‘Jeremy Kyle Show pitted Us against Them – it was a disaster waiting to happen’
The Jeremy Kyle Show looks destined never to smear itself across our television screens again.
The programme, which took some of the most vulnerable, hopeless, helpless and, quite frankly, stupid people in Britain, then wound them up into a frenzy of incoherent anger, grief or outrage, cannot possibly resurface now 62-year-old granddad Steven Dymond has apparently killed himself.
Mr Dymond had told friends he was suffering from depression some months before he appeared on the show, determined a lie detector test would prove he hadn’t cheated on his girlfriend.
And now, whether Mr Dymond cheated or didn’t cheat, whether the lie detector was accurate or faulty, doesn’t matter.
What does matter is after being barracked by a baying studio audience in the name of entertainment a grown man seems to have taken his own life. Which leaves ITV facing two big questions.
Firstly… what on earth was The Jeremy Kyle Show doing on its network in the first place?
As Gavin Hill, who filmed a video about the show seven years ago tells this paper today, this was a tragedy waiting to happen.
And those highly paid TV executives, who turned a blind eye to their embarrassing carbuncle lodged between the wholesome viewing of Lorraine and This Morning, knew it.
The format whipped up pantomime-style goodies and baddies but without warmth, only cruelty and ridicule.
And whatever after care and counselling they put in place – which admittedly seems quite good – cannot simply erase such terrible public humiliation and heartbreak.
The Jeremy Kyle Show may have pitched itself as a moral crusade seeking justice in murky relationship sewers. But we all know its real purpose was to allow its viewers to be the ‘Us’ who point and sneer at ‘Them’ – people who’d do or say anything for five minutes of fame and a bus fare home.
In so doing, it propagated some of the worst narratives about ‘Them’, which Tory politicians have been using to their advantage ever since.
When the studio audience heckled and bayed it was like they weren’t just angry at the hapless individuals on stage in front of them, they were angry at everything they represented.
So much so that the phrase “totally Jeremy Kyle” became a form of abuse anyone could understand.
But of course there’s a second big question ITV must answer too. Where on earth will they find such good ratings from at that time of day again?
Centuries may have passed since people lined up to watch the entertainment in the colosseum or at the gallows… but the audience for cruelty remains.
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