Bellowing, bear-baiting, poverty porn: I wish I could say that I’d always hated The Jeremy Kyle Show
- Credit: ITV
The Jeremy Kyle Show has been axed by ITV after the death of a guest who took part in the programme – but was it the right decision to axe the show that was born in Norwich?
Let me be the first to say that the death of a participant on The Jeremy Kyle Show shortly after filming is a terrible tragedy and that the suspension of the show is the right decision.
Let me also say that on the rare occasions that I found myself at home on a weekday morning, with ITV on in the background, I didn't turn over the channel quite as quickly as I'd like to make out: it was like trying to avert your eyes from an accident - you know you should, but you can't.
Steve Dymond, 63, was found dead 10 days after failing a lie detector test designed to see if he had been unfaithful to his partner.
On Monday, the show was temporarily suspended while ITV bosses decided its future - and today, the axe fell. The show, which ran for 3,320 episodes over 14 years, has been permanently deleted from the TV schedules. Let's get Trisha Goddard on speed dial.
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Carolyn McCall, ITV's chief executive, said: "Given the gravity of recent events we have decided to end production of The Jeremy Kyle Show. The Jeremy Kyle Show has had a loyal audience and has been made by a dedicated production team for 14 years, but now is the right time for the show to end.
"Everyone at ITV's thoughts and sympathies are with the family and friends of Steve Dymond."
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The broadcaster added: "The previously announced review of the episode of the show is under way and will continue. ITV will continue to work with Jeremy Kyle on other projects."
It's ironic that this news should come bang in the middle of Mental Health Awareness Week just as the spotlight is on the way we treat people with mental health issues and the way we drive conversations about mental health in order to create lasting change.
It is fair to say that even with the calming influence of psychotherapist Graham 'The Voice of Reason' Stanier, it is hard to pretend that the way The Jeremy Kyle Show drove conversations about mental health was the right direction, unless you think it's wise to drive headfirst into oncoming traffic on the motorway.
As Simon Wessely, a former president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists and current head of the Royal Society of Medicine, put it: "It's the theatre of cruelty. And yes, it might entertain a million people a day, but then again, so did Christians versus lions.
"The idea that, as the programme website says 'Jeremy is here to help' is stretching the verb 'to help' beyond any normal meaning," he added, "it's almost an offence under the Trade Description Act."
It's not the first time that The Jeremy Kyle Show - dedicated to unravelling all kinds of familial problems, from relationship breakdowns to paternity issues, theft in the family to addiction - has come under scrutiny for its continuity of care after filming and issues of persecution and exploitation.
In 2007, a judge described the programme as "a form of human bear-baiting under the guise of entertainment" and "a morbid and depressing display of dysfunctional people for the purposes of titillating bored members of the public." To be fair, many programmes on TV could be similarly described: Love Island, anyone?
I've watched The Jeremy Kyle Show in the past - finding the spectacle of lots of people bellowing at each other oddly mesmerising - and several of my friends worked on the programme when it was filmed in Norwich and have various horror stories which they have shared with me.
In my defence, I haven't watched for years: I found all that conflict and misery and shouting and blaming and - worst of all - the fact that I might be part of a group of people sat at home sneering and jeering and feeling hatefully morally-superior to it all - unbearable.
The fact that we all remain fascinated by other people's abject misery and that we buy into a premise that involves watching people unravel before our eyes, is abhorrent whichever way you cut it: gossip is one thing, humiliation on a gargantuan scale is quite another.
So the show that gave us so many catchphrases ("when I was on the radio, I used to drive through the night to see my daughter!" "nobody taught ME how to be a parent!" "get a job!") and which gave us "the all important DNA results" has been given it's own DNR: Do Not Resuscitate.