If you’ve been reading my recent blogs then you may remember me coining the phrase ‘Nouveau Recession TV’, to categorise TV shows that aim to boost public self-esteem by exploiting those less fortunate under the premise that they’re helping them (I’ve linked back to the origin if you want a more in depth knowledge of the phenomenon).
‘Supersize vs Superskinny’ (Tuesday 8pm Ch4) is the true essence of Nouveau Recession TV. The altruistic element, that the show was no doubt built on, wafts around in the ether, but is ultimately overpowered by the massive pile of steaming shit that constitutes the rest of the hour.
The principle of Supersize vs Superskinny is simple: get one really fat person and one really skinny person and make them eat each other’s diet. The philanthropic element is slightly more tenuous – but I’ll get back to that.
To kick the programme off, it’s essential that both participants are televised naked – ok, they have underwear on, but it’s still unnecessary – so that they can show us just how fat and grotesque, or malnourished and disillusioned they really are. The effect is always the same; you feel slightly better about your own body – assuming you aren’t Lisa Wheeler of course, but more of her later.
After the public humiliation, we are shown what the overweight and underweight participants have to eat each day – a technique pioneered by irritating fake doctor Gillian McKeith – but instead of just showing us the food, they feel the need to empty it from a chute into giant test tubes; this is so that we can accurately and scientifically deride—I mean ‘gauge’—the difference in the amount of food they consume. Yep, you’ve guessed it, fatty’s tube is full to the brim with deep fried kebabs and chunks of lard, whilst skinny’s contains a banana and a yoghurt. Feel good point two: you are happier about your own eating habits. Much talk about the damages of under eating/overeating later, the participants are made to swap diets for a week, which inevitably involves the fat person moaning about being hungry and the skinny person failing to eat about five kilos of junk food every breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Bulking up the rest of the schedule is random cruelty showcased in different formats. Currently, Anna Richardson, follows a group of women from Wales who undertake different activities in order to try and burn calories and lose weight – like a fun weight watchers I suppose – except that, at the end of each activity, Anna goads them with the chance to eat chocolate, or ice cream, or cakes, or fat to the sum of the calories they’ve burned off – like a sadistic, self esteem neutering, will power crushing bitch I suppose. Aside from undermining the ‘flab fighters’, there is the photography part, where participants are invited to look at enlarged close ups of their protruding ribs or bingo wings, while Dr Christian Jessen mocks their poor physique. Best of all though (or should that be worst), is the visit to superobese hospitalised woman, Lisa Wheeler, who we are constantly reminded is an inch larger in circumference than she is in height, instantly demoting her to a sub human giant space hopper. As we confront the poor woman, the commentator describes how utterly fucked she is as a result of being about four million tonnes, while smug Dr Christian and this week’s supersize applicant stand and stare at her in disgust. I feel sorry for the woman who, not only has to put up with being really fat, but has the added misery of being used as a living obesity campaign that literally says, “If you eat too much you will end up like this woman, and look at her!—Isn’t she just the last person on earth that you would want to look like?!” It’s malicious and grossly unnecessary – everyone knows what a fat person looks like after all, so why showcase her like the elephant man! No feel good feelings here, just a dead weight in your stomach.
After all the needless diversions, filler and ‘feel good’, we return to see how the week went and what fatty and skinny have learned. Strangely enough they always seem to have an epiphany, which I find amazing, as I would have assumed that they would have learned nothing from the experience. I mean where is the gain – and I challenge anyone to find one – in making a fat person consume nothing but a few sugar rich snacks and making a skinny person eat piles of utter crap? Wouldn’t it be more beneficial to give each person a dedicated diet plan?
The producers seem to think otherwise though, as they check up on the odd couple a few weeks on, who inevitably feel great and have turned their lives around. Bask in the glory and pat yourselves on the back Supersize vs Superskinny producers, because in a few years time you’ll be able to run the same show again, but with the roles reversed. Out of the ether, NRTV has inadvertently manufactured self perpetuating television.