How Not To Go On TV
In the vast, gaping hole of abstinence and economy cheddar that heralds the New Year, I’m already yearning for a little suttin’ suttin’ to perk the days up. And since one cannot in good conscience get shortsighted on the sauce just yet, I decided to do the next best thing: watch other people doing it, from the comfort of my living room, lying supine under a blanket that smells vaguely of hutch.
It’s with intense smugness that re-runs of Ab Fab, Mad Men, How I Met Your Mother and extended clips of Barney Gumble’s finest hours will grace our newly-acquired television, which, until now, we’ve been using mainly as a drying rack and, on particularly nippy days, a most obliging form of central heating. What Happens in Kavos is back this month, too, in case it all goes wrong and reminders are needed that we’re not, at least, crying noisily to ‘Wonderwall’ outside a bar named Hooters.
Picture it, as we kneel before the box and watch teens in G-strings of very respectable dimensions downing funnels of half-digested kebab; the rain lashes the windows and the wind howls as we blanche into an enormous pot of herbal tea.
I’ll admit there was a slight ulterior motive for watching WHIK last year, besides the obvious lol-factor. Eighteen months ago my sister, then a mere slip of a lass, took to Corfu to celebrate the end of exams. At the 800+ boys’ school we both attended (don’t ask) these excursions come replete with charmingly designed t-shirts proudly proclaiming that the lads are indeed on tour: messy, armed with banter and scouting for clunge. YOLO!
It’s with a high sense of dubiousness that we listen to my sister describing where they’ll be staying. What, I suggest, is wrong with heading to Newquay for six days, drinking out-of-date White Lightning on the appropriately-monikered Fistral Beach? Withering looks. ‘Just don’t do any shots through your eyes,’ says my brother, sagely.
Four days into her trip and the phone rings, back home in London. It’s from Kavos, but it’s not my sister. Instead, a woman asks my parents whether they’ll allow her to feature heavily on a new TV show, due to air next year. They are baffled.
‘Are you with her now?’ they ask.
‘No, but we’ve been filming them for the last few nights,’ the woman says, breezily.
‘And what’s the show called?’
‘We’re thinking Made in Kavos, or What Happens in Kavos.’
‘And what,’ says my mum carefully, ‘does happen in Kavos?’
There is a crackly, awkward silence.
It’s such a strange concept. That anyone, ever, would willingly place themselves in a situation where the dancing, boozing and whatever else follows would be broadcast on national TV. The show’s production company kicked up an unholy storm in July of last year when it transpired they’d obtained signatures of consent to film from people who could barely hold a pen, let alone sign their name with any knowledge of what that might mean. And depressingly, too often it is women who are targeted: those who, for whatever reason, have taken a holiday of hedonism only to see it blow up spectacularly in their young faces before they’ve had time to process what’s happened.
Obviously, my parents said no. Why would anyone want to watch someone else – especially family members – spending a penny through the slats of a chair, after all? But the phone calls didn’t stop: and when my sister returned it transpired that the producers had gained access to her bedroom to film when they were out, that they’d left notes, that they’d always been prowling the streets of Kavos, hungrily eyeing all that pissed youth with the slathering voyeurism which, in any normal situation, we’d be well within our rights to report.
Hilariously, one spokesperson claimed the show offered a ‘fresh perspective’ on the holiday habits of teenaged Brits and that it was both ‘eye-popping and classy’. This sort of show packs as much class as That Moment in Big Brother when Kinga played nookie with a bottle of BB’s finest vintage. If the men on these programmes manage to achieve the status of ‘lad’ by drinking heavily and pulling endless all-nighters, the women become notorious through sex: toplessness circulated on social media, dancing on tabletops, having it off with a bottle of wine. It shouldn’t be this way.
There are whole galaxies of difference between Patsy stumbling around Edina’s kitchen, roaring at poor Saffy, and such shows that tailgate teenagers and students for profit in real time. There’s no educational value in reality TV that seeks only to entertain through shock: if anything, it propagates the myth that drinking until you’re unconscious on a blow-up ring in the middle of the ocean is the ultimate in liberated chic.
As the long winter months draw out, and being three sheets to the wind on a golden beach seems a long way off, let’s allow people the freedom to make good choices, bad choices: as long as they can make them privately, and reflect on them without inevitable column inches on ‘Britain’s pissed and slut-shamed youth’.