Posts Tagged ‘channel 4


‘It’s not a fashion show, you know’ and other things parents do to get you bullied

There can be few more compelling reasons for the continual use of contraception than Channel 4’s latest snapshot of the youth of today, Boys and Girls Alone.

A bleak, black-hearted representation of Britain’s under-11s, it should immediately become a compulsory part of sex education lessons, offering teenagers a grimy window on a life spent single-handedly raising a limb of Satan who’d rather gnaw off their own arm – or their mother’s – than raise their obese arse from the sofa to make a sandwich.

The programme charts the progress of 20 children aged eight to 11 who are left to their own devices for a fortnight in two separate houses, one for boys and one for girls. Several of the children are fairly pleasant, harmless creatures who carry themselves with a degree of pride and self-belief. The other 18 bully these children relentlessly.

This is one of the nice kids. Look how much shes enjoying the social experiment!

This is one of the nice kids. Look how much she's enjoying the social experiment!

It’s like Lord of the Flies made flesh, every worst-case scenario that topped the bill at the multiplex cinema inside your brain on school nights, a chilling reminder of what being young was really all about: trying to avoid being the one with fleas and shitty shoes that everyone picked on.

Though it’s fashionable to remember our childhood as a lemon-sherbert flavoured rainbow of joyousness where we danced in sunbeams and played tiddlywinks in the street, the truth is that being a child was relentless rounds of fear, loathing and desperately trying to fit in.

For a start, children are the harshest critics on the planet and nothing whatsoever gets past their cruel scrutiny – they’re like Exocet missiles with their sights firmly trained on any perceived deviation from the path of total and utter normality and conformity.

In adult life, you’re unlikely to give a monkey’s chuff what anyone thinks about your trainers, your bag or your hair colour. When you’re at school, these aren’t mere trifling matters, they’re the very currency of social acceptability.

One shopping trip with a penny-pinching parent of the ‘it’s not a fashion show, you know’ variety can lead to a long, slow term of abject misery spent dodging verbal and possibly physical assaults from herds of burly halfwits wearing designer coats.

In addition to the ruling fringe of insane despots intent on emotionally scarring you for life (school bullies, teachers, career advisers) you also had to contend with the fact that at any one time, half your friends hated you or were talking about you behind your back.

And at the end of the day, where did you go? Back home where the iron fist of parental dogma ruled the day, preventing you from doing 99 per cent of the things you enjoyed on the unreasonable basis that they cost too much money/were perilously dangerous/could result in an extended stay in a young offender’s unit.

Lord, it was wearing.

Having spent two-thirds of your youth desperately wishing you were considerably older, you landed in a disgusting shared house with a group of people you wouldn’t spit on if they were on fire, arguing the toss about who used the last of the milk or left the gigantic floater in the toilet.

Then the terrible realization hit you: that adult life is dreadful for a whole set of new reasons, all of which you have to pay for by direct debit from your account, not your parent’s.

You guys are the best! But just to clarify, after graduation, I never want to see you again. Ok? Cool! Lets steal a traffic cone!

"You guys are the best! But just to clarify, after graduation, I never want to see you again. Ok? Cool! Let's steal a traffic cone!"

The children in Boys and Girls Alone are swiftly realizing that while it may be fun to spend all day engaged in arm-to-arm water pistol battles, wet clothes and muddy knees don’t get the tea on or stop a chunky girl from a terrifying London estate belittling you in the kitchen. Despite being followed by huge, lumbering cameras (and huge, lumbering social workers) the children appear completely oblivious to the fact that their every move is being watched by Big Brother and, more to the point, Big Mother in the viewing suite.

It took about 20 minutes for things to get really feral, and about two hours for all-out turf warfare to break out. What started out as an interesting social experiment quickly became a form of sadist’s bingo, in which we all wondered whose personality would completely unravel first, leaving only a child-shaped, rocking shell where once a small human had been.

Still having the time of my life!

Still having the time of my life!

After two hours programming, viewers could be forgiven for thinking they were watching footage from Camp Delta and Camp Echo at Guantanamo Bay but for the fact that the Boys and Girls Alone weren’t wearing orange hoods and were doling out their own ‘coercive management techniques’ rather than waiting for a prison guard to do it for them.

