I know we are all getting worried about our artists and superstars because lately there have been so many sad and famous deaths, but there’s something else going on too; I’m getting a bit worried about our TV show participants.
The Island with Bear Grylls
Recently on The Island with Bear Grylls one of the participants accidentally fell off a cliff onto his back and by all accounts he was lucky to live. It was horrific. There is a small comfort for the TV viewer at those moments, knowing the show is pre-recorded and you’re not actually watching a snuff flick. However it’s a far cry from You’ve Been Framed, it was deeply unfunny.
Earlier this year I read in the press that our national treasure and World Champion gymnast Beth Tweddle broke her back in practice for TV snow sports programme The Jump. This show is a daredevil outfit for celebrity novices and was criticised for the risks being taken long before Beth Tweddle’s accident. Doesn’t it make you cringe to think of a top gymnast breaking her back of all things?
The Late Late Breakfast Show
In the 1980s it became much more popular for ordinary members of the public to take part in light entertainment TV shows, and this went a step or two beyond appearing on a game show panel. On the Late Late Breakfast Show members of the public could win a chance to perform a stunt on the following week’s show. Tragically, one week in 1986 in practice for a stunt, the member of the public, Micheal Lush, died. Yes, died! Attempting a stunt for our entertainment. I was quite young when I heard the news and I had really loved that TV show so in my youthful confusion I felt guilty, as if I had egged him on. The whole thing was pretty twisted.
Back to square one
Following the tragic death in rehearsal for the Late Late Breakfast show, years and years passed without such risks being taken. Promises were made that members of the public wouldn’t be asked to risk their lives. That’s not to say that stunts and shocks didn’t feature on TV in the coming years, they just removed the aroma of death from the viewers’ experience, it felt more reassuring to watch. As a viewer you no longer felt like you were a Roman spectator waiting for a death in the Circus Maximus. However now we appear to be back to square one.
We need to remember the lesson of the Late Late Breakfast Show; just because it’s happening far away in Television Land, doesn’t mean it’s safe. It makes no difference whether they are celebrities or not. What nauseates me most is the idea that “genuinely possible death” is a spectator sport for the whole family.