Sunday 7 February 2010

TV review - I Believe In...

I Believe In... BBC Three, three episodes featuring Joe Swash, Danny Dyer and Jodie Kidd, series producer Jacqui Wilson, available on BBC iplayer.

"Is believing in something that most people find ridiculous really that stupid?" asks Danny Dyer, at the start of an hour of breathtaking inanity. After watching this short series of three celebrity poppycockumentaries, you can’t help but answer this question with a definitive and resounding ‘Yes’, before going on to question why the BBC actively sought the three most irritating and ineloquent personalities to front them.

So: Joe Swash believes in ghosts, Danny Dyer believes in UFOs and Jodie Kidd believes in miracles; they are given an hour each, not to discuss why they believe, to engage with the evidence for and against their beliefs or to look into the history of the subject, but instead to travel around meeting a somewhat random selection of other believers, remaining gormless throughout.

Let’s ignore the fact that their beliefs are transparently moronic and that the token skeptics are underused and selectively quoted; this is to be expected. What is unforgiveable is how weakly structured these investigations are. Each programme starts with the fool of the week saying something along the lines of “I know there are a load of cynics, and I’m not a hardcore believer, but I just have a gut feeling that there’s something bigger out there.” Then, after a tedious hour, they look into the lens and say, “At the end of the day, I know there are a load of cynics, and I’m not a hardcore believer, but I just have a gut feeling that there’s something bigger out there.” Swash, Dyer and Kidd learn precisely nothing, haven’t the intellectual curiosity to ask any searching questions, and they never encounter anything convincing or even quirkily interesting. Ghost-believer Joe Swash, for example, tries to spend a night alone in an Edinburgh cave, and runs out not because he sees a ghost, but because he thinks he might be about to meet a ghost. Thrilling TV.

Jodie Kidd: I Believe in Miraclesis probably the worst of the bunch, partly because it doesn’t even discuss miracles for the most part. Instead it turns out be about various con artists (faith healers, crystal therapists, shamans) who offer remedies aimed at promoting a vaguely defined new age sense of wellness. It should have been called Jodie Kidd: I Believe People Who Are in Some Way Ill Sometimes Get Better After a Reasonable Period of Time Has Elapsed. There’s one woman who claims to have experienced a sudden remission from terminal cancer, but the other purported miracles are staggeringly unimpressive.

The very end of the show, for example, includes an autistic boy whose parents think that some time spent riding horses might have a positive effect on his condition. And sure enough, the boy enjoys it, it helps him relax, and opens him up to a new experience; it’s unquestionably therapeutic. But it really doesn’t qualify as a miracle. A miracle is someone walking on water, or coming back from the dead or being respected after doing Celebrity Big Brother. Or Jodie Kidd speaking for thirty seconds without you wanting to punch her in the face.

She really doesn’t come across well in her programme. There’s a hilarious episode in which a Nepalese shaman predicts (by performing an elaborate ritual based on breaking open uncooked eggs and interpreting the contents) that she is about to get ill. Kidd then falls ill with Salmonella – you know, that one famously caused by handling or eating infected raw eggs. Blissfully unaware, she genuinely believes the shaman’s foresight to be miraculous. It’s that level of stupid we’re dealing with here. And it might just be my imagination, but there are times I swear you can hear the production team snigger from behind the camera.

VERDICT: Awful. I firmly believe that the I Believe In... series is part of a nefarious government scheme to so anesthetise us with bad TV that we’ll be too depressed to go out of the house and vote come the next election. The cynics will say there’s no scientific evidence for that claim, but I know it’s true.

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