Call it cinema verité, fly-on-the-wall documentary, or just plain old reality TV: programmes such as Big Brother, Survivor, The Apprentice and Tribe have been big business for television production companies for more than decade.
With the exception of Christmas, general elections and Eurovision, summer holidays are the most wonderful time of the year. And as is usually the case, there's nothing that underlines the "we are having a good time" vibe better than television. At one point, summer morning television was a big deal. But now, nobody seems arsed.
The new series of Dragons' Den began a few days before Duncan Bannatyne turned Twitter vigilante, offering £50k to anyone who could capture and mildly maim a mysterious Russian who'd threatened his daughter. After that, wondering whether a guy with a device to combat toilet splash-back would persuade the Dragons to invest didn't seem quite so dramatic.
Television programming often goes through phases of prevalence. At the minute, we seem to be going through an expert-people-sit-around-judging-other-people-with-a-view-to-mutual-financial-gain phase. But compared to David Dickinson, Four Rooms is Hitchcock.
2000 years on, the "circuses"remain an effective tool for keeping the hoi polloi suitably distracted. The scripts have remained much the same, although the current batch go as far as creating an illusory sense of democracy, with the democratic narrative of reality TV voting proving far more popular than that of any genuine leadership election.