Alice Jones: Now viewers have real stars in their eyes


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The Independent Online

If you listen carefully, you might hear it: the death rattle of reality television. It sounds a bit like Jessie J – with added samples of the swoosh of a thousand false eyelashes and whoosh of a thousand bandage dress zips, laid over a beat of sexting and humiliation. Quite catchy.

Twelve years on from the escapades of Nasty Nick and Nice Craig in the first Big Brother and 11 years on from the triumph of Hear'Say in the first Popstars, the viewing public has had enough. The final of Big Brother this week pulled in a measly 1.5 million viewers, the lowest figures ever.

Tottering hot on its heels comes Celebrity Big Brother with possibly its most gruesome parade yet – a heart-sinking spectacle of faded stars, Julian Clary, Bet Gilroy and Martin Kemp lolling on sofas with people "known" for, in no particular order, being accused of sending a rude text to someone quite famous (Rhian Sugden), writing a rude article (Samantha Brick) and being quite rude on a different reality show (Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino).

Meanwhile, The X Factor returns to television tomorrow night, to a nationwide chorus of resigned sighs and Twitter snarks. The 2011 final of the musical talent show pulled in four million fewer viewers than the year before. Earlier this year, much-vaunted young pretender The Voice, once people had got over the novelty of watching the judges not watching the acts, shed six million viewers over the course of its debut series and eventually dwindled into The Silence, failing to produce even a Top 40 record and cancelling its tour when nobody bought a ticket. Someone ought to have realised that the nation's talent well was drying up when Britain's Got Talent was forced to give its first prize to a dog.

Now, as if to kick a genre when it's down, Lord Coe has criticised the reality television myth that "you can be a celebrity in six hours". "I joined an athletics club when I was 11 years old and I didn't get to the Olympics until I was 23," he said. "We have to be careful that we don't create celebrity-driven culture where people think it is better to be famous for nothing than be anonymous for doing something creative."

In other words, we should be grateful to Team GB for, among myriad other achievements, helping the scales to fall from our eyes. Already, they have made the nation's favourite sport, football, look weedy – a haul of 29 gold medals is all it takes, apparently, to make us realise that our players are consistently under-achieving and overpaid. Now might their Olympian efforts turn us off the empty spectacle of instant celebrity for good?

Perhaps, although the rot set in long before Mo and Jessica crossed the finish line. Still, a return to varied Saturday night programming would be a Games legacy everyone could get on board with. Until then, we've always got the Paralympics.

Desperate times for Desperate Dan

Is it too much to say that without The Dandy, there would have been no Danny Boyle? Possibly, but the tone of the Opening Ceremony surely owed something to the comic's madcap, irreverent trawl through life in modern Britain. This week, it was revealed that the magazine is set to retire from the shelves on its 75th birthday in December. At its height, the escapades of Desperate Dan, Beryl the Peril and Bully Beef and Chips sold two million copies a week. Today, it barely scrapes 8,000 readers.

It's easy to be over-romantic about these things, to bemoan the fact that the children of today prefer to spend their time hunched over computers, shooting virtual guns rather than sniggering at talking dogs in comics, but the loss of The Dandy is to be mourned, and it's bad news for an already ailing British satirical tradition, too.

For many children, The Dandy will have been their introduction to comedy, a gateway comic to the more adult pleasures of Viz and Private Eye. I'm not sure the current chart-toppers Peppa Pig and Moshi Monsters have quite the same zing about them (though I'm hardly their target audience), but I am sure the news-stands will be a less colourful place without Desperate Dan's swagger. Even if I did always prefer the Beano.

Picasso's nude woman gets a bra for 24 hours

As the world dons neon balaclavas in support of Pussy Riot, Edinburgh has been having its very own Picasso Riot. At the beginning of this year's festival, managers at the city's airport took the bizarre decision to censor a poster of Picasso's Nude Woman in a Red Armchair that was hanging in its arrival hall to advertise an exhibition at the Scottish National Gallery.

A passenger complained that she didn't much care for being greeted by a pair of giant oil-painted breasts, Pablo or no Pablo thank you very much, and so, in a move straight out of a spoof fly-on-the-wall documentary, the authorities covered the offending area with a strip of vinyl, transforming one of the masterpieces of 20th century art into Nude Woman in a Red Armchair and White Bra. Within 24 hours, realising the error of their ways, they stripped her off again.

Now she sits proudly untampered-with in the arrivals hall once more, alongside all those billboards of skimpily clad models selling bikinis.

Twitter: @alicevjones