Nelson’s Column

With the school year started, my far superior half is back at work “learnin’ the bairns art,” and I am once again a full time Domestic Dad. As I buzz around trying to prevent the wee one from braining himself on the furniture and eating everything in his path (whilst standing on plastic toys and tripping over the dog) I have found myself occasionally succumbing to the guilty pleasures of daytime TV.

Well, guilty anyway. I’m not so sure it’s a pleasure. It’s not like I sit watching the stuff. I just have it buzzing away in the background like an underscore to the feeding, changing, washing, worrying and wiping sick off my jumper – a brainless, mind-numbing visual narcotic I can turn to when the pressures of new parenthood boils my brain a little too much and my life plays out like an episode of Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em. I know it’s not good for me and the buzz will wear off immediately after it’s done. Kind of like watching a race you have bet on, or eating a cheap hamburger; it’s a buzz while it lasts but the come down is horrendous when your horse falls and the burger hits your gullet. But sometimes I am weak.

One show that has been playing out is the US reality game show Beauty and the Geek. The “stars” of the show are a group of six or seven young women of what society has agreed upon is beautiful appearance, i.e. blonde hair, slim but buxom figure, big eyes and no brains. They are complimented by a bunch of braniac egghead with big glasses, post-mature acne and not a social skill between them. They are split into teams of two – one boy, one girl – and are set a series of challenges that will build and test his knowledge of contemporary social interaction and her intellect. We the audience are privy to this great transformation. The whole thing is designed as a big old hunk o’ home spun pathos: that in the end we all have a beauty and a geek somewhere inside of us and that we should not fear each other but work together to our full potential. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Niccolò Machiavelli credited in the enormous list of production assistants.

Is that really the lesson that the broadcasters want to send out? Keep your mouth shut, do very little and you will come out on top? Then again I’m sure we all have friends and colleagues who have done just that, especially if you have an office in the Hillhead area.

The programme does, of course, display the requisite amount of fights and fallouts. This is television after all. Shouting and bullying seems to be de rigueur these days. I remember a few years ago being sucked into the thankfully cancelled Big Brother (I was lonely at the time). I was so corrupted that I would tune in to the live feed during the day on cable and watch people have cups of tea and go to the toilet. Occasionally, though, you would see them all work through a challenge from start to finish and see that when there was food on the line they would work together to win the day. However, the following evening in the highlights show all of that would be edited out and all that would be left would be the arguing and falling out. Apparently this is what we, the people, want.

Is it? Really? Perhaps there was a time when seeing a TV debate get out of hand was kind of exciting. A radical feminist in the audience of a political show; a drunk celebrity going crazy during an interview; an intrepid investigative reporter getting beaten up by a corrupt tradesman. But nowadays it has become quite normal.

At any given moment you can switch on the idiot box and you will see pop impresarios destroying the confidence of young singers, rich business men do the same with fledgling entrepreneurs, top chefs scream at amateur chefs, bus loads of tourists complain about each other, aspiring models bitching, children screaming, dogs barking and I haven’t even got onto the soaps yet. If it’s not enough to watch fame-hungry eedjits shouting at each other we have to watch fictionalised versions of the Great British Public disowning one another for sleeping with each other’s wife, being each others real mum and blowing up each other’s pub. And it’s all so LOUD! Shouting shouting shouting!
Thank goodness we live in Shetland, where we can just step out of the door into the beautiful landscape of a quiet country day and wonder at the joys of nature. Then it starts raining. Oh well. Back to the telly.

Sandy Nelson


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