The Dutch are experiencing a new Golden Age in trade: the export of TV formats.
Few may realise that global sensations such as The Voice, Deal or No Deal, Test the Nation, and most recently Splash!, were all first smash hits in The Netherlands, the home of TV behemoth Endemol and Big Brother’s creator, John de Mol. They have since sailed across the world making waves, and delivering, for some, a new form of cheese and sleaze.
Still, not all Dutch successes translate. Take De Kist (The Coffin), for example, where the presenter drives around Holland with a full-size casket on the roof of his sunshine-yellow Beetle, discussing life and death with celebrities. Even BBC3 would struggle to make that one work. It might do better with Spuiten en Slikken (er, Shoot and Swallow), where young people talk frankly about drugs and sex.
Meanwhile, Neuken Doe Je Zo! (This Is How You F**k!) goes all the way: one episode prosaically showed its teen audience going on their summer holiday how to negotiate the troublesome nightclub bog quickie. In a similar vein, Ten Ways To Turn You On was a gameshow (its giggly, gorgeous young contestants vying to impress one another curiously reminiscent of Take Me Out) ‘scientifically’ measuring men and women’s reactions to various methods of titillation.
After putting celebrities in houses, on buses, and in the jungle, the next step seems obvious, if a little cruel for those nearing the end of their 15 minutes: on benefits. Celebrities on Welfare (De Frogers Effe Geen Cent Te Makken) did just that, putting an 80s Dutch pop star and his family on the dole for a month - apparently a platform for a poverty charity.
I Want Your Child and Nothing Else featured a woman who got to select a sperm donor on TV, but it was De Grote Donor Show (The Big Donor Show) that was a step too far even for liberal Holland. The ‘contestants’ were dialysis patients given the chance to win a dying woman’s kidney, with text votes from viewers (who lives? You decide!). It was later revealed to be a stunt to draw attention to the country’s low donor numbers, a move similar to Britain’s own Come On Down and Out, Kudos/Channel 4’s satirical gameshow featuring homeless people (in fact actors) competing for a house in front of a duped studio audience.
Confirmed to be next on our screens is the Endemol-created I Love My Country, presumably worlds apart from Dutch public broadcaster VPRO’s Weg van Nederland (a play on words meaning both Mad About Holland and Leaving Holland). Featuring asylum seekers awaiting deportation competing in a quiz about aspects of Dutch life, this was in fact another satirical show aimed at provoking debate about the country’s increasingly conservative approach to immigration.
Next up for The Netherlands? A deal is currently being explored to produce a reality show where three foster parent families compete to be chosen by a foster child, although this has already provoked a furore in the country. Taboo-breaking, awareness-raising or plumbing new depths? You decide!