My regular reader will know that I have ongoing issues with Jeremy Kyle. So imagine my surprise to see a picture of the obnoxious individual on the front of today’s Independent next to the headline “Jeremy Kyle is a force for tolerance and morality”. Well done, Mr Kelner. You caught me. I purchased and seethed for Johann Hari has written an article in praise of Jeremy Kyle. He writes,
“repetition of liberal moral beliefs on shows like this has a slow, powerful effect on the viewers. They have helped to engineer the new “common sense” in our country – that women and gay people don’t have to tolerate abuse. This is consciousness-raising that money cannot buy, and we need it.”
and suggests that people like me – who hate the genre – “assume the (unpaid) guests are too stupid to decide for themselves whether they should appear on a programme they’ve seen a hundred times. ”
And hanker after
“the age of emotional repression, when British people didn’t cry or shout or scream on television. “
Well, that’s me, and the others that hate the stuff, told.
Thankfully, the other week The Guardian published an article by a former producer explaining what happened on the show. Perhaps Johann didn’t read it. Anyway, she wrote,
“Guests are wound up like a coiled spring before the show. It is an integral part of preparations – a process, sanctioned by the show’s editors, called “talking up”. It starts hours before the recording of each show, with researchers and producers flitting from guest to guest, talking about the first few points they will say on air. Normally our advice would be stirring, along the lines of “go out there, stand right in his face and point at him so he listens!” Contributors are advised to shout five main points, written by the production team, to support the story of the show. They are encouraged to stand over their opponent, to make their points more effectively.
“To make things even more heightened, guests are kept apart before the show. They have separate hotels, separate green rooms, and the production team take advantage of that distance, and the guest’s nervous confusion – many had never been on a talk show before – by playing a machiavellian game of “he said, she said” to ensure that feelings run high. For instance, I might tell a guest about another: “You will never believe what he is planning to say about you!”
“The coaching continues right up to the moment a guest walks on stage. My fellow producers and I would sit with the guests, whispering urgent instructions until the moment Kyle introduces them. This is the moment of confrontation – the “money shot”. It is also the first time the guests see their hated enemy.”
And what does this lead to? What does this manipulation of those that have seen the programme but are not telly savvy designed to achieve?
“The whole show is designed to produce a gladiatorial-style exchange. Guests walk out of opposite entrances in the same way that Roman fighters would enter the ring in the Colosseum. For particularly controversial or confrontational subjects, producers would ramp up the music, selecting heavy metal tracks to set the tone.”
And the consequence for the punters?
“Unedifying though the spectacle is, ITV is right to say that, for some people at least, resolution is achieved. Some guests do indeed go home happy. Often, the more aggressive the show, the happier the guests are, cheering as they are driven home. But when unstable and weak people are used because the pressurised producers are desperate to come up with a show, real damage is done. And who talks to the people who call the show about the problems they have, if they are not selected as participants? We had a list of numbers of social services, Childline, Alcoholics Anonymous and the like, but we were not trained counsellors. Yet serious issues are often raised in these calls.
“After last month’s court case, ITV said the programme provides guests “the offer of counselling, mediation and support which is ongoing following their appearances”. When I worked on Jeremy Kyle, aftercare was indeed given immediately after recording, but only if requested by the guest. Occasionally we would pay for a guest to have counselling at home. Kyle himself does not see them again.”
So, the show screws with people’s heads, orchestrates confrontations, manipulates and humiliates for the delight of a baying crowd, and then appears to say to hell with the participants (all denied by ITV in a right to reply piece here).
That, Mr Hari, is why I hate Jeremy Kyle and its ilk. I don’t want a return to prejudice on the grounds of race or sexuality, nor do I want a return to an age of emotional repression. I don’t hate the white working class (and if I did this would cause big problems in my own family). I just think that the manner in which these shows are made is dubious, bordering on the unethical. The manner of production means that when the judge described the show as human bear baiting – following (lest we forget) an assault which took place on the programme (described by ITV as “very rare”) – he was right. And the audience that thrives and cheers on this pornography of despair should be ashamed