It’s hard enough for my wife to deal with one obsession; the amount of ratty paperbacks I seem to bring back with me each time I go out, even if it’s only to the supermarket to by some bread and milk. No, she has to deal with two obsessions and the second obsession takes over the television and will not let her watch any of her soaps in anyway shape or form.
I love reality TV shows where people think they can get one over on the law makers and protectors. Cop shows, Bounty Hunter shows, Airport immigration shows, you name them I could watch them all day every day until I fall over and bite dirt.
I don’t even know where this fixation first started, I just remember an afternoon, and missing an interview for a job I was really hoping to get because I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the screen. Cops in Newcastle were on the rampage, wrestling with and arresting pissed up Geordies in the middle of winter. This one wee female officer was jumping on the back of a bloodied steroids freak, trying to bring him to the ground. Her partner, 18 stone of bad diet, was just standing there, goading her on, not even raising one finger to help. In the end she sprayed him and he went down hard, smacking his head on the concrete pavement. The next time the camera’s caught up with him, he was nursing the mother of all hangovers in the cell, with a bump on his forehead that really did look like a boiled egg. Rather fascinating.
So I missed the appointment and remained on the dole for another few months. That was okay; I had Uncle Mars Bar and Auntie Dorito watching over my interests.
Another show, this time set in America and the State police are in hot pursuit of this SUV as its hightailing it down the road, and it goes over a crossing and BANG, it’s utterly wiped out by this lorry that’s not going to stop for anyone.
I remember sitting on my sofa, spilling Earl Grey down my front thinking that they shouldn’t be allowed to show accidents like that on the telly, people obviously died and you’re making light fucking entertainment out of it! But then, after a pause, you think that if it stops one fool from pushing his Nike Asshole clad foot onto the pedal then show as much as you want. The British shied away from showing the grue for quite a while. But then, on Sky 1 – the home for such things at 3 am when sleep has deserted you and you’re drinking Nytol that you’ve warmed up in the saucepan because you’ve heard it gives you a bigger buzz – you see the traffic cops in Wales and they’re going to an accident where a silly young fool has stolen a car, been to a party and gotten so fucked out of his head that he thought that driving 120 miles an hour OVER a roundabout was such a good idea, that he didn’t think he was going to die instantly until the split second before the inevitable actually happened.
I shouldn’t watch these shows, the aftermath of the pisshead was unbearable to watch, but like slowing down your car to have a gander at a real life car crash, I just couldn’t get up and walk out of the room. The first copper on the scene was throwing his ringer up, putting his hand up at the cameraman to get him to stop filming. The cameraman just moved filmed the road instead. There was something blackly shiny on the road. It was the victim’s blood. Then a phone rings about twenty metres away from the crash. The copper wipes his face and goes to the phone which is down a dip. He shines a light on it, it’s covered in blood, but you can plainly see the screen flashing up ‘MUM.’
To be honest, I stopped watching the shows after that for a while – but then one day I was flicking through the channels and there were policemen from Edinburgh, all armed to the teeth because someone had been seen on the Royal Mile with a gun for fucks sakes! This one copper, dead-eyed and with a face that looked like he either beat on his wife, or wanted to really badly was pumping himself up for the stand-off. The gun wielding man in question was pissed out of his head and didn’t realise how close he was to getting the top of his head torn off by a trigger-happy sniper. Turns out he didn’t have a gun, it was a tin of beer, and his mate had phoned the police as a joke.
Moving swiftly on to an absolute legend – Dog the Bounty Hunter. If I could buy the dude a drink, I would. I don’t like the episodes when he is in Hawaii, the people he goes after there are just idiots who get high and fail to pay their bonds. The ones in America though, they are the real deal. Major drug dealers, some killers, rapists; you name them Dog goes after them…with only a tin of Mace!
I don’t know if anyone’s ever pulled a gun out on Dog, but if they did – I don’t think they’d live to tell the tale. The man is a ferocious lion – a 70s throwback who believes in God just that little bit too much to make you think he’s done more than spend time in jail for killing a man (even though he was only an accessory). But Dog’s GREATEST moment is when they took down the Max Factor heir, Andrew Luster, a convicted serial rapist. They went to Mexico for that one and they got their man – but Dog and their team got fucking arrested! I couldn’t believe it. After long tearful episodes where Dog’s wife Beth talks to every reporter under the sun and goes on every morning US breakfast show to plead her husband’s innocence – they got released on bail but had to wear tags. The next day they were going off after the bad guys while they were still electronically tagged up. Proper legend.
Was watching an Air Ambulance rescue episode this evening, but they’re a bit weak really – mainly hillwalkers having heart attacks halfway up Sca Fell…
So is there a reason why I watch so much of this reality stuff? I suppose I can never get away from how bizarre this planet can be at times and makes you thank fuck you are not the person with half a bag of pink champagne base speed down their pants while being chased down by a half army of angry coppers who would rather be back at the station eating tuna sandwiches, drinking shitty tea and watching re-runs of Fraiser…
And for those with strong stomachs – the very video of the SUV being hit by the truck. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Bio: Johnny Mains has recently edited the acclaimed ‘BACK FROM THE DEAD: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories’, was project editor for the 2010 re-issue of the first volume in the ‘The Pan Book of Horror Stories’ series and his debut collection ‘With Deepest Sympathy’ was recently published by Obverse Books. He is currently working on a horror anthology for Obverse and the complete collected works of Mary Danby.