Before They Were Famous: Defending The Sleb

16/06/2011 at 9:38 am (TV)


When TV began to eat its own tail some 10 or so years ago, we witnessed the birth of the TV list show.   These  programmes gave us insights into days gone by, with smug presenters snorting things like, “remember Spangles?” but for television shows, music, films and dance crazes.  Yes, certain companies have expressed that they’ll be stepping back from producing these programmes, but they’re still floating around in the ether.

This high handed approach led to a gargantuan output of clip shows highlighting how funny things were back in the day.  “Oh dear me, look at the hair!  Is that a space hopper?  Wagon Wheels were bigger…” et cetera.  Before this comes across as a complete tirade, I will put my hand up and say that I quite like some list shows.  I like clips of TV programmes and films, bits of music videos and the like.  It’s sometimes like having my brain televised.  Absolute respect to the researchers for these things too.  There’s some real gems they’ve discovered.

What I don’t like is the high handed commentary of the guests that appear.  Watch as Upcoming Comedian has just been given VT to comment on, scrabbling for a witticism on the spot, as their agent has told them this is their only springboard to success.  See Aging Popstar recall their experiences of disco, which they probably witnessed from a toilet cubicle, having a much better time than the other poor also-rans shaking it to The Hustle.

But it’s shows like Before They Were Famous that really annoy.  I saw one of these the other day, with a chuckle-laden narration guiding you through the humiliation that celebrities have gone through to get to their current position.  Admittedly, you could say that if  someone’s desperate enough to get on television covered in cling film, rolled in batter and made to impersonate a fried piece of fish, it’s all fair that we should poke fun.

What if we had Before They Were… for “real” people?  Before I was a copywriter, I did various jobs, including litter picking and packing yoghurt (don’t!).  We’ve all got to get to where we’re going somehow, and it just seems a bit of a cheap shot to dredge up this stuff up to take the piss.

Saying that, it’s all just a bit of fun, ain’t it?

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