Alex Massie

Lie-detector television? Not a bad idea!

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In the midst of an otherwise risible* column on how if it weren't for the BBC license fee all British TV would be as trashy as some of Fox's output, Marina Hyde asks:

Have any of these people seen the likes of Moment of Truth, one wondered idly, in which our hero Mike Darnell hooked up semi-witting participants to lie detectors, whereupon they were asked "Do you really care about starving children in Africa?", or questioned about their porn-watching habits?

The first of these questions would seem one worth asking Guardian journalists; the second is clearly a matter for the Home Secretary.

*Risible because the US TV vs British TV "debate" is ludicrous. Both countries produce some decent programming and tremendous amounts of rubbish. No-one who has witnessed the horror of the BBC's Hole in the Wall can claim any superiority on matters of televisual taste. Besides, Fox is responsible for The Simpsons. And while US network (ie, not HBO or Showtime) television tends to either flog good series to death (ER) or ruin them (Friday Night Lights) or cancel them because they don't realise what they have (Freaks and Geeks) it's still the case that the Americans excel at multi-series drama or comedy-drama shows of a sort that simply aren't made in Britain. Even pap such as Grey's Anatomy or silliness such as Boston Legal, House or CSI is tolerable for a season or two. And that's before one even mentions superior stuff such as The West Wing or Murder One.

The BBC is a Great British Anomaly. The manner of its funding makes little sense and is even harder to justify now that the corporation has done its best to abandon its public service remit. Who, however, wouldn't rather see the countless millions the BBC pays Jonathan Ross spent on, you know, programmes worth watching? His presence, like that of Dale Winton and others, on the BBC rather undermines any snobbish pretensions Britishers might have. That is for all that the Americans might produce heaps of crass and vindictive junk, so can - and do - we.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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