Practically joking

In which the TV is cruel


Like, I imagine, many other people, I watched the first episode of the new Channel Four series Space Cadets with a slightly queasy feeling. If you’re foreign and haven’t heard about it – or if you’ve been in outer space, of course – it’s a show where former drug-dealer Johnny Vaughan* makes fun of the gullible and easily fooled, by persuading them they’re going to be Britain’s first reality-TV astronauts.

It’s a rather nasty hoax to pull on someone, even if they are a bit gullible. It’s only going to work – I mean, it’s only going to draw the audience in – if the contestants are so stupid that we all feel sorry for them; or are so nasty that we want them all to look like pillocks. At the moment that’s impossible to tell, because episode one – which was all about the audition and selection of the contestants – barely featured the actual contestants at all. Instead, most of the screen time was given over to the production stooges, and their efforts to look like genuine applicants.

I’m going to keep watching, even though I’m doubtful about the entire ethics of the thing. For one thing – like nearly all “reality tv” game shows – the first episode looked as if it will be completely unrepresentative of the series. For another, I’m going to be rooting for the contestants to see through the hoax – even if that does mean they won’t win any of the prize money.

* Referring to him as the former drug-dealer Johnny Vaughan is a rather mean and childish thing to do; but then, Space Cadets is a rather mean and childish show.

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