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Wednesday, 21 May
Their TV Is Different From My TV

Well! I was just now about halfway through composing a longish post in Movable Type, and accidentally, somehow, managed to delete the whole fucking thing! Isn't that just twist-your-dick superb? I know how pleased I am. I'm too irritated to go back and rewrite it now, so instead I'll just cut loose on the BBC, which the wife and I would watch in the hotel after a long day of fun and frolicking and not fucking deleting things.

What's going on with the sudden auction craze in Britain? I noticed at least three different shows that all involved some way of getting people to dig up their old shit and hustle it for cash at auctions. The only American near-equivalent I know of is "Antiques Roadshow," but that program doesn't even show you the auction itself, which is sort of the focus of all the British shows. But the format is similar: show a huge crowd of local hopefuls all clinging maniacally to garbage they rummaged out of the attic who will all go home sad, and then cut to the three lucky souls who actually managed to scrounge up non-crap items. The items get a teasing little analysis by the experts, who then inevitably ask, "Do you have any idea what it's worth?" This always gets me. Of course they don't, you fuckhead. This would be like your accountant calling you up and baiting you for a while before then asking, "So, any idea what you owe this year?"

But the British shows then go ahead and show the items actually being auctioned, which is pretty smart: auctions are naturally tense little affairs, tiny mini-dramas. By comparison, the hopelessly staid Antiques Roadshow is depressing and boring and sad, like Quaker pornography. So you watch the items being auctioned, and naturally they cut back and forth to the seller, who usually fidgets around trying not to look too avaricious as the bidding goes on. And of course they show the bidders, most of whom have some odd personal tic or spasm that indicates a bid increase, even though they all have handy signs they can wave, but rarely do. There are also the paid lackeys on cell phones there too, bidding for someone too rich, famous or snotty to show up on their own, and you can kind of tell that the bidders who actually bothered to show up don't much like the phone-monkeys at all, and why not? There's a little bit of gamesmanship to the process, and watching people's body language, and not a little excitement too, and suddenly when you're bidding against some gum-snapping tart with a phone screwed into her ear, nodding cutely every time Robbie Williams or the Duke of Filligrinigainian or whoever costs you another twenty fucking clams, well, that's kind of a shoe-pisser, I would think.

The most popular of these programs seems to be the one with, to American ears, the most wonderful title: Flog It! It also has the very best cheeky voiceover when it's over, spoken in a lovely proper plummy British voice: "You'll have another chance to flog it tomorrow at seven-thirty . . . "

The other program of note is familiar to Americans: The Weakest Link. Now, as an American, I know full well I'm on pretty shaky ground when it comes to complaining about the export of cultural horrors, but really Britain: What the fuck? It's worth noting that the show didn't last over here with the British host Anne Robinson, and was quickly relegated to daytime programming with a new host who is about as barbed and biting as polished marble, but it's still going strong across the water, and it bewilders me. Why would so many otherwise nice-seeming chaps and ladies willingly submit to the sort of awful bullshit that happens on every program? For those that don't know, this quiz show features nine contestants every program that steadily vote each other off until only one person is left standing to take home the loot. But the real horrifying nonfun of the program is between rounds when the dominatrix-cum-schoolmarm hostess Anne Robinson hectors and harangues the contestants, insulting their intelligence, their hairlines, their weight, their jobs, everything. One favorite trick is insinuating that people are gay. Another is, weirdly, boob size. One poor bastard was a toilet salesman; she gnawed on him like a Christmas ham. Another guy sold condom-dispensing machines, but while he was being mauled, he at least managed one terrific--if inadvertant--line. Anne had barked at him, "Any hobbies?" He said, "No, just work." She repeated with icy contempt: "A condom salesman." "Yes," he replied. "Does your wife have any hobbies?" she fished. He sighed and began wistfully, "Well, she doesn't really have any time, Anne . . . " and the whole place gave one huge stifled snort of laughter; even the normally cutting-torch demeanor of the host broke down, and she snuffled into her collar.

But that was a rare moment of levity. Almost all the rest of the time, it's just mean-spirited abuse for the hell of it, and it really just makes my stomach hurt. I once woke up from a nap because it had come on and I felt like Anne Robinson had climbed out of the set and started pouring poison into my ears. Honestly, Britain, how can you watch this terrible program?

That's what we're here for. That's why we take the trouble to cough up old episodes of Alf and The Fresh Prince of Bel Air to the BBC for! Jesus, don't do this to yourselves. Watch our appalling dreck. Or anything else! Anything! You'll feel better. That's it. Sit back. Relax. And flog it.


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Comments

Last time I was "over there," I ended up watching the "Tranny (Transvestite) of the Year Competition" on the BBC. I think they get a sort of masochistic thrill out of creating such bad programming. Of course, who are we to talk about their TV.

Later. I'm going to go watch The Real World.

Comment number: 000842   Posted by: KOTWF on May 22, 2003 05:31 AM from IP: 65.194.128.149

One piece of exported TV trash that I think was done BETTER in the place of export was Temptation Island... the Australian version of that show is great!

But maybe I'm only saying that cuz the girls go topless... that's probably it.

Comment number: 000844   Posted by: Ryan Waddell on May 22, 2003 07:34 AM from IP: 206.47.252.98

didn't get a chance yesterday to goosh over your return, i was too full of glee. welcome back and thanks for breaking up the work day monotony.

Comment number: 000845   Posted by: eden on May 22, 2003 11:26 AM from IP: 64.202.129.34

The Antiques roadshow was originally a British show

Comment number: 000862   Posted by: jim on May 24, 2003 04:38 PM from IP: 195.92.168.171

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