This summer I’ll be spending three months in the UK. It’ll be a welcome relief to be in a place with such an exceedingly free press. Unfortunately, though, more and more space in British newspapers is taken up by items of questionable news value, mostly concerning the adventures of that subspecies of micro-celebrities of whom there seem to be about 300,000 in the UK alone.
One of the people responsible for this is Max Clifford. For those fortunate enough never to have heard that name before, he is a celebrity agent – for any Chinese readers who aren’t familiar with the term, I might add that he is 比 日本人 好*, but only just. His important life’s work is promoting formerly famous and mostly notorious clients, who pay huge sums to ensure that they will never have to deal with the shame of nipping out to Tesco’s for some cat food without getting recognised and causing a commotion.
It’s not just the press that is the object of his attention. He also places clients on those TV shows where desperate celebrities are locked or sent away together and subject themselves to all sorts of debasements to create ratings and headlines. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to grab ratings in the same way as it used to – it seems that no amount of humiliation or unlikely celebrity affairs is able to sate the public’s lust to see genuinely pathetic people suffer for media exposure.
So I had an idea that might just work. Basically, you get a group of these people, hungry to stay in the public eye, and put them in an average-sized Chinese city (Dalian would do just fine) for ten months. They needn’t put up with any discomforts of the kind that people enjoyed watching so much in that show that was set in the jungle – they could stay in the best hotel in town, eat Western-style food, watch CNN occasionally – and there would be no need for any humiliating stunts to attract the viewers.
So what would attract the viewers? Well, the real selling point is that it would put their appetite for fame to the test. How much would they really want attention, and how much attention would they really want?
Would they really want people following them round the supermarket, gasping with wonderment at the things they fill their trolleys with? Would they feel honoured to find people’s eyes tracking the progress of the chopsticks to their mouths and back to the bowl? Would they cherish the admiring gazes of fellow pedestrians, wondering just what their secret is as they totter in the middle of the road while traffic hurtles past in both directions? How would they feel about not being able to take two steps down the street without someone bellowing ‘HELLO’ at them, as every single passing taxi pulls in to the side of the road at the very sight of them? And would they feel that all the hard work had been worth it when dozens of gawping waiting and kitchen staff crowded round their table as they tried to decipher exactly what ‘Freezing Shark’s Bait’ was supposed to mean in actual English?
I suspect that as a result many of them might well decide that they preferred a quiet life, away from the spotlight of public acclaim. But for the winners, those who really value the attention given them, fabulous prizes would await. They could even challenge Da Shan in the lucrative and ever-growing Asian market for Western celebrities!
Obviously I’ve not yet had the chance to perform any detailed research into possible audiences. Consider this, if you will, as a pitch. All I can say is that personally it’s the kind of programme I’d love to see on UK television this summer.
Of course, for obvious reasons, Ken Ho and Vanessa Mae need not apply.