There's nothing so fake as reality

WE have never had so much television thrown our way as now. And there has probably never been so little worth watching since Muffin the Mule first kicked up his heels.

WE have never had so much television thrown our way as now. And there has probably never been so little worth watching since Muffin the Mule first kicked up his heels.

I recently had the pleasure of watching the BBC's I Claudius, all 13 gripping hours of it.

No one now would think to make a series set in classical Rome without location shoots, lavish costumes and an attempt to recreate some ancient spectacle.

Back in 1976 it was OK to shoot the whole thing in a studio.


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The costumes were pretty basic, the make-up variable, sometimes laughable. But - and it's a huge but - for the old-fashioned values of writing, acting and direction it must be many, many years since anything so good was made for TV.

It is impossible to imagine anything like Claudius being made now, and for that we are all poorer.

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Instead we get endless mindless chat about supposed celebrities; a glutton's feast of glitzy fry-ups; enough home-changing routines to wreck a housing estate a week.

And, most fatuous of all, we get so-called "reality TV".

Do you remember when grinning Aussie Clive James used to take the Michael every week out of Japanese TV? How we laughed at those silly orientals for watching people munch creepy-crawlies or stick them in their clothing.

Now we have no need of imported clips from Japan.

Apparently nearly 11million people tuned in on Monday night to see a mediocre ex-footballer and an even less talented "glamour model" stick their heads in see-through helmets full of bugs and snakes.

After which viewers had the pleasure of Jordan stripping down to her undies in a bubbling pond. Which was no doubt exactly what a fair number had switched on in the hope of seeing.

(Strangely enough, there were more bums and boobs - real ones - on show 28 years ago in I Claudius, without the fuss or the viewing figures.)

It's all moderately clean, fairly harmless fun, I suppose. Unless you happen to have been one of the hapless insects buried alive in Jordan's monstrous cleavage.

But what on earth have such shenanigans got to do with reality? It's all about as real as what she who was once pretty Katie Price keeps in her lacy black bra.

If such entertainment is your bag, you might yearn for the day - surely due soon - when Sky offers a whole channel devoted to nothing but such so-called reality. (Confusingly, the channel that already bears the name Reality TV appears to offer nothing but… er… reality.)

A rough count suggests there are currently more than 100 "reality" shows they could import from America.

They range from Paradise Hotel to Combat Missions; Surf Girl to Boy Meet Boy; Trading Places to But The Sex Is So Good. No prizes for guessing what the essential ingredient is in most of them.

The show which seems to have grabbed the American imagination just now is a humdinger.

Even the title's good - My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance. Now that beats I'm A Celebrity… For Gawd's Sake Turn The Box Off! doesn't it?

The premise is this: Pretty contestant is paired up with an actor (that's right, an actor), who is big, ugly and offensive. She gets $1million - if she can take him home to her family, persuade them this man is really her fiance, and get them all to come to the wedding.

So here we have greed, vulgarity and deceit all in one neat, tackily wrapped package. Perfect "reality" TV, in fact.

If you're going to fake it, you might as well really fake it. And give the barrel bottom an extra scrape while you're at it.

AND talking of faking it - what sort of example were Suffolk's high school heads setting their pupils this week?

One thin, picturesque fall of snow and suddenly schools were shut. Why?

Because heads decided their staff couldn't get to work? The rest of us managed to get in OK.

What about their responsibility to the children? What about the problems they suddenly dumped on thousands of working parents?

It doesn't help teachers' image as a bunch of wimps when that's exactly what they are seen to behave like.

I don't remember ever missing a day's school through snow - and I certainly got there through worse blizzards than Suffolk has seen in many a long year.

Homework eaten by dog? Roads too snowy? Not good enough - see me.

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