Cultural Divisions – Part 1


It’s all Uni Boy’s fault.

He is a very bad influence on me.

He was paying us a sporadic summer break visit, and having emerged from his hermitage in the early afternoon, observed me flicking through the channels in search of some diversion.

‘Jeremy Kyle’s on.” he said, with that twinkle in his eye.

“Yuk.” I said.

“You may well say ‘Yuk’ Mother, but have you actually watched the show?” The sardonically curled lip should have warned me off – but I had to argue.

“Well, not really watched at length but it’s bad enough when you’re flicking through the channels. Don’t tell me that you watch it, you’re a scientist for heaven’s sake!”

He is now wearing that superior look that pushes my ‘I’m Mother yet!’ buttons. Lounging against the doorpost, his striped dressing gown worn with a Bertie Wooster loucheness, he proceeds to give me a lecture on why I simply MUST watch the Jeremy Kyle Show.

“Call yourself a psychologist!” he mocks, knowing full well that my interests fall into the realms of what he – as a student of research chemistry  – terms ‘pseudoscience’. “The whole programme is packed with research material, whether you are looking at the participants, the way Jezza handles them or what the resident psychologist does with them. If you watch a couple of shows you’ll be addicted.”

Knowing that he has baited and hooked me, he flashes that wicked grin and disappears into the downstairs bathroom for a leisurely shower that sees the rest of his family trudging upstairs for comfort breaks for the next hour or so.

I can’t resist a challenge.

I watched.

I got hooked.

Hub is dismissive of Jeremy (or Jezza but NEVER Jerry – that’s the American chap). Hub has been known to take unexplained dislikes to people in the public eye – he won’t stoop to call them ‘celebrities’. He has also been known to wander down the display racks in Asda (or Tesco) turning magazines over so that he doesn’t have to look at reality TV participants or ex-Page Three Stunnahs.

It’s a harmless enough pastime and costs nothing beyond the odd glare from a salesperson.

I have found a solution to Hub’s aversion to Mr Kyle.

I digibox Jezza’s shows and watch them with the sound off and subtitles on. This also enables me to fast forward through the Foxy Bingo adverts – well, all the adverts actually – and when the shouting, screaming and regional accents render interpretation impossible, I have the written word to assist me.

I now have a sneaking regard for Jezza.

I don’t agree with everything he says and does and there have been times when the car crash TV element is very evident as a way of boosting viewing figures.

But there are some aspects that intrigue me and others that perturb me.

1. Contraception – it really is a lot easier and cheaper to get and use contraception than it was when I was a teenager – and yet, judging by the number of teenaged ‘babymothers’  (and fathers) demanding DNA and lie detector tests for proof of paternity and fidelity, their sex education   and access to condoms is sorely lacking.

2. Some aggrieved grandparents have ventured to suggest that certain young women are having babies in order to acquire housing and benefits. I have heard this mooted before and whilst there does seem to be some evidence amongst the sneering young women on Jezza’s show, I also know that there are other families living in unsuitable accommodation who struggle to pay the bills.

3. There seems to be a lack of understanding that airing your dirty laundry on daytime TV might just prejudice your chances of a fair hearing at the offices of housing/benefits/court/job shop or anywhere else where you might want to be seen as honest and respectable.

4. Many of the young (and old) women who appear on the show have a curious idea of what is suitable to wear on a daytime TV show. At one end of the spectrum are the dowdy, greasy haired, toothless, spotty females sporting a ponytail facelift, and at the other are those who are intent on exposing as much flesh as possible and looking as if they’ve just done the walk of shame. Very occasionally someone comes on dressed in a more civilised fashion but it later transpires that they have been up to far more dreadful things than their grubby or exhibitionist counterparts.

5. Talking of teeth, is it a requirement of appearing on the show that you must have lost or damaged most of your front teeth? This seems to apply to young men and older women mostly. Perhaps, as well as offering counselling, detox and rehab, Jezza should also employ a resident dentist?

