Here’s my version of the January column that I pen for the Birmingham Post. Not too original, but had a bit of writer’s block (or was it because I forgot to write it…?). Something like that anyway…

Happy New Year. I hope 2008 brings with it all that you want or at the very least, one or two nice things.

Looking back, 2007 wasn’t the best. Dwelling on the past though is not something I do, although as I get older – and increasingly closer to meeting my creator – looking back is sometimes much more comforting than looking forward…!!!

Yet some things never change and with the arrival of the new year comes this year’s first Big Brother incarnation: ‘Celebrity Hijack’. Instead of celebrities humiliating themselves a la Jade Goody, Jo O’Meera and Danielle Lloyd last year, this year we have the joy of watching a gaggle of ‘talented’ wannabees being humiliated by a range of different ‘celebrity big brothers’ ultimately playing god.

Giving in to my baser instincts, I succumbed to watching the ‘housemates’ arrive. In doing so I was sadly greeted by Little Britain’s Matt Lucas systematically humiliating ‘John’ – the Chairman of the Scottish Youth Parliament and the first teenager ever to be appointed to this position or so the Big Brother website tells me – crawl on the floor, stroke various housemates, claim to play the kazoo and repeatedly say ‘cake’. All – I hasten to add – causing me to go into convulsions of hysterical laughter (well, snigger). Seeing poor ‘John’ put through this humiliation reminded me of George Galloway. There was never going to be any good come out of him pretending to drink milk from Rula Lenska’s hand like a kitten. George, it’s you who is to blame.

No doubt ‘Celebrity Hijack’ will draw in the audiences, encouraging a thousand other television producers to run out and find the next willing and able ‘contestants’ to take part in another new ‘reality tv’ show (a concept that must surely be challenged under the trade descriptions act sometime soon).

In turn, this will initiate another batch of young hopefuls, hoping to establish their ‘celebrity’ status by falling in love, getting married, getting divorced, falling in love, getting married etc in the public gaze. No reference to Kerry Katona intended.

Reality tv though can be extremely damaging and what seems a good idea at the start – even though I’m sure that no-one can still be this naïve – can backfire on you. Take for instance Channel 4’s recent ‘Make Me a Muslim’ series, shown shortly before Christmas it was meant to challenge people’s perceptions about Islam and to show how living ‘like a Muslim’ would be beneficial for British society. Instead, over three nights the series merely reinforced and confirmed all their worse fears. Quite spectacularly, it encouraged Muslims to do it themselves.

Two years ago I wrote here in the Post about the misconceptions that people had about Islam, particularly about how there was no fun to be had by Muslims. Written during Islam Awareness Week it coincided with the launch of the city’s Unity FM and the weekly radio show that I co-hosted with my good friend Musab (going under the highly original title, ‘The Chris & Musab Show’). What I was trying to challenge with this piece were all the things that ‘Make Me a Muslim’ reinforced and confirmed, more worryingly to a much wider audience. So much for my good intentions.

What then did the show achieve? What misconceptions did it challenge? Not much in all honesty and I’m certain that it neither helped to ‘Make a Muslim’ nor to put the ‘fun back into fundamental’. Instead – and as with all reality tv – what it achieved in ‘reality’ was merely to reinforce the very things that it was devised to (allegedly) challenge.

My new year’s hope (rather than resolution) then for 2008 is that we finally see the quick but extremely painful death of ‘reality tv’ along with all its celebrities and celebrity wannabees (and wannabee wannabees also). And so to paraphrase the late Edwin Starr’s anthem ‘War’, all together now ‘reality tv’ “what is it good for? Absolutely nothing…”. I’ll say that again. Have a great year.

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