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Reflections on The Jeremy Kyle Show

You'd have to be of a certain mindset to put yourself through that kind of Hell.

To understand the context of this image (yes, really, there is a logical story behind it), click this link.  Do it.  DO IT.

What is it with Jeremys these days? They’re either heroes or villains; mostly villains at the moment, as evidenced by:

  • Jeremy Hunt, the current Health Secretary and a new addition to the rhyming slang dictionary. Definitely a villain.
  • Jeremy Clarkson, obnoxious relic of the past and belligerent anti-PC hero. A divisive choice, but probably mostly villain.
  • Jeremy Paxman, host of University Challenge and asker of cutting, yet not always intelligent, questions on Newsnight. A hero at heart, but his aggressive style makes him seem a bit mean.
  • Jeremy Beadle, sadly no longer with us, but a cheeky villain known for his annoying pranks and tiny right hand.

But there is some good news: Jeremy Corbyn, saviour of the left and wearer of tasteful jumpers, is the friendly, upstanding politician we’d all love to go for a beer with. We may not all admit it, but he’s the man we need to save us from the Neoliberal Hell we’ve signed up for. A true hero of our time.

If those were The Good and The Bad, there’s only one contender for the title of The Ugly: Jeremy Kyle. Jeremy Bloody Kyle. We all detest him, but there’s something that compels us to keep watching, like a motorway pile-up or a spider slowly cocooning a beautiful butterfly trapped in its web. His show is a modern-day version of the Victorian lunatic asylum, where we can switch on ITV to stare at the crazies, hear Saint Jeremy’s sermon on their moral failings, and congratulate ourselves that while we’re not perfect, there’s always someone worse.

Apparently, people apply to go on the show so that Jeremy can help them sort out their family disputes, but it seems a rather unorthodox method. I’m pretty sure they get paid a decent whack to humiliate themselves on British telly (although I’ve heard he’s crossed the Atlantic now, so our US cousins are in for a right treat!), which must be a great help to those guests who are on benefits (which is 99% of them). Ironically / tragically, most of the viewers are from a similar demographic to the guests. Just remember: we’re all one paycheck from The Jeremy Kyle Show.

I recall a conversation with my driving instructor, in which he told me that his wife had been on The Jeremy Kyle Show, Oh, but in the audience, not on stage or anything. Because you’d either be too embarrassed to admit that, or so brazen that you just don’t give a shit about anything.

Each show lasts one hour, and covers two different stories. Some recent examples include:

  • I’ll marry you if you prove you only cheated 18 times! (proof, if ever you needed it, that romance is not dead)
  • My ex claims he's not the dad because of the way we had sex (which bolsters calls for better SRE lessons in UK schools)
  • Your boyfriend killed my hamster! (If their boyfriend is Freddie Starr, they might be on to something)
  • Did you sleep in the bus station or another woman’s bed? Lie detector results! (not sure which option is the worst, TBH)
  • You woke up without your thong – are you cheating while I’m sleeping? (I’m sure there must be another explanation)
  • Who pooed in the fridge? Lie detector results! (we've all been there, right? *)

* When I was at university, there was a story about one flat that stole an oven from the neighbouring flat's kitchen, and if that wasn't spectacular enough, they returned it with a steaming shit in it!  No idea if this is true or not, but I really, really want it to be.

Real high brow stuff. And those aren’t even the best ones! For more real-life drama, just Google "jeremy kyle show;" there's hours, if not days of entertainment for you, right there.

It’s reminiscent of the old Kilroy format, but with less current affairs, and more, er, current affairs.  After the opening credits, we sit down with Jeremy as he perches on the edge of the stage, to introduce the topics to us at home, and the studio audience. 

He’ll tell us about the guests we’ll have on, and what they want to talk/fight about, and if there will be an all-important Lie Detector or DNA Test result. And then, it’s time to get on with the show! 

The first guest is brought on; usually, the wronged party so they receive cheers, applause and whoops from the audience. They tell their tale, and then it’s time for the other side of the story—so their adversary comes out to much booing. 

Security are on hand, and they’re needed alarmingly frequently. There is nothing quite like a good old British punch-up. And it’s not like Jeremy discourages them.  If anything he’s egging them on.

It’s shown at the perfect time of day to discuss such weighty matters as infidelity, child custody and family feuds: daytime TV! This makes the perfect timing for housewives, students and the unemployed to have a jolly good laugh at other people’s shit lives.

Aside from the yelling and violence, the two main draws are the Lie Detector and DNA Test results. What better way to find out such personal, life-changing news? In front of a live, braying, TV audience and broadcast to millions of homes in the UK!

Professional help is made available to the guests, through counsellors and psychotherapists backstage—and additional help after the show, ranging from rehab to relationship counselling. But they can only access this after their on-stage confessional to Father Kyle. 

And just to be really sure that they’ve absorbed his moral message, he accompanies them out the back of the studio to the taxi that’s ready to whisk them off to rehab or therapy, telling them how useless they are and how he knows they’re going to fuck their last chance up—as some sort of reverse-psychological incentive, presumably. Oh, and it makes for good outrage viewing.

Occasionally they do a look back on previous episodes and follow the story of one of the guests that does successfully turn their life around. And they couldn’t have done it without Jeremy! What a hero he is.

It is seriously the most exploitative thing on British telly at the moment. It’s cruel, patronising, and gives a dreadful impression of my working-class brothers and sisters. But I just can’t resist it—as if he couldn’t be any more nefarious, he’s made me into a class traitor as well. And yes, I’ve just booked my tickets to be in the audience… just make sure you don't end up on the show!

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Reflections on The Jeremy Kyle Show
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