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Phil D. Rolls

Last Week's TV

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BBC 2 has been running a series of programmes about mental illness, two, which caught my eye, were [B]A History of the Madhouse[/B] and [B]Sectioned[/B].

It was refreshing to see the subject treated with an objective stance. A [B]History of the Madhouse[/B] in particular was a dry-eyed commentary on the transition from the use of asylums to care in the community. Recounting some horrific stories of abuse of power and cruelty, it serves as a reminder of society is happy enough with problem people, if they are kept out of the way.

[B]Sectioned[/B] took a look at people who have been detained under the Mental Health acts. I found it a tragic insight into how illness can blight people’s lives.

One of the patients was a bipolar pathologist who in his manic phase, decided to leave his wife and set up home elsewhere. His story was a common one, and it was tragic to see him once he started to come down, and realise what he had actually done.

In the days before television, it used to be a popular Sunday past time to take a stroll down to the local asylum and have a laugh at the unfortunates detained there. (The walls outside psychiatric hospitals are not there to keep the patients in, they are there to protect them from voyeurism).

Nowadays we have reality TV. The latest offering being [B]The Scheme[/B] (BBC1). It seems to me that shows like this are there to titillate those in more comfortable circumstances, and are not much better than freak shows.

In a sense they illustrate the Pareto Principle a very small proportion of people in schemes are responsible for a very large proportion of the problems.

Programmes like this do nothing to make the wasters confront their problems. All they do is make other people more embarrassed to say where they live.
Schemes like Ortak (?) are not controlled be morality or humanity, but by drugs – legal and illegal. It is one step on from bread and circuses.

For the better off there is still simplistic gladiatorial competitions, like the[B] Champions League Final[/B] (ITV1). The fact that this game has been switched to a Saturday night is a reminder of how far the sport has come from the days of wet windy terraces, populated by the males of the community.

[U]It is now just another celebrity event, and – to me – is as close to real football as WWF is to fighting.[/U]

Much the same can be said of Davina McCall’s new show [B]Million Pound Drop[/B] (C4). This is a show that manages to make a quiz with seven questions to be answered last for an hour.

All the lasers, flashing lights, audience whoops and dozy contestants in the world can’t disguise this programme’s lack of substance. As for Davina, she is as close to the likes of Bob Monkhouse and Bruce Forsyth in the compere stakes as Christian Nade is to Christian Ronaldo.

Did I take that too far?

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