Watching hateful juveniles dissolve into weeping snot factories is, of course, horribly compelling, although nothing you won’t have seen on countless occasions if you’ve ever hosted children’s birthday parties or visited a shoe shop on the last day of the summer holidays.

As far as I can see, the moral of Girls and Boys Alone is that children are absolutely bloody vile. So, no change there, then.

* The Woman in Black apologises for her unscheduled absence. Too much work and no play makes the WIB a dull girl, although my dull is still a gajillion times more awesome than most people’s.


C4 commissions a new reality TV show based up someone’s rectum?

Hooray for the Government which this month is rolling out its ambitious project to encourage patients to treat themselves.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson believes that hospitals can drive down costs by putting the Expert Patient Programme in place, which involves patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes, asthma, multiple sclerosis and arthritis learning how to treat themselves.

Just to clarify, by “treat themselves”, the Government is talking in medical terms. They’re not proposing offering people lessons on how to buy themselves a bunch of flowers, a box of chocolates or a ready meal from Marks and Spencer.

And “Expert Patients” aren’t people who have a never-ending supply of dressing gowns, slippers, pyjamas and weak orange squash by their bedside, either: they’re well-informed individuals who know a great deal about their condition and how to treat it (there is, of course, a thin line between “well-informed” and “smart arse with a sheaf of print-outs from the internet”. If you’re going to be a know-all, please don’t feel the need to go and see your GP to boast about it. Stay at home and be ill in silence).

According to the Department of Health, in hospitals where the programme has been tested, patient visits have been reduced by almost 20 per cent. What the figures don’t reveal is if the morgues have been almost 20 per cent busier, but that’s New Labour for you.

The Government has finally realised that hospital doctors are far too busy dealing with NHS red tape to see ill people, especially boring ill people who’ve STILL got the same thing wrong with them that they had 20 years ago.

Treating people who don’t get better is just so damnably depressing.

And it’s not just these chronically ill time-wasters who are hampering the NHS – in the olden days, euthanasia was practically mandatory if you’d had a cough for more than three days. Today you even have to keep old people alive – it’s political correctness gone mad.

The health department has high hopes that when the programme is successfully rolled out across the entire country, no one will ever need to go to hospital again, meaning that doctors can spend their days concentrating on more important matters such as playing golf, sunbathing in the Bahamas and window-shopping for Land Rover Discoveries.

The DoH is keen to put an end to the “handout culture” that pervades the NHS and sees patients given “what they want, when they want”. It’s time those pesky asthmatics and diabetics learn that inhalers and insulin don’t grow on trees.

If it’s cost-cutting they’re after, the NHS could do worse than show potentially chronically ill patients (those who visit their GP more than twice a year) back-to-back episodes of Casualty and Holby City, which illustrate just how much of a downer it is to be ill in a state-run hospital.

Casualty used to be an almost-factual representation of what happened in a busy accident and emergency unit – now the staff spend half their time avoiding being trapped down mine shafts/in bomb-struck trains/under collapsing bridges and the other half either sleeping with a consultant or going bananas and being hauled in front of disciplinary committees about their conduct/that patient they killed.

Everyone on the ward has a life story they could flog to Take A Break and every operation involves the insertion of a microscopic camera into an orifice, even if the patient is just having a piece of glass removed from their toe.

On this note, with all those camera crews already in situ, it’s a wonder that Channel 4 hasn’t commissioned a reality TV show based up someone’s rectum or inside their urethra. Perhaps they already have – it couldn’t be worse than Celebrity Big Brother.

Watching Casualty or Holby City is like sitting through an elongated party political broadcast by a private healthcare provider. As the credits roll at the end of every episode, you’re resolving never to go into hospital again unless you’re on a trolley with a tag on your toe heading for the fridges.

When it comes to medicine in the old doctor-patient relationship, I’m kind of banking on the doctor knowing more than I do about what’s wrong with me: after all, one of us went to university to study medicine for seven years and the other one passes out if anyone so much as mentions eye operations.

You have to wonder what else is in the NHS pipeline.

The introduction of DIY surgery kits? Incentives for people to try and die early from diseases which don’t require any medication? Or perhaps grants for the long-term sick to cut out the middle man, schedule a relaxing holiday in Switzerland and come back in a six foot by three foot casket. Preferably before they blow too much cash on prescription morphine.

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