War Games

Just been reading a review of ‘Ice Warriors’, which is the new ‘Gladiators on Ice’ program which stars on ITV (natch!) tomorrow night. Apparently the games “look more painful”, yet the only injury during filming was a cameraman who fell over and broke his wrist. There seems something mildly deceitful about this: providing the illusion of violence without delivering the goods, a bit like a porn movie with simulated sex. The POINT of the exercise escapes me.

But this is the problem with all TV game shows; they all work on the principle “only bet what you can afford to lose”. Which is, of course, no fun at all; where’s the appeal in that? The thrill in gambling, and particularly in watching gambling, is multiplied enormously when the loss is significant: what’s a tenner to a millionaire, but when it’s the rent money at stake… For we remain a blood-thirsty race, and the game shows we get at the moment are all comedy and no tragedy, all triumph and no disaster. They portray materialism purely in positive terms, a sanitised capitalism, air-brushed of all imperfections like a Playboy model with a heroin habit.

Being honest, the most fun in such things is inevitably to be had when the contestant loses the car which he (or she — greed is fully an equal opportunity employer) has just had within his reach. This is the same impulse which drives a significant percentage of the viewers of ‘Ski Sunday’; a desire to see someone hurtle into netting, or better still, a tree. This is a perfectly respectable part of human nature, and one which should be celebrated rather than denied, since it drives much of human achievement. Where would the field of medicine be without those cavemen who went “Cooool…” when everyone else was going “Ew, gross”?

Admittedly the chance of us getting barbed-wire death matches (ideally involving lingerie-clad cuties) on primetime is probably slim. Though with the advent of digital TV, they’re gonna need something to fill all those channels, and I will state categorically that there WOULD be a market for it. Until then though, let’s have people take risks on these game shows. Want to win a new car? Fine, but if you lose, we get your current one. Fancy a house? Give us your deeds first. Yes, it would be cruel. But boy, it’d be gripping television.