Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Daytime at BBC America

Nothing ever happens.
Nothing happens at all.
The needle returns to the start of the song
and we all sing along like before.

--del Amitri

Daytime programming is dismal. There are talk shows, game shows, a plethora of "judge" shows, soap operas, and infomercials.

Daytime programming on "BBC America" is the pits. It's the place where the pits go to spit out the pits. I don't know if the BBC pioneered the reality show, but they certainly sunk it to the depths of the English Channel. The thing is, most of them are disgusting. I don't mean that they're badly produced (though they are), badly acted (though they are) or badly conceived (though they are), I mean that they show you really disgusting things. They simply love to have shots of scantily-clad, morbidly obese people, refrigerators and/or stoves that are caked with slime, animal feces in peoples' living rooms, and Gordon Ramsay.

But the real problem with them is that every single episode of a given series is exactly like every other episode in the series. You could set your watch by the order in which things occur. Once you've seen one episode of any of them, you've pretty much seen the entire series.

I don't know when some of these shows were originally created or how popular they were in Britain when they first came out, but here are a few examples of the kinds of things you will see if you're ever robbed, tied to a chair, and the thief leaves BBC America playing on your television:

You Are What You Eat

The anorexic Gillian Hall visits a family that lives on pizza, pastry, beer, soda, sugar cubes, and the neighbor's pets, all fried in lard. Their exercise regimen consists of putting their hands over their mouths when they burp. She will describe their symptoms in lurid detail, including flatulence, body odor, halitosis, lack of sex drive, heartburn, a diminished sense of fashion, sleep apnea, and those flappy things on the upper arms. She will be direct. She will be insulting. I swear to God that in every single episode she will have them poop into a container so that she can examine it. She will describe how incredibly awful their poop smells. Presumably hers smells like lilacs. She will send them to the doctor and the doctor will confirm that they are, indeed, fat. She will lay out a table full of doughnuts, gallons of beer, pounds of fat, and will tell them that this is the equivalent of what they eat in a week. They will be stunned. They may or may not cry (crying is always a big draw in reality shows). She will teach them how to shop for and cook fruits, vegetables, tofu, feldspar, algae, and sea creatures. She will teach them to exercise, usually just walking or bouncing on a trampoline. They will hate it. They will talk about how disgusting it is. They will buck up and do it anyway. Flash to eight weeks later. This will astonish you, but they will have lost weight. They will show you before/after shots. They will show you how big their old pants used to be. There will be an interview at the end in which they will confess that they don't fart as much as they used to, and they actually had sex once. See what I mean about disgusting imagery? They will never, ever, go back to the way they used to be.

Cash In The Attic

A family needs to raise money for renovation/college/starting a business/a new toupee/a loanshark/whatever. They're hoping that there are unknown treasures in their 3-room farmhouse. These three guys come in and start opening cabinets and closets. They find various things that I wouldn't pick up at Wal-Mart and estimate what they're worth. Once they've found everything that the owners are willing to sell, their estimated value will be a few pounds short of what the family needs. The family will take them to a very conveniently unsearched barn/attic/shed/outhouse and (surprise!) there's some treasure there that will put them right over the top of what they want, provided that everything sells for the top-end estimate. They will go to auction. One of four things will happen for each item: 1) It won't sell. Nobody will bid. The family will be disappointed, but the announcer will pin their hopes on the next item. 2) The item will sell, but not for nearly as much as they anticipated. See announcer's response for 1. 3) There will be bids on the item, but the owner has stupidly placed a minimum on the item so they get nothing. See announcer's response for 1. 4) The item will sell for something around the low end of the estimated price, and they will declare it a success. "We estimated that this antique ivory nose hair trimmer would sell for somewhere between 2 pounds and 5,000 pounds. It sold for 2 pounds 50, so we hit the nail right on the head." At the end of the episode, there will be commiseration. "You needed 10,000 pounds to start your cat-shaving business and we only raised 12 pounds, but that should be enough to get you off the ground, right?" The people smile and agree that while it wasn't what they hoped for, this is a good start.

Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares

It is very difficult to watch this *bleep*ing piece of *bleep* after the first couple of *bleep*ing episodes. I don't know about the *bleep*ing nighttime version, but they apparently only made about 6 *bleep*ing episodes of this *bleep*ing show. Every *bleep*ing third word out of Ramsay's *bleep*ing mouth has to be *bleep*ing bleeped out. Sometimes you only get one or two *bleep*ing words out of an entire *bleep*ing sentence. There will be a *bleep*ing restaurant somewhere that used make a lot of *bleep*ing money, but now it's in the *bleep*. Ramsay will come in, insult everyone there, and be *bleep*ing "gobsmacked" when they take *bleep*ing umbrage. What a bunch of *bleep*s. His *bleep*ing recipe for success is always to simplify their *bleep*ing menu and serve nothing but simple, good, honest, *bleep*ing English food. The *bleep*ing people in this *bleep*ing town don't want *bleep*ing *bleep*, they're simple *bleep*ing folk who just want a good *bleep*ing local piece of *bleep*ing fish. The *bleep*ing owner and/or *bleep*ing chef will resist and insist that their formula works. Ramsay will inform them that they're *bleep*ing full of *bleep* because they're losing the equivalent of the *bleep*ing national treasury every *bleep*ing week. He'll come up with some clever *bleep*ing contest to prove they're *bleep*ing wrong. Free *bleep*ing samples of *bleep*ing good food. His *bleep*ing version of toad in the *bleep*ing hole versus theirs. In the end, they will take his *bleep*ing advice and become *bleep*ing billionaires. Like anybody could do this serving *bleep*ing English food. I'll be *bleep*ed.

How Clean Is Your House?

I don't know where they find these people. I've lived in a messy place. I've created messy places. The people in this show live like zoo animals a year after the keeper has passed away. You can't walk through their places for all the clutter. The animals have peed on all the carpets and it's never been cleaned. The refrigerator is full of green fuzzy things. There are no sheets on the mattresses in the bedrooms. The toilets are blackened. There are flies, maggots, dust, mice, and maybe lobsters, who can tell? Enter Kim Woodburn (the sassy one, left) and Aggie McKenzie (the smart one, right). They will tour the place and, since this can't be conveyed on TV, describe how it all smells. Next, confront the owner. How did this happen? How can you live like this? Owner is repentant. Owner may cry (see above). Owner has called them in because girlfriend won't visit/setting bad example for kids/daughter won't bring grandchild to house in this condition. Scene shift: Kim & Aggie change into their "whites", usually accompanied by some clever camera work (they walk behind a tree in their street clothes and emerge from the other side in their whites, followed by a stream of assistants magically appearing from behind the tree with them). They put yellow tape around the house that says "Cleaning in progress". Kim spends the next half hour showing the owner how you can mix lemon juice, salt, and beef gravy and use it to scrub the scum off of your leather-bound books, while Aggie goes into the kitchen and bathroom and takes swabs off the counters, stove, refrigerator, toilet, sink, and budgie. Commercial. The results are back from the lab. Gosh, there are bacteria. Ladle on the guilt. You don't want to make your grandchild sick, do you? No wonder your poodle has asthma. You're a real pig, aren't you? I've seen crackhouses cleaner than this. They clean, they paint, they replace carpet, they throw away multiple dumpsters full of crud. Commercial. Now show the owner through their "new" place. Before and after shots. Owner is astonished, amazed, surprised, pleased. Owner may, once again, cry. Kim & Aggie get hugs. Now for the suspenseful part: Two weeks later, Kim & Aggie stop back by "unannounced", although how the cameraman gets inside the house to film the owner opening the door is beyond me. Guess what? After 30 years of being the poster child for slovenly living, these people have magically turned around and their house is still spotless. I mean "Better Homes & Gardens" spotless. One cleaning and it's an epiphany and their lives are completely changed. We don't need to rehabilitate criminals, tear down dictators, or bust drug cartels, we just need to clean up a little. I'm sure Osama bin Laden would see the error of his ways if somebody just swept out his cave once in a while.

There. You never, ever have to watch BBC America during the day. If you've read this far, you've seen it all already. I've done the dirty work for you. Try not to make the thanks in your comments too effusive.


lacochran's evil twin said...

Too funny! You nailed it!

Gilahi said...

Isn't it amazing that the same folks that brought us "Fawlty Towers" have brought us this stuff as well?

Thanks for the kind words.

GreenCanary said...

Holy majoly. Your summary of Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares almost made me pee my pants laughing. LOVE IT.

Gilahi said...

GreenCanary - What sprung to my mind here was how great it would be if Gordon Ramsay said "holy majoly" instead of *bleep*. Now THAT would be a drinking game.

Dixie said...

I used to watch BBC America during the day, but after realizing all these things that you just put into words here, I stopped.

Didn't they used to show "Monty Python" reruns on this channel? Or perhaps "Keeping Up Appearances"? When did this change?

Gilahi said...

I believe they still show some of the good shows. I know "Monty Python's Flying Circus" is back, I think on Tuesday nights. Still, these 20, 30, or even 40 year old shows are apparently BBC's "A-List" stuff so they save them for prime time.

GreenCanary said...

Holy majoly! *drink* What a fab idea, gilahi.

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