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Wednesday, December 07, 2005 

Space Cadets - In TV land, it seems no one can hear you scream.

Congratulations seem to be in order then to Channel 4 and Endemol (creators of the delightful Big Brother), who have bought adverts for their new show Space Cadets on page 1, 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11 in today's Grauniad. No doubt there are similar ads in the other papers. The premise behind Space Cadets is pretty pathetic, and not really anything new. A group of people are going to be told that after applying for a new reality tv show that they are going into near space, and are being taken to a Russian airbase for their training. The twist is that they are not of course going into space, and are in fact being tricked into going through a week or so of pointless experiments and tests. It's the kind of stunt which Jeremy Beadle and Noel Edmonds were doing a decade ago, except not on the same timescale or cost basis. The difference is that while Beadle and Edmonds were just playing tricks or winding up celebrities, similar to what Punk'd does on MTV, this is obviously a lie which is going to be played out over a long length of time in front of a cynical TV audience which following the likes of Big Brother getting evil and watching a daughter of a prime minister eating a kangaroo's penis, wants more and more sensationalism and hysteria. Of course though, this isn't a TV channel making fun of stupid, gullible people for national enjoyment, oh no. Here's how it's being defended by the shows producer:
Several months ago, the channel advertised for "thrill seekers" to take part in a new reality TV show. A hundred applicants were invited to London for an interview before being put through a series of psychological tests to ascertain how suggestible they were.

Although the term space cadet is slang for someone who is distracted from reality, Shirley Jones, the show's executive producer, insisted the contestants were "not stupid people".

"Suggestibility is a psychological term that has no link with intelligence or gullibility. People who have a creative mind tend to be quite suggestible. All the tests we did have been done in conjunction with a psychologist," she said.
That's alright then. While one part of me has very little sympathy for anyone who applies to be on a reality TV show, as they should know full well what they are possibly getting into, the other part thinks of the increasing dangers and long-term damage to their personal psyche as they are effectively humiliated in front of the nation for over a week. This isn't the same as Big Brother, where they can win the game or public affection by either being nice or being nasty, in this they don't have much of a choice. Still, while the show will no doubt make stars of some talentless berks, it can boast that it already has a talentless berk hosting it in Johnny Vaughn. As a lot of reality shows are hit in the ratings due to their terribleness (Celebrity Wrestling, etc) it seems that companies still can't resist commissioning such potentially dangerous tosh. Maybe they ought to take a hint from Channel 4's recent new "quiz", deal or no deal, which is all down to luck and involves genuine tension, all without hurting anybody. Then again, that's not exactly going to excite the front pages of the tabloids, is it?

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