Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Embarrassing? It's positively obscene...

If the BBC is a stiff upper-lipped Victorian grandma, Channel Four is her smutty wayward young niece. When grandma had the monopoly on public service broadcasting, it was a very civilised affair, with the emphasis on information, rather than entertainment. But now the young upstart's got her filthy mitts on the idea, it seems all taste and decency has been hurled out of the window and landed naked in our living rooms. You know what I'm talking about. It's that Embarrassing Bodies experience (Channel 4, Monday-Thursday, 9pm). And what an experience!
I've never even seen my parents naked, yet this week I've been subjected to all manner of social misfits in their underwear and out of it, displaying their misshapen private parts to all and sundry. What in the world possessed them to reveal those bits even to their closest family and friends, let alone to a national television camera? It's ugly, it's wrong and its... pretty compelling TV.
Yes, even though I feel a little bit dirty gawping open-mouthed at the man desperate to rid himself of his manboobs or the woman with bits hanging down where they shouldn't, I can't turn it off. I think it's because I'm so flabbergasted that any of these people have agreed to take part in this. Not for a million pounds would I let some doctor dissect my bits and pieces on national television. But the worrying thing is, they probably didn't even get paid for this. All it would have taken was a little persuasion that they were doing a "public service".
The problem is, I don't think anyone is watching this to learn a medical tip or two. It's just car crash TV.
Embarrasing Bodies started on Monday with a look at a collection of unpleasant skin conditions. Doctors Christian Jessen, Dawn Harper and Pixie McKenna are like three medical happy-robots, programmed to be completely unflappable and unfazed by the most gruesome of sights.
They may be - I most certainly am not. When a rather portly chap dropped his trousers to reveal a pile of scabs, I was peering through the cracks in my fingers, willing myself to turn it off. But there followed a bit of light-hearted banter about acne with a load of schoolkids and I was lulled into a false sense of security, feeling able to watch without a cushion to shield me from the horror again. Of course, it didn't last long.
Episode Two was all about breasts. The men among you might express an interest at this point, but believe me, these weren't breasts you'd want to see. From one woman with 32JJ boobs to another with one breast half the size of the other, it was a motley collection of mammories. If Sam Fox had had boobs like those, she wouldn't have got them out for the national media, so why were these women so inclined?
Tonight's show promises women's private parts and tomorrow's looking at men’s bits. I can only imagine what they might have in store. And have I learnt anything? Despite the show's claim that they are getting these doctors out to find the patients that really need their help, I don't believe this altruistic premise. It all seems a bit too graphic, too shocking. Any grandma would no doubt be horrified. I'm sure the likes of BBC founder John Reith are turning in their graves.