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Text Vote ‘Murderer’ To 84466

Tony Vogel and Brian CoxAnyone who’s had enough of the current ‘reality TV’ fuss here in the UK, yet is intrigued by it as a phenomenon, might want to get hold of a DVD of The Year of the Sex Olympics.

Nigel Kneale’s 1968 TV drama (made in colour, but only a grainy black and white copy remains) depicts a world of ‘high drives’ who subdue ‘low drive’ workers with mindless entertainment such as the Sex Olympics of the title and The Hungry Angry Show, which involves two old blokes flinging food at each other. It’s mostly cringe-making ’60s futurism (people covered with shiny paint) combined with elements from previous dystopian fiction (including Nineteen Eighty-Four, which Kneale memorably adapted for television), but improves in the second half.

The Live-Life Show

An on-screen death inspires the idea of The Live-Life Show, where a family (led by a disillusioned programme-maker) is put on a remote island to be constantly watched living a more primitive lifestyle, a concept that grips the audience. The producers liven things up by adding a murderer, leading to a tragic (and popular) ending. Kneale was clearly bemoaning what he saw as the ‘dumbing down’ of culture/society, extrapolating to an extreme.

It all ties in with an aspect of ‘reality TV’ that I find fascinating: the timing. Big Brother could’ve easily been made forty years ago, but the idea seemed too sinister/voyeuristic until our tastes adapted to the technology (as with how organ transplants once seemed repulsive but are now commonplace?). Nowadays we’re well on the way towards personal TV stations (people wearing cameras to broadcast their entire lives), and increasingly extreme behaviour is needed to get high ratings, so Kneale’s work is seen as more prophetic than ever.

(Maybe I’m a bit ‘low drive’, but I’d love to see someone make an online series out of stupid fictional programme ideas like The Hungry Angry Show and Monkey Tennis; perhaps I’ll have a go when I eventually get into mucking about with video.)


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