6. People rarely argue with the DNA test results – even when they aren’t what was wanted but the lie detector…… now there’s a different kettle of fish! It is used primarily as a method of finding out whether partners have been cheating or whether family members have been robbing.  Strange that when a challenging partner smiles smugly when s/he finds that their other half is telling the truth, they suddenly challenge the veracity of the test when it states that they were lying. You can’t take the test if you are pregnant, on certain drugs – or if you nod off whilst taking it. Some young men take the test purely because they think that they have such control of their emotions that they can fool the detector – they’ve seen it done in American crime shows you see.

7. There are a wide variety of regional accents – and I am not being judgemental here – but they do seem to become unintelligible when spoken by an angry and upset person who is more intent on having their say than in actually being understood.

8. Whilst many of the participants seem to possess sufficient intelligence to blag their way onto the show and get free accommodation at a local hotel, sometimes it is obvious that the person on set has learning difficulties and doesn’t really understand the full implications of their appearance on the show. Ethically, Jezza’s researchers should have gently persuaded them not to appear – and I have no doubt that in most cases this happens, but there have been a couple of occasions where people slipped through the net and I found it horribly sad.

9. Jezza can sometimes be very intuitive and often spots the liar or cheat without the use of technology. Most of the time he vents his spleen on both warring parties as nasty secrets emerge that hadn’t been disclosed to the researchers in the pre-appearance work up. I have seen him turn an aggressive young man denying responsibility for his drug use and violence into a sobbing child desperate for help. Luckily he has a good professional back up team to come in and pick up the pieces. I don’t always think that he’s spleen-venting at the correct person – but then he has access to other information that the public aren’t advised about.

10. I love Jezza’s security team; clad in black and hugely muscled, they lurk in the wings ready to insert themselves between the participants, protect Jezza or eject the really naughty people from the building.

I must admit, after an hour of observing screaming harpies, thuggish druggies, guilty parties and demanding parents, it is a relief to slip into the gentle world of ‘Homes Under the Hammer’ where gravel-voiced Martin, and Lucy with the nice hair and cute coats take me round the country to marvel at transformed dwellings whilst listening to the world’s most literal soundtrack. ‘Bargain Hunt’ can soothe my savage breast too; with only mild disagreements over whether to waste money on a piece of obviously modern tat, and brave faces when their carefully chosen bargains make a loss or even – fail to sell at all.

After spending more years than I care to mention trawling through the morass of child and adult social care, I like to think of myself as unshockable but my eyes have been well and truly opened by the participants of Jezza’s show.

I hate to admit that Uni Boy is right but my awful fascination is turning into an addiction. I am deeply thankful that I will never be in a position to appear on the show, nor even be in the audience – although according to Uni Boy, students are desperate to get tickets and experience the car crash first hand.

Hub and I had our moment of fame when we attended a recording of ‘The Sarah Millican Show’ a couple of years ago; much more my cup of latte macchiato.  I had a brief (and rehearsed) few words to say to camera and every time they show it again I get phone calls and emails from friends who didn’t see it the first time it was on.

Whilst I am confessing my guilty pleasures – so good for the soul – I have to admit to being a fan of ‘Judge Rinder’. I stumbled across this show when it first burst onto TV in August of this year and I LOVE it.

An Anglicised version of America’s’ Judge Judy’, I find this one SO much more entertaining. The cases that come before ‘Judge’ Robert Rinder (he’s a barrister actually) aren’t hugely expensive or controversial – in order to meet the criteria you can’t have had your case heard in court before or be waiting for it to be heard.  It is Judge Rinder that is the main attraction. Biting wit and sarcasm delivered in an unashamedly camp fashion; this man certainly knows his law.

His most oft quoted barbs ‘I can smell a lie like a fart in a lift’ , ‘I’m not laughing at you, I’m laughing near you’ and the most definitive ‘When I’m talking, you are not’.  Unfortunately his barbs are appreciated more by the audience (full of students I have no doubt)  than those appearing before him who forgot to bring their evidence to court as well.

In terms of controlling wayward participants, Judge Rinder could teach Jezza a few lessons, though he does have a bouncer standing by for the control of disgruntled losers.

Must get my beauty sleep – I have another episode of Jezza to watch in the morning.

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