Goodbye & Good-Riddance to the Jeremy Kyle Show


With the news that ITV has cancelled the Jeremy Kyle show, and that it is now implicated in the suicides of three people; whilst of course older news tells us its implicated and at least partially responsible (according to one Judge) for the murder on another person a few years back – and possible implicated in other murders.

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Then there is the issues surrounding Jeremy Kyle himself – accusations from his former wife of leaving them penniless (having gambled it all away) and generally not being a nice person.

And then there’s **that** jaw breaking incident with a former partner, and the jealousy and again the nastiness that surrounds that incident. Frankly I’ve never really liked Jeremy Kyle’s on-screen persona, he has a very hell-bent on being angry persona, whilst seemingly also being self-righteous, middle-class and arrogant – he never struck me, on screen at least, of being a caring individual, but rather a money-grabbing git. Maybe I am too harsh.

So it’s probably a good thing that Jeremy Kyle was cancelled, and you probably think these “exploitive” programmes of the “working classes” shouldn’t be allowed.

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But as a former two-time guest on The Trisha Goddard Show (Channel 5 – which now looks set to replace the Jeremy Kyle show), and biological family members having made a fair few visits to the Jeremy Kyle Show, I think I have a few thoughts around this.

There is nothing wrong with shows that support and help guests, but they shouldn’t aim for sensationalism. I was on Trisha for a complicated family reunion (twice) – and whilst that may not have, at the time, been the best or even the right way to have had the reunion, there was little long-term damage done to us as guests. It is true that I was hospitalised a few days after the first appearance, but that was primarily due to my own mental health issues at the time – and the environment I was living in at that time. Though one can never under-estimate the impact that a family reunion might have on a guest, especially one with the complex back story mine had, which of course was not discussed on the show at all, for legal reasons. And I would in hindsight suggest that an 18 year old me, was not properly equipped, despite everything, to deal with that, at that time. Admittedly I received maybe two follow up phone calls following my second appearance (a week after the first show) – but other than that there was no real after care. I appreciate my adoptive mum called the show to discuss my mental health and well-being after my first appearance, I am not sure they listened to her (almost certain they didn’t).

I should add there was no previous vetting of myself, I called up, told them what I was looking for, they called me back in a couple of days, and then they invited me onto the show to “make-an-appeal” – and in typical show fashion – they surprised me (despite the fact I figured they would try to surprise me – its how they disarm you) with a reunion with my birth father.

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What these shows should be is real, there is plenty of drama in real life without encouraging people to explode – these shows can provide real therapy and real care – they don’t but they can. And we should remember how many of these types of shows there have been, just here in the UK. From the top of my head we have Kilroy Silk, Vanessa, Trisha and Jeremy Kyle; then there’s Judge Rinder – there are probably more. In the USA we used to have Jerry Springer, Ricky Lake, Sally Jesse-Raphael; and Judge Judy. Don’t forget that Oprah essentially started in a similar-esq style.

So can these shows help people – well I think they do help some people – but the majority of these shows don’t have an effective pre- or post- show care package for everyone, though I believe they do try to help people, they will primarily use sign-posting – that is referring people to local support services, and primarily, I imagine, on the NHS (Mental Health services in the UK, as well as addiction support services generally have large waiting lists).

So how could they be better? I would say the current format, with a studio audience is the first problem – get rid of the audience – make this an intimate studio feel. Then make sure the primary third-party (i.e. the Trisha or Kyle character) is a trained therapist/psychologist/counsellor – then make sure they have at least three sessions before and 6 sessions after, perhaps if the show followed each individual through the course of their counselling, rather than as a toe-dip on the drama.

So if it’s relational therapy, the discussion is effectively between the relevant parties in a room – there are charities that offer the support already, but again long waiting lists. It may also be best to provide these people with anonymity, but I think if people are followed through their therapy, they may find that the “audience at home”, however horrendous your actions in the past, are routing for your success (on the whole).

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Then there’s the issue of the less-than-sound science Jeremy Kyle and the like employ – yes those “lie detector” tests – they are less accurate than a broken condom – and that’s why there’s not admissible evidence in the UK Court rooms. Whilst lie-detectors can give an indication that someone may or may not be lying – remember some people are trained to fool them – but the majority of us will have elevated readings in those situations – and yes the control questions at the start are supposed to help account for it, but lie-detector tests are notoriously bad for false-positives. DNA tests are probably okay, science doesn’t have an issue with them, but instead of leaving it at “It’s not his baby”, they need to focus on “love not biology” – that is – if you’re able to you can be the father of a child that isn’t yours – be the man.

Image by Schäferle from Pixabay

Anyway – any kind of replacement show should also have different sub-formats for different types of sessions. There is no reason family reunions shouldn’t happen; no reasons relational problems can’t be discussed, and there’s no reason addiction support can’t be offered. Helping people overcome their problems is what these shows should be about. But perhaps change the environment for these ‘segments’. If people wish to air their dirty laundry, fine – but it needs to be done with winding up the audience or the guests – and also in a safe-and-controlled environment – there is no need for a bodyguard in a counsellor’s office.

There should also be an independent ethical panel of counsellors and psychologists involved in the editing process to make sure the edits to the show don’t sensationalise or focus on the negative or even the dramatic – but showcase the success and overcoming nature of the show’s guests.

Embedded image from Ian West/PA Archive/PA Images
Embedded image from Ian West/PA Archive/PA Images

It may be best to show highlights of the therapy sessions, but instead focus on an almost big-brother style diary approach to reporting – that is – a “how are you feeling before and after” approach.

Embedded image from  MCT/SIPA USA/PA Images
Embedded image from MCT/SIPA USA/PA Images

Of course we could always return to the Springer esq format, if we used actors in these things – plenty of out-of-work; and/or unable to find a break actors out there. But if these shows were really about helping people, then they wouldn’t sensationalise. Truth is, the Jeremy Kyle Show and co. are generally more about ratings and “great TV” (even if it’s actually trash-tv) than they are about helping the guests – which I believe would actually make quality programming and really great-TV – everyone loves to see someone overcome their issues.

A 17th century engraving on bear-baiting, Public Domain

So on balance, I do think it was right for ITV to cancel the Jeremy Kyle show – and as one judge said a few years ago, these shows are just modern bear-baiting with humans. But let this be an opportunity to recreate these into positive, affirming and supportive shows, which are about helping rather than ratings. About championing the over-comer, whilst also helping those who fall down on their road to beating their issues.

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