The beauty of Television is one of the varieties of entertainment. From the dramas, like Bodyguard, Game of Thrones or The Crown, to the more reality-based programming, like Love Island, The Only Way Is Essex or Big Brother. Then there are the chat-shows and daytime television. In short, TV provides something for everyone. Sadly, those varieties of entertainment can take another form, one that can push TV into a realm of offence and uncomfortable viewing.
Two such programmes entered this arena this Summer, and with the announcement that Ofcom are set to investigate both the offending shows, Loose Women and Celebrity Big Brother, have we reached a point where, when it comes to todays entertainment, nothing is off the table?
Let’s start with Loose Women. The incident ironically leads back to a past series of Celebrity Big Brother, where former housemate and Loose Woman, Coleen Nolan and Kim Woodburn constantly clashed within the famed house. An idea was formed to reunite the feuding couple on daytime TV in a segment on Loose Women, and like most with a brain, could already see where it was going to end. What viewers weren’t prepared for was the nature of the viciousness that followed.
Almost immediately the segment began with insult after insult and saw grown women scream and shout in every direction. What was worse than the lack of professionalism, was the bullying tone that encompassed it all. It was deeply apparent that Kim Woodburn was being targeted, and worse, goaded into a bitter response. There was a feeling of a deliberate setup, that the predictable outcome was the goal.
The panel, which included, Janet Street-Porter, Linda Robson and Coleen and Linda Nolan berated the 76-year-old reality star with the Nolan sisters bitterly calling Woodburn a witch and talentless. Naturally, the response received from Kim was of a similar tone, branding Coleen Nolan trash.
It was not just these insults that resulted in the viewer backlash which led to over 27,000 petitioning for Coleen Nolan to be sacked from the show, unbelievably Loose Women went further. As Kim began to recount her abusive childhood, becoming visibly emotional and destressed, the onslaught continued. It is beyond astounding that not one of the women on the panel or any producer of the show thought it adequate to step in, to shut the segment down or go to a commercial break. No, instead they kept the cameras rolling resulting in Woodburn leaving the set of her own accord, though not without the booing of the crowd as if Loose Women had become a Victorian freakshow. The whole thing was deeply disturbing.
The fallout from the whole affair was continued with Kim demanding ITV fire Coleen from the show and an apology be issued. Nolan has since cancelled her upcoming solo tour and taking a period of leave from the show as a result of the whole debacle. Viewers were shocked and horrified by what they were watching, especially on daytime TV, and flooded social media to declare so. But what they and so many were not prepared for, was a TV event that would cause downright outrage and put the whole Loose Women episode in the shade.
Throughout the years Big Brother has caused its fair share of controversy, the largest being the racism scandal involving Jade Goody and Shilpa Shetty. This year’s celebrity version of the reality show would however create a scandal to rival the racism storm caused all those years prior.
It began with soap actress, Roxanne Pallett accusing fellow actor, Ryan Thomas of assault, after what she deemed a ‘vicious and deliberate attack’. The reality was, and one for all to see, was not an ‘attack’, but harmless playfighting that was taken unbelievably out of all context.
Yet what was most disturbing, was not the wrongful accusation, which was bad enough, but the consistent campaign of character defamation by Pallett. After Big Brother issued Ryan with a formal warning, a warning many believe he shouldn’t have received in the first place, Roxanne began to relay the altercation to the rest of the house. It was from this moment where disbelief switched to complete anger from the viewers.
To see a grown woman parade around the house, informing her fellow housemates that a man, who hadn’t been removed from said house, had violently attacked her was shameful. Though what shocked viewers further was the Roxanne’s demonstration of the alleged ‘attack’. Seemingly to forget that the house is recorded 24/7, when asked to show the fellow housemates how Ryan ‘punched’ her, she swiftly and harshly jabbed her human demonstration model in the ribs.
Naturally the house reacted in shock, as most would do if you had been shown a violent act of abuse. But what took the whole mess to another deeper level, was the complete annihilation of Ryan Thomas. To witness a 34-year-old man sobbing uncontrollably in a Diary Room, crying his “life is in tatters”, was honestly one of the most disturbing pieces of TV ever.
Thankfully, Roxanne walked from the house after the eviction of her closest friend in the house, Ben and the baying mob outside chanting, “GET ROXY OUT!” For Ryan, it was the validation he needed, and furthermore for the house, but it wouldn’t be the end of the backlash. For Roxanne Pallett, it was only beginning. Since the series ended, which finished with Ryan being declared the winner, Roxanne gave two interviews. The first was with Jeremy Vine, the second with the Show’s host, Emma Willis. Vine came under fire for his timid approach towards the disgraced star, Willis however, was praised.
Though with Ryan crowned the winner and the civilian series confirmed as he final series to air on Channel 5, it is of no surprise Ofcom have decided to investigate. What Roxanne Pallett did should not be undermined, it was cruel, uncomfortable and above all else, dangerous. Her actions could have ruined an innocent man’s life and in the era of Me Too and Time’s Up, could have potentially delegitimised real domestic abuse cases. It was beyond careless, it was beyond entertainment, it trivialised abuse, something that should never be done.
Both events happened within the same week and rightly so received deserved outrage, but they also opened a conversation about how far TV would go for entertainment.
The lack of diffusing the situation on Loose Women and evaluating the events of Celebrity Big Brother paint aspects of British TV in a questionable light. The distress of another human being, whether they are famous or not, is not entertaining or fun to watch. It is disturbing, often uncomfortable and cheapens the brilliance of British TV. To put simply, it is worth so much more.
With the recent success of Bodyguard on the BBC, and the long-running Game of Thrones, both declaring over 11 million viewers per episode, it speaks volumes on what type of programming we Brits now crave. We don’t wish to see real-life drama unfold on the small screen. What we want is entertainment and the destruction of a TV personality is the complete opposite.
With the likes Roxanne Pallett, the saddest irony is, here was a silly woman who should’ve known better though elected to set out and destroy an innocent man’s career. In attempting to do that, she has in fact destroyed her own. A similar case could be made for Coleen Nolan, who recently cancelled her first solo tour due to the fallout of the Kim Woodburn appearance.
The fact is, entertainment should not come at any cost. Controversy and entertainment are not the same thing, though are constantly mistaken as so. The right entertainment can make careers, controversy destroys them in most cases.
When our programmers have lost of this simple fact it is truly damaging to a form of entertaining that has been around for decades. Most likely, Loose Women will continue, and with rumours that ITV are vying to snap up Big Brother, that show will continue also, but with so much scandal and outrage, it leaves a bitter taste. And you can’t help thinking that there is a shift in the air, that is turning away from the provocative and searching for entertainment separate from controversy.