The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

James Conmy Headshot

The Enduring Appeal of Jeremy Kyle (Or Why You Are Ronnie Barker)

Posted: Updated:
Print Article

What follows is something like a typical scene from the ever popular Jeremy Kyle show - if it's enduring appeal (NTA nominated again) mystifies you then consider this theory...

"You two don't have any simple human respect for each other"
"Yes but we came on the show to try and fix...."
"SHUT UP!!! I HAVEN'T FINISHED TALKING AT YOU YET"
"I'm not sure this really was the best forum for trying to reconcile our difficu...."
"I SAID SHUT UP! SHUT YOUR POISONOUS MOUTHES AND LISTEN TO ME!!!!! BLACK T-SHIRTED HENCHMEN RESTRAIN THEM!!! FORCE THEIR FILTHY MOUTHS CLOSED WHILE I CLIMB UPON MY HIGH HORSE AND EXPATIATE!!!"

Firstly, it doesn't have to be Jeremy Kyle, you could really put any angry, sneering, self-righteous, disapproving ringmaster into that circus and they would appear, relative to their on-stage participants, in full possession of the sort of moral-compass most of us take for granted.

It's what we perceive as Kyle's moral compass that's meant to link us to him, that connects the audience at home with the audience in the studio and sets us, as a collective, apart from the scrapping sub-human scum on stage. In the real world we probably know that Jeremy Kyle isn't any more "moral" than us because he allegedly stole from his ex-wife to fund a destructive gambling habit and met his current wife after she "won" a competition on his radio station to marry a complete stranger. But hey, all that was before he was canonised by ITV to referee human bear baiting - so that's all right then.

But the truth is it doesn't matter whose name is emblazoned across the stage in mega-font: it could be anyone. Over the years we have had Kyle, Springer, Vanessa, Trisha and all the others. It's not the host who is important. No, it's the poor people on stage that keep so many tuning in. Poor in every sense of the word. Because here's the thing: seeing the morally destitute, airing their dirty laundry in front of a studio audience on a daily basis is, for millions, oddly comforting. It plays a very important role in the ongoing pacification of an entire social strata, because this show and others like it are the social counter-balance for the abiding culture of celebrity.

Consider that comfort is measured by humans in terms of relativity: a billionaire and a homeless person could describe exactly the same bedsit and their perception of it's merits would, no doubt, be polarised. Bearing this in mind is important in realising how the satisfaction of a person can be adversely affected by continuous media exposure to the social elite: Hello, OK, Cosmopolitan, a plethora of TV shows mistakenly labelled "reality". The young, beautiful and rich are constantly paraded before your eyes, people whose concerns appear to be limited to matching stilettos to super-yachts, or deciding on the name of their new aftershave or being vocally ungrateful about the contents of their after-show party gift bag. Their ubiquity normalises their concerns and their conduct, even though it bears no resemblance to normal life. Understandably if you've been lugging-two-kids-and-a-week's-shopping-back-through-the-rain-because-you-missed-your-bus-because-you-had-to-put-something-back-because-you're-out-of-work-but-you're-still-trying-to-not-let-the-kids-know-just-how-close-to-desperate-life-really-is, then reading about Posh spice's "struggle" to settle down in Los Angeles could make you feel just a bit unsatisfied with your position in society.

When literally anyone can be famous, just for being famous, who is to say what's normal? Where the focus of the TV and popular press is all about the social elite, the fact that you haven't shaved your legs yet this year and you won't be going on holiday again and there is catshit on the front lawn again even though you don't own a cat, can really put a crimp in your perceived level of comfort. The phenomenon dubbed "status anxiety" means that your perception of your place in society can be drastically affected when you unconsciously reconfigure what is "normal".

Fortunately for us, the Jeremy Kyle show, under the guise of helping it's victims, shines the spotlight at the gutter rather than the stars, parading the under class of society through your living room and letting you know that whilst you won't be going to the Oscars this year at least you don't have an electronically tagged son who is stealing from you to pay for his alcoholic girlfriend, who is also your half-sister and your mum, so she can afford the surgery to enhance her porn career. It doesn't matter that the conflict has been carefully orchestrated and edited for your viewing pleasure because all it needs to do is put a seemingly smelly and stupid Ronnie Corbett next to your Ronnie Barker to distract you from the well dressed John Cleese.

It attempts to re-establish the norm.

Around the Web

Jeremy Kyle Show: Young woman cheats on fiancee with his cousin

Jeremy Kyle-style DNA testing kit sales soar after dropping in price to less ...

The Jeremy Kyle Show: how to vote at the NTAs