parenting Show.
But they were, at least, shows about children being children – channelled through the eyes of a bunch of exploitive light entertainers, perhaps, but kids being kids, nonetheless.
The BBC, however, has offered a new twist on an old theme this year with a couple of shows that unashamedly feed on our willingness to be patronising and condescending.
Especially to kids.
Junior Masterchef is an elimination-based game in which kids are axed on the basis of their cooking skills, and Junior Apprentice is as bad as it sounds – a group of teenagers trying to act like capitalist wankers, complete with a ceremonial firing in each episode.
“I’m ruthless,” claimed 16-year-old Jordan de Courcy, who apparently set up his first business some four years previous. “If there’s someone I don’t need in my company, they’re gone.”
“Appearances are important in business,” stated 16-year-old Zoe. “No-one wants to do a deal with an ugly
“It’s about survival of the fittest,” said one. Another boasted that her parents had given her shares when she was a ten year-old, while a girl named Hibah aspired to build her own plastic surgery empire because “people will pay extortionate sums for it”.
Call me old-fashioned but there’s something a bit sick about casting children in adult-themed productions that are expressly designed to prompt the viewer’s sense of schadenfreude – that is, our ability to take pleasure at another’s misfortune.
It was bad enough when were debating whether someone called Suzie should be voted off a show because of her smugness and screechy voice, or whether a bloke called Robert should be fired because of his propensity to perspire.
But there’s something plain wrong about the notion of recruiting a band of youngsters so the rest of us can play favourites and have a laugh and snigger at their expense.
Talk about tapping into our base instincts.
As American magazine Entertainment Weekly once wrote, “Do we watch reality television for precious insight into the human condition? Please. We watch for those awkward scenes that make us feel a smidge better about our own little un-filmed lives.”
They’re right, you know. And so normal has it become that the challenge now for the TV networks is finding new angles, and fresh enough to feed our growing appetite for the trend. Cue the idea of introducing the kids.
Can’t be long until someone over here picks up the baton and runs with it.