Thursday, June 02, 2005

Reality Fights

Seems we might still be a nation obsessed with class. We're certainly a nation in a stubborn grip of confrontational telly. A nation dedicated to the cause of snooping and inanity. Even in the midst of the Granddaddy of 'fly on the wall' Big Brother and the morally bereft Celebrity Love Island which lies twitching and gasping because it continually fails to shock, surprise and scandalise - ITV were able to come up with a real stinker. Holiday Showdown. If there's one thing guaranteed to pull in the telly watching punters it's a programme chock-full with strife, sobs, sorrow and set-tos. Even if sex is off the menu. The rule to success here is simple. There must be tension. And when there is, the four s words will duly present themselves, join forces and make the programme compelling.

The premise behind this programme is to find two families from opposite sides of the still existing class system, who are unwavering, solid representations of their perceived type. Both families will share a breathtaking ignorance of how this other half live which will cause all kinds of entertaining mayhem for us when they're thrust together into each others diametrically opposed lives. We will be entertained by the utter mystification of each family - particularly the adults - as they consistently fail to understand how each others lives are constructed and lived. We will be entertained by the tension as these alien life forms, these other worlders struggle to make sense of each other. And we will be entertained by the huffs and snuffs and the whines and maligns that these chalk and cheese match ups guarantee.The two families brought together to experience each other's holidays on last nights episode were the Townsends of Solihull and the Coxes from somewhere in the Cotswolds. Both families could have been sprung from a comic novelists research folder of stock comic types.

Mr Townsend - helpfully called Craig, could have been Wayne, but Craig does just as well, was a bald, plump, earring-wearing, goateed, training-shoed, brummie-accented son of the soil with a penchant for chips with everything. His delightful muse, Tracy - I'm not making this up, though the researchers and producers might have done - was a well overweight, bottle-blonde, hugely busted, permanently fagged simpleton. They lived in a terraced house with enough children and pets to to fill a council estate playpark.The Coxes, as you would expect, hailed from a rather different backdrop. Mr Cox was one of those haughty, guffawing strangely tousle-haired toffs, his wife an indulged sour-puss, all hermes scarves and Gucci sunglasses. They're shown leaving their country mansion with their little cherubs, cross cut with the shambolic Townsends lumbering out of their modest gaff all enroute to Shell Island in North Wales - a shortage of money driven back to basics camping holiday choice for them, which the Coxes will have to endure as part of the bargain. After a week the favour is returned, and the Townsends will join the Coxes on their choice of holiday- a cultural hobby horse of Mr Cox - Florence, on a Renaissance Art appreciating trip.

Does it work? Of course it does. They all hate each others holiday, and they all fall out with each other. And they end up hating each other. It turns into the class war the producers hoped it would. And it is entertainment. So it worked. Unfortunately.

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