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DEAL OR NO DEAL

12-04-2007

Ever wondered why Noel Edmonds' Channel 4 quiz is such a hit? Easy, says Laurence Inman. It's the perfect metaphor for life itself.

A few years ago I took part in a rather middle-class quiz. It wasn't held in a pub, but a church hall. It was a fairly ordinary evening in that my team won first prize: a bottle of washing sherry left over from a sherry-puking contest, which, being a non-drinker, I was spared from having to taste. Most of the people who did taste it are now also non-drinkers.

I remember this particular night because of two things which gave me pause for thought.

First, I was the only person, out of about a hundred, who knew that the year of the first Great Reform Bill was 1832. I have since settled on this as the default-fact which a person must know if he or she can consider him- or herself ‘well-educated,' or even ‘educated.'

Second was the response I heard around me to the question ‘Who plays Vera Duckworth in Coronation Street ?'

There were several superior snorts heard round the room and one tosser near me even guffawed: ‘I'm glad I didn't know that!' when the answer was announced. (Elizabeth Dawn, by the way.)

So we have, simultaneously, indifference and complacency about blank ignorance of one of the most important events in English history and smug superiority about another fact which is thought to be too inferior to even know.

You get the same double-think in the so-called quality press. Not for them the salacious and prurient meddling in the private lives of others. But they will comment on the fact that it happens, as if it were a valid sociological phenomenon worthy of serious study, something we superior beings can look upon with curiosity, as people might inspect bugs down a microscope.

There are, and have been, many things on the telly which no self-respecting person of a middling sort can claim to like: Family Fortunes, The X-Factor, Home And Away, anything on in the morning….the list is pretty well endless. I suppose I'm as guilty of this as anybody, except I will declare my enthusiasm just to wind people up.

But the fact is that I am truly appalled that some of the people who shout and snarl at each other on The Jeremy Kyle Show are allowed to vote and sit on juries. I really think we should have some sort of test before you qualify. Question one could be: What important thing happened in 1832 ?

The programme which is currently being ignored by pseuds and snobs up and down the country is Deal Or No Deal.

What is it about this show that's so compelling ?

Well, there are the usual elements anyone would scoff at: idiots ignoring the basic rules of probability in their quest for a ‘life-changing sum of money,' the revolting sentimentality of people bursting into tears over nothing and the brow-hammering banality and false dramatics of the compere, some chappy called Noel Edmonds apparently. (All right, I know who he is really!)

But there's something else, something bigger, and I think I've worked out what it is.

Deal Or No Deal is just like life!

Everybody starts off with the same number of brightly-coloured boxes, bursting with hope and promise. Everybody is given the same span of time in which to win or fail. And we watch, with a mixture of gloating dread and irritated fascination as people either cleverly calculate the odds and walk off with a pile of cash or, more often, collapse in helpless tears as they throw everything away in an emotional car-crash of greed, stupidity and wilful self-delusion.

Worse, they have to do all this with annoying middle-aged git spouting crap in their right ear for what seems like forever.

You see? Just like life.

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