Channel 4's 'Get a House Free' hits a new low in TV nastiness
If you were an alien visiting earth for the first time and based your judgement of the state of the human race entirely on what’s on television, you’d be justified in concluding that civilisation on this planet has come to a premature end several billion years before it was supposed to.
Not that things were a whole lot different in the good old days. Had a little green man or woman from a far distant planet landed here in, say, the early 1970s, he or she would have been greeted by the sight and sound of Jack Smethurst calling Rupert Walker (currently Patrick in EastEnders) various racially insensitive names in ITV’s famously politically incorrect sitcom Love Thy Neighbour. You know: like you do, just for a laugh.
They would have been baffled. Not as baffled, mind you, as they would have been if they’d touched down in Ireland a few years earlier and tuned in to Buntús Cainte. That succeeded in baffling some of us who call Earth home.
“Why are these strange, milky-white creatures trying to speak Klingon when nobody else in the universe uses it?” they might have asked themselves. “And what are these things they call showbands? Have they never heard of The Beatles?”
They would have departed pretty sharpish, concluding that when human beings are so intent on destroying themselves with rubbish television, why bother being their alien overlords when there are probably other, more worthwhile civilisations out there just waiting to be conquered.
But just for argument’s sake, let’s say the aliens decided to grant us another shot at redemption. “Give humans a few decades, and who knows — they might sort themselves out and grow a brain. We’ll suss it out again in the 21st century.”
Sorry, guys, but it ain’t gonna happen. Here we are in 2017 and one of the most talked-about programmes on TV is Love Island.
Being talked about is not the same thing as being watched, however, and the ratings for Love Island were tiny compared to other programmes. Fewer than two million people watched it.
Somehow or another, though, it exercised enough minds in the media (or what passes for minds in the media most of the time) to become something of a phenomenon.
Day after day, week after week, for what felt like an eternity of eternities, whole tabloid spreads were devoted to the comings (as it were) and goings of a bunch of Z-list nothings who were dropped on an island in the express hope that a few of them would — and let’s not mince words — ride one another.
But Love Island is a model of restraint — the prim Jane Austen to the pugilistic Norman Mailer — when pitted against Channel 4’s Naked Attraction, a dating show predicated on the concept of men and women selecting someone they want to get off with based entirely on the quality of their unclothed bodies.
Everything from the neck down is on display; nothing from the neck up gets a look-in.
But hey, don’t despair completely. The roof of civilisation hasn’t caved in just yet. Love Island and Naked Attraction are merely the joists creaking.
The actual collapse comes tonight, when Channel 4 airs Get a House for Free. For the moment, this is a one-off, but anyone who believes a full series won’t follow hasn’t been paying enough attention to trash television.
Remember The Secret Millionaire, that crass series where a rich person poses as a poor person for the sole purpose of sussing out real poor people and deciding which among them is most deserving of a tiny portion of his or her wealth?
Well, Get a House for Free is The Secret Millionaire multiplied by a million.
Marco Robinson, a self-made man who yanked himself up by his working-class bootstraps and made his fortune buying and selling houses, has decided to give away a £120,000 house in Preston. But to who?
Will it be the family of Syrian refugees? Will it be the 18-year-old single mother living with her newborn baby in a mould-infested dump? Will it be the partially-sighted woman who toils in a low-paid job to pay her astronomical rent?
Marco and Marco alone decides whose life he’ll change and whose he’ll make more miserable. And he’ll do it in the service of a TV programme. Obscene.