Ah, reality television. Perhaps the most polarising of genres. The people who love it enjoy the insight into the lives of real people, and enjoy the unscripted nature of the format (although how scripted “reality” television can get is debatable. Check out this article on Cracked.com if you honestly believe the bullshit that it is scripted). The people who hate it will often put forward the argument that it’s cheap, exploitative programming, and that it continues to get nastier, more degrading, and more desperate with each new program. A fair argument, but they seem to forget that reality TV went as far as it possibly could, in my opinion, all the way back in 2004, with a little show called There’s Something Abour Miriam.
Reality television has existed in one way or another pretty much as long as we’ve had television. The belief is that it started in 1948 with Allen Funt’s Candid Camera. But it wasn’t until the year 2000 when the global popularity of reality TV exploded and became a massive phenomenon with the huge hits Big Brother and Survivor. After that, it seemed everybody wanted to jump on the bandwagon and cash in on the popularity of the genre. When Fear Factor premiered in 2001, involving segments intentionally designed to disgust viewers, that’s when critics really began to worry about how far the envelope would be pushed. Then, Dear Reader, we have Miriam.
From our friends in jolly ol’ England, There’s Something About Miriam was first unleashed on TV screens in February of 2004. Originally titled Find Me A Man, the show pitted 6 men aged between 22 and 28 against each other to win the affection of the lovely Miriam and £10,000 cash on the beautiful island of Ibiza. Over the course of the show, the boys competed in a series of challenges such as racing, cooking, and even writing love poems, all in the hopes that Miriam would pick them as their love puppet. One contestant in particular, Tom Rooke, fought a hard fight, scoring himself a lot of French kissing and heavy petting, and was evenutally chosen by Miriam as the winner. Then, this happened…
MIRIAM IS A FUCKING DUDE! Needless to say, Tom didn’t take this news too well, and neither did the other 5 contestants. The show was originally intended to air in November of 2003, but was delayed because the 6 contestants sued production company Endemol, alleging “conspiracy to commit sexual assault, defamation, breach of contract, and personal injury in the form of psychological and emotional damage.” The boys settled for an undisclosed amount, and along came the show.
Of course, critics hated the fuck out of the show. The Sun referred to it as “the cruellest reality show idea yet.” Transsexual groups feared a backlash of public opinion, and spoke out heavily against the show. There’s also this choice quote from Australian publication The Age:
These guys were duped in more ways than one – while Miriam has a few unexpected bits in her package, she’s notably deficient in others. It has become clear Miriam requires a personality implant. It must’ve been a challenge to find a transsexual pretty enough, mean enough and sufficiently attention-seeking to play this tawdry game, but what these producers found in Miriam is a sultry-looking dill prone to the cheesiest of cliches.
Despite what the critics had to say, the show rated very well, and as an experiment in how far the envelope can be pushed, it’s worth watching and is acutally pretty enjoyable. Since the viewer is let in on Miriam’s little (or big, if you think about it) secret at the very beginning, it’s perversely enjoyable to watch the contestants fall on their own sword.
In the years since There’s Something About Miriam, we’ve seen reality television fall to some pretty low depths, sure. Even earlier this year, Fear Factor made a triumphant return to the public conciousness after a segment involving contestants chugging donkey semen and urine was pulled and a rerun was aired instead. But nothing has really pushed its contestants and shown just how far people will go to get their faces on TV more than There’s Something About Miriam. And I have to say, Dear Reader, it’s a hell of a lot of fun.
As for Miriam herself, apparently she’s working as a £300 an hour escort. Go figure.