It’s as if the people over at BBC Three have created a programme on their Acorn Electron – a Future Commissions Generator, if you like – which gobbles up stats on past successes and then, based on the shows that got people talking, mocking or jeering, reformats them using as little originality as is electronically possible.
So, thanks to the FCG we’ve reached the point where Freaky Eaters has dispensed with the food theme completely, leaving us with just the ‘freaks’ (which is BBC Three-speak for people with hang-ups). Obviously they can’t make a show on that premise alone or they’d just be transmitting artfully lighted shots of a handful of neurotic people babbling in a white studio and bumping into one another, so they’ve nicked the ‘nudity’ from How To Look Good Naked and chucked it in to see if it works. And whether it works or not, they’ll put it out regardless.
The Naked strand is the result. Naked: Nurses, Naked: Office Workers, Naked: Tramps, Naked: Eunuchs – these days all you need to do to empower people is to convince them to take all their clothes off and, bingo! They’re walking, talking superbeings! Balls to logic and dispense with common sense – just strip to your duds and feel at one with the universe!
In Naked: Office Workers, Isha is a working mum with body issues. Victoria has the sense that her bottom is too big. So far, so Gok Wan – but the other participants are all concerned with issues outside of self-image. John feels he’s too short to be taken seriously. Noel is crippled by shyness and Victoria isn’t over her ex. It’s never explained why public humiliation will help these seemingly decent folk confront their issues in any depth or with any insight – it’s just an uncertain dive straight into the tasks with mentors Jonathan Phang and Emma Kelly, and we’re expected to go along with them.
Phang is an Image Consultant who has apparently ‘worked with supermodels’. I don’t know what that means, but he looks like an overweight Ronald Reagan. If his job is to guide people on how to present themselves, he clearly doesn’t listen to his own advice.
Kelly is his right-hand girl and she’s a psychologist, presumably at amateur level, and she’s there to gee people up and work them into a state of hypnotic suggestibility so that they’re prepared to bite the bullet and ‘move forward with their lives’. In layman’s terms, her job is to persuade them to get their kecks off.
A series of pointless tasks follows. A primal scream session, a period of smashing up computers taken straight from Office Space, the keeping of a ‘mirror diary’ and some public speaking in front of people who were presumably on their way home from the pub and had nothing better to do. There was also abseiling – just to fill in the gaps – and finally, before the money shots, some Big Brother style, at-home bickering between contestants. The fight, incidentally, had absolutely no substance but was treated with epic grandeur by the presenters, who acted as though savage war has broken out. They behaved as though, if the fight was allowed to carry on, there’d only have been mutilated corpses to photograph naked the next day.
After a lengthy, year-long hour they all had their photos taken, slipping off ill-fitting bathrobes and grinning stiffly. One contestant, John, dropped out at this point and it was hard to resist giving him a round of applause for not getting steered into the exploitative route the others were dragged down.
Finally the shots are displayed and some uplifting music kicks in. The viewer is presumably meant to be left convinced that the last hour has given everyone a good feeling about themselves. Stronger and more assertive. Viewer, programme-makers and contestants, all bettered by the sight of some nobodies getting their normal clothes off and standing sheepishly naked in a stately home.
Personally, despite the fact I look like an adonis under these stained garments, I could never go on one of these shows. Obviously I believe they work wonders for all involved, but I get on rather well with my neuroses. My hang-ups have been keeping me going for years. If I wasn’t a paranoid, insecure mess, I wouldn’t be where I am today – so hold back on the approach, BBC Three. I’m simply not interested.