Fat Families, and other exploitative reality shows that would be dressed up as empowering today

PEOPLE see reality TV of the past and say: ‘They wouldn’t be allowed to make that now.’ Yes they would. They’d just pretend it was somehow helping people, so expect more shows like these.

Fat Families

As the title suggests, this show was completely wrong. A cheap excuse to shame overweight people while everyone gawked at them from their own sofas. This can easily be remedied, however, if you say you’re ‘empowering’ the participants/victims. Who knows, maybe some of them lost a few ounces? That makes laughing at the hilarious blubber monsters totally guilt-free.


Showing children on any reality show is dodgy territory, especially taking advantage of badly behaved ones with inadequate parents purely for the entertainment value. The kids will be adults now, adults with a crippling, lifelong fear of ‘the naughty step’. These days things have changed, because we only sneer at rich celebrity kids on their reality shows.

Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares

Looking back, this was basically an excuse to watch a man shout at people until they cried. Or laugh at idiots wrecking viable businesses and their marriages by being idiots. It’s okay now, though, because people are made to cry on every reality show, and sometimes it’s even men doing the crying, which is good for their mental health. Or something.

Take Me Out

Who allowed people’s romantic hopes to be crushed and then immortalised on the small screen? Especially with the brutal rejection process of simply pushing a button as if you’re selecting them to be exterminated? Okay, people’s romantic dreams are trampled underfoot on Channel 4’s First Dates too, but it feels less mean because it hasn’t got flashing lights and the music sounds cuter, proving it’s not exploitation if it’s for a middle-class audience.

Big Brother

Locking people up in a house they couldn’t leave and forcing them to do challenges under 24/7 surveillance was in retrospect barbaric and never to be repeated. Except they’re bringing it back this year without even bothering to repackage it. Still, contestants probably learn a lot about themselves from the experience. Things like: you can never go to a pub again without someone shouting ‘TWAT!’

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Trains, smoking areas, and other liminal places where you glimpse the love of your life you'll never see again

YOUR beautiful one true love has a habit of turning up in certain places then disappearing from your life forever. Here’s where to feel heartbroken over what could have been.


On your commute you can see as many as six loves of your life. On the Tube, pretend to be fascinated by the vitamin advert above their head and sneak fleeting glances before wistfully imagining the future you’d have had together if they weren’t getting off to do whatever their life consists of in Ladbroke Grove.

Smoking areas

A club’s smoking area is famously the natural habitat of cool sexy people, and you’re sure the James Dean lookalike you shared a cigarette with after six tequilas was your true love. Devastatingly, he vanished shouting ‘Wahey!’ when he heard the DJ play Come on Eileen, so you copped off with someone more like Marlon Brando in the ‘pies’ stage of his career.

Coffee shops

You meet your soulmate twice in a café. First, there’s the hot barista who talks you into ordering an unimaginably expensive frappuccino. Then, when you sit down, the world’s most beautiful human is working on a laptop nearby. You expect they’re doing something creative, and must be an incredibly deep and romantic person, until you go to the toilet and see they’ve been playing Minesweeper for an hour.

Social media

You see more beautiful strangers on the internet in ten minutes than a medieval peasant would have seen in their life. Michelangelo would have smashed his David with a hammer if he’d clicked on the #hotguy Instagram tag. Unfortunately, you accidentally scroll away from your future spouse and they’re lost to the digital ether forever. At least in medieval times they got eaten by a pack of wolves and you had some closure.


Aim to fall in love after security. You don’t want your true love to witness you taking your shoes off – you’ve got gross sweaty airport feet – and explaining why you’ve got that tub of vaseline. Wait until later, then impress them by pretending you can afford a Rolex in Duty Free.

The zoo

Somewhat niche, but there’s nothing more romantic than seeing someone in a dark green t-shirt and shorts throw raw meat to a bunch of ravening animals. It’d be like going out with Virginia McKenna in Born Free, and she’s lovely. So if you were the zookeeper feeding the lions at Whipsnade Zoo on 3rd August 2016, please text 07700 900102.