Invasion of the brain snatchers: Dumb Watch

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The Independent Online
EVEN BY the standards of American cable TV, it's pretty dumb television. Images of violence from news programmes, video footage and CCTV cameras are spliced with a commentary from pop psychologists to provide what US critics have already condemned as a fairly mindless form of entertainment.

Now it's coming to Britain in a new series bought by ITV to be shown this autumn. The title, Totally Out of Control, says it all. In the first programme, called "Totally Out of Control People", teenage boys out for kicks video their own exploits as they smash cars with baseball bats before going on to fire a gun at passers-by. It also includes footage from Britain, in which prisoners are seen rioting at Strangeways Prison in Manchester.

"We're all at the mercy of the madness and mayhem that is unleashed when people go totally out of control," says the voice-over at the start of the show. The next two parts are called "Vehicles", which features car chases and road rage, and "Nature", which shows footage of the suffering inflicted by storms, fire and earthquake.

Amid the scenes of arson, burglary and violence, the "experts" offer their pseudo-sociological explanations. Scenes of a vicious attack on a teenage girl on a school bus are explained by a psychologist with: "Some of these kids don't feel the guilt we do."

The format was pioneered by the Murdoch channel, Fox TV. Its main asset was that it offered the maximum thrills for the lowest price, a formula clearly adopted by the digital channel BBC Choice, which last night dedicated a "specially commissioned" programme, Right Here Right Now, to a "retrospective" on Zoe Ball, the Radio 1 DJ.

Among the deeper insights was this thought from fellow DJ Kevin Greening: "She was endlessly cheerful, but she did have one weakness: she was perpetually late."

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