Cause for alarm

Just as we get the politicians we deserve, perhaps we also get the television that we deserve. The Big Brother series now showing on Channel 4 - cameras in every room at the secret north-London location - is a ritual on-screen humiliation of its participants, each of whom is pursuing the £70,000 jackpot. Millions end up hooked on the grossness of the concept.

Just as we get the politicians we deserve, perhaps we also get the television that we deserve. The Big Brother series now showing on Channel 4 - cameras in every room at the secret north-London location - is a ritual on-screen humiliation of its participants, each of whom is pursuing the £70,000 jackpot. Millions end up hooked on the grossness of the concept.

Tackiness is now par for the course. But TV companies eagerly hire in psychologists to lend a sense of dubious gravitas. When, however, the psychologists are criticised for legitimising exploitation of the participants, the policy backfires.

Sometimes, these jolly japes go embarrassingly wrong. When comedian Dom Joly trotted around a Gloucestershire village wearing a stripey top and carrying a bag marked "Swag", asking where rich people lived, the joke turned out (unsurprisingly, you might think) to be on the programme-makers: police were deployed to the scene and a helicopter was put on standby. They may now face charges for causing alarm and distress, and for wasting police time. And what about wasting viewers' time? Surely, Joly's Trigger Happy TV team - along with a clutch of other programme-makers - can be prosecuted for that.

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