Friday 9 September 2011

Red or Black: The criminal thing about Cowell's show?


The premise of Red Or Black is based partly on roulette and entirely on luck. It bills itself as a show that offers 'ordinary people across the UK the chance to become millionaires'. All contestants are asked to do is choose between red and black. Black or red. It's that simple. A no brainer for the brain dead. There is absolutely zilch talent involved; indeed a toddler on the brink of speech could do it. A highly motivated tadpole might just manage it. A smart budgie could be in it to win it. Yet this is what passes for primetime entertainment. Naked, slavering greed served up on a platter. No palpable skills required.  We have finally mined down to the showbiz nadir, reached the lowest common denominator of Saturday night entertainment. The prospect of total strangers doing nothing very much to win large sums of money is supposed to be hugely entertaining. Isn't that depressing? The nation has been shaken down, sieved and graded so that those who can actually do something, or at least think they can, have already auditioned for The X Factor, Britain's Got Talent, Big Brother, Countdown or The Weakest Link. Now we are left with the desperate dregs.  Padded out: Former X Factor winner Leona Lewis, one of Cowell's acts, appeared on Red Or Black Indeed, the very first Red Or Black winner, Nathan Hageman, has been exposed as a violent criminal who served a prison sentence for an assault on a woman, believed to be an ex-girlfriend. Red or Black and black and blue? It put the show on the front pages earlier this week, but it was not good publicity — for anyone. Hageman may have fulfilled his jail sentence and his debt to society, but a wife beater, by any other name, elicits scant public sympathy.  Even down in the grim bowels of public entertainment, there is little compassion for a man who hits a woman. Hageman may have done his time, but it appears that redemption is not yet his. And he must have suspected as much, otherwise why lie on his Red Or Black entry forms? Cowell was furious, and wanted Hageman not to be given the £1 million he had rightly won. Yet ITV says there is nothing it can do. Hageman had been allowed on Red Or Black despite the fact that producers knew he had a criminal record. He had claimed that he attacked a man, whereas in reality he was jailed for assaulting Amy McLean. As he was allowed onto the show without proper checks, he was allowed to keep his winnings. Beating up a woman is unacceptable, but beating up a man is OK? What a joke. ITV bosses are now carrying out stringent checks to make sure no more controversial participants appear, and have so far booted three dubious contestants off shows this week. Yet it all makes one wonder about their standards. If, in fact, they have any in the first place. Yet what can you expect on a show like this? If you remove the need for flair or aptitude, anything and anyone goes. Hundreds of thousands have already applied to be on Red Or Black, including the barely sentient, the desperate, the not quite there. Some were filmed sobbing in the queues about how hard life was, and how much they needed the cash. Very unedifying, for all involved.  Let me say it again. All you have to do is choose between red or black. Despite this, the shows are given a frill of respectability with cheap pomp and dreary stunts.  There have been motorbike daredevils — something that stopped being interesting pre-Evel Knievel. And David Hasselhoff doing a 'reverse bungee jump' — catapulted 230ft into the air — thrilled absolutely no one.  The show was padded out exclusively with Cowell musical acts, such as Leona Lewis and Il Divo. How have ITV even allowed this blatant plugfest? Successful game shows flourish by showing real suspense and thrills. Not this overblown and immoral nonsense. It's like Deal Or No Deal for the criminal classes. It makes Dale Winton's Hole In The Wall look like Mastermind. Where on earth do we go from here?