Box barbarians: Christmas TV poll results

December 19, 2003

They are the programmes that make you weep, wail and gnash your teeth, possibly on the remote control. Nearly 1,700 votes were cast in The THES 's poll to find the TV show that you think is the most damaging to British culture.

Now the top 25 can be revealed. Big Brother was judged the worst of all, with Pop Idol a distant second.
While more academics than ever find reason to appear on the small screen, it seems the low points of a week's viewing provoke considerable irritation in many of you.

Even those programmes that might be thought to appeal to a more thoughtful viewer came in for criticism, with both Horizon and The Big Read picking up votes, while Sir Patrick Moore observed of party political broadcasts "they have very little relation to the truth, consistently show an anti-British sentiment and are politically correct".

Not everyone was happy with the concept behind the poll itself.

David Jefferies, senior lecturer in electrical engineering at Surrey University, declared that most UK TV was enlightening and interesting.

"We are very fortunate to have such a good TV service," he said.

Christine Geraghty, professor of film and television studies at Glasgow University, was even more dismissive.

"With OfCom revving up for business and the battle over the BBC's charter already in full swing, it would have been more useful if your correspondents had pondered the more difficult question of what constitutes good popular television in the 21st century," she observed.

Doubtless there is merit to Professor Geraghty's suggestion. The poll, however, would suggest that such programming should not feature ten flatmates locked in a bungalow.

Your top 25 TV turn-offs

Big Brother

: 219 votes
"What hope is there for the cultural advance of mankind when such tedious, odious celebration of non-entity and idiocy is so universally admired." Colin Blakemore, chief executive of the Medical Research Council

Pop Idol : 109 votes
"Our cultural fabric grows ever thinner as this insipid music industry conveyor belt encourages the nation's youth to aspire to be next month's Rick Astley. Makes Eurovision seem positively subversive." Anon

Jerry Springer Show :108 votes
"The most revolting programme on British television alongside Big Brother ." Parviz Radji

Temptation Island : 90 votes
"Surely here is a good argument for the resumption of atmospheric nuclear bomb testing?" Anon

Club Reps : 89 votes
"With an attitude that makes the average bonobo look chaste and reflective, their antics would give Hieronymus Bosch nightmares." Anon

Wife Swap : 82 votes
"This nasty, invasive programme inflicts the blinkered prejudices of the programme-makers on the couples whose attitudes are portrayed in the least flattering light. What is it about getting on TV that persuades people to participate in such trials? What is it about TV producers that gives them such a negative view of humanity?" Anon

The Salon : 67 votes
"There's more cerebral activity in a box of Tic Tacs. If I had any hair left, I'd shave it off in protest." Anon

National Lottery Show : 59 votes
"It draws something from the soul." Trevor Baylis, clockwork radio inventor

Kilroy : 57 votes
"Mawkish and manipulative." Frank Webster, professor of sociology at City University

Home/garden improvement programmes : 56 votes
"Just because of their sheer banality and their insidious reproduction of 'celebrity culture'." Klaus Dodds, dean of the graduate school at Royal Holloway, University of London

I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here : 50 votes
"I'm not but I share the sentiment." Anon

Trisha : 41 votes
"Pull yourselves together." Anon

Antipodean soap operas : 38 votes

Airport : 36 votes
"Swampy had the right idea." Anon

You've Been Framed : 36 votes

BBC News (all news programmes) : 34 votes
"Through their mode of presentation, tone of voice and selection of items they convey a general sense of national failure and guilt." Michael Cooper, emeritus professor of engineering surveying at City University

EastEnders : 34 votes
"Began well but turned into another glorification of mindless tosser thugs who would be most usefully employed as landfill." David Byrne, senior lecturer in sociology at Durham University

"I know it's meant to represent British culture, but it paints a horrendously gloomy picture: violence, crime, broken families..." Helen Barton, assistant editor at Cambridge University Press

The Osbournes : 34 votes

UK's Worst Driver : 31 votes

What not to Wear : 30 votes
"Should be pulped." Krishna Dutta

So Graham Norton : 29 votes
"It is more insidious than Big Brother or other similar rubbish programmes in that it undermines the values and mores of a much wider group in our society, being a programme that has acquired cult status." Philip Sadler, vice-president of Ashridge Business School

Sex and the City : votes

The Weakest Link : 24 votes
"It fosters bullying, belittling and undermining individuals. It has been used in social contexts to humiliate and demean. Entertainment? Surely the 'wrong' sort?" Jillian Farquhar, reader in marketing at Oxford Brookes University

Life Laundry :22 votes

Richard and Judy Show : 21 votes


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