Fake Family Fortunes: Why TV Has Lost Touch with the Real World

June 18, 2013 2:00 pm

The TV channel ‘Challenge’ has stuck entertainment oil with its concept of showing old episodes of games show such as The Crystal Maze and Family Fortunes. Everyone loves being nostalgic from time to time, and if nothing else, turning retro is good for a laugh.

quizshow-les-dennis-then-290x400Whilst waiting for another show on a different channel to begin, I decided to watch five minutes of a thirty-year old episode of Family Fortunes with a far younger Les Dennis hosting. Once I’d got over the amusement of the hairstyles and the fashion (and I thought being a nineties kid was bad), what struck me was what I can only describe as the sedateness of the host and contestants. In fact, the people on the show seemed almost bored to be there, despite playing for a considerable sum of money. Then I realised with the problem was: Family Fortunes from thirty years ago wasn’t too sedate; it’s current game shows and reality TV shows that have lost touch with the real world.

It’s almost too simple to put the sedateness of twentieth-century game shows down to less globalisation and a more distinct “Britishness”, but it’s the only reason I can find. Beneath all the perms and ill-fitting suits, those people on Family Fortunes were exemplary models of a reserved, dignified Britishness, barely even breaking face when they won thousands of pounds.

Now think about current game shows, the remake of Family Fortunes included. Our eyes and ears are overwhelmed by over-exuberant hosts, fake smiles and repetitive shouting of how much money is at stake. TV is supposed to be a way of relaxing, but after watching five minutes of such a show, I need a break from all the shouting and over-exuberant hosts. It’s no wonder ITV has so many adverts.

The shows that are the main culprits for this “in-your-face” style of television are talent shows. Whether it’s The Voice, X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent or any other manner of talent show TV producers churn out for us to criticise, they’re all guilty of going overboard. Five minutes of watching Dermot O’Leary straining to make himself heard over screaming fans on an illuminated stage with hundreds of lights blaring out all at once is enough to make me want to go for a lie down.

the-x-factor-uk-wallpaper-largeYes, I am a bit prejudiced against reality TV and yes, I can’t stand the X Factor, but this isn’t the usual let’s-all-jump-on-the-bandwagon dig at reality TV and game shows. What concerns me is the way that we have lost touch with reality. Nobody is willing to stand up and say that actually, Dermot O’Leary probably can’t stand half the contestants he has to smile at and hug, or that Vernon Kay is probably exasperated at the stupidity of some of the contestants on Family Fortunes. Instead, we all like to live under this exuberance and illusion that TV hosts love everyone they meet.

I’m not saying that the Les Dennis era of Family Fortunes is far greater than any game show produced since; I don’t pretend to be an expert about the show. But what makes such a show far more watchable is the calm, dignified manner in which the show is conducted. I’m sick of all these fake smiles and over-the-top shouting hosts who repeat that there are thousands of pounds at stake every two minutes, or that this is a contestant’s last chance to impress. If a programme is trying to reflect reality or give real chances to ordinary people, then let’s get rid of this exuberant façade that everyone knows to be fake – even if it’s just to give our eyes and ears a break.

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