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Home > Media

TVJism: Playing it straight

20 April 2005

TV is routinely criticised for being shallow. At one level this is demonstrably true, but as the saying goes, 99 per cent of everything is crap. It's that other one per cent that makes everything worthwhile, whether it's The Singing Detective or Peep Show.

This concept seems a little lost on Channel 4 and Lion Television, whose show Playing It Straight suggests they prefer to sit firmly in the 'crap 99 per cent' camp.

The show is based on one idea only: can a woman, Zoe, guess whether potential suitors are gay? (In fact the show could easily be called 'Spot the Gay', which implies the show is designed for homophobes. Maybe their test audience was bigoted dads and skinheads.)

Unfortunately, even this limited concept is rendered pointless by the show itself, which features uniformly uninteresting blokes, all of whom are pretty good-looking, nicely dressed, fairly trendy types who probably read GQ. Frankly they all look a bit gay.

But when the show isn't just parading these harmless clones, it falls back on dreadful cliches that make On The Buses look like a bold experiment in the avant garde. For example: one contestant had lots of shoes, a pot of Vaseline and body lotion. Bent, obviously. Or was he? We had to find out after the break.

And guess what? He was straight! They're fucking with our heads, man!

Playing It Straight isn't even really reality TV because it's got little or nothing to do with reality. 'Personality TV' would be a better description, as this kind of show relies on the viewer taking an interest in the people involved. As such it's hard to see what the emotional pay-off of Playing It Straight will be, considering none of them appear to have personalities that could be described as anything but 'average'.

Presumably the most exciting outcome is that Zoe falls for one of the contestants, only to discover they're gay. If this is the highlight you could save yourself a lot of time by simply buying a copy of Take A Break and reading a true-life account of closet homosexuality, ie. 'I should have seen the warning signs. My husband was very particular about his appearance. And he wouldn't let me touch his Bronski Beat albums.'



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