Space Scam

I thought we'd reached the nadir of good taste four or five years ago when Channel 4 aired a game show where homeless people could win their dream home. Then there was Joe Millionaire, but at least that was from America... Now comes Space Cadets. It's a reality show where contestants train to be astronauts and are sent into space. Except they're not: they're told they're on a space station (with gravity generators!) but they're really in an aircraft hangar on the outskirts of Ipswich. Three of the six contestants are actors helping to keep up the illusion.

Ho ho ho and all that but I don't like it. I know I'm a moralistic bore and anyone seeking their fifteen minutes of fame badly enough to expose themselves so completely on national television probably deserves everything that's coming to them but there's something cruel about laughing at people being taken for a ride that doesn't translate into entertainment for me. Maybe the gamer in me is protesting that they agreed to play one game but are actually being "scored" on criteria they know nothing about. The Matrix, The Truman Show and that Seventies movie I can never remember the name of where they faked the moon landing film footage in a Hollywood studio are all clear influences on Space Cadets.

I watched fifteen minutes on Tuesday and it seemed fake, but not like I was expecting... The people I was watching it with had seen it before and knew which were the actors but I saw on-camera interviews with most of the astronauts and couldn't tell who was being genuine. They showed highlights of the launch and it went wrong twice: the simulator shook on cue but there was no sound, then they counted down again and it happened again. So the astronauts are looking confused but, to be fair, they've never been into space before so they don't have a frame of reference. One of the two pilots (both actors, I'm told) tries to cover for the silent shaking by saying they're taxiing from the hangar, which would've been a good cover if they hadn't supposedly tried blasting off once already! Later that day (after they'd found the play button on the tape deck) another said hearing the take-off was "like hearing a rocket engine in a film, yeah? Only LOUDER."

And we're supposed to buy all this? I wasn't convinced. If you want a conspiracy theory then it's that the whole thing is staged and the joke is really on us. Imagine our faces when we find out! I just don't think you can fool three people about something so stupendous 100% of the time for two weeks, and scripting fourteen 25-minute episodes is a perfectly reasonable thing to ask of a production team.

The reality show format's been hackneyed for years already and I think someone at Channel 4 deciced it was time for the network that brought Big Brother to Britain in the first place to start innovating again. Are you telling me that no-one hearing the pitch for Space Cadets in a development meeting ever suggested just faking the whole thing? I thought of it in fifteen minutes and I don't even work there. They've done it before too, but it wasn't publicised like this... The game show I mentioned at the start with the dream home? Actually a stunt designed to highlight Britain's homeless problem in an unusual and effective way. True.

The final episode of Space Cadets airs this weekend.

Update 2005-12-17: I was wrong. (See the comments section.)


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one who does not get off on tricking people into thinking they're doing something for real when it's all a big hoax (see: Joe Schmo on Spike). I think it's mean and just plain stupid.

Blogger Trundling Grunt said...

Sounds really bad.

By the by, that picture was (I think) used on the cover of Sleeper's Smart CD. Good CD that I hadn't thought of for a while.

Blogger Candace said...

Good, I'm not the only one who hates "reality" TV then? And I really don't like the ones that are just plain mean. Ugh. I don't like to watch people being made fun of or tricked into doing stupid things. It just makes me cringe.

I also don't like watching ice skating in case they fall down. Maybe I'm too empathetic. :oP

Actually, I don't even watch programmed TV anymore. They have no creatvity these days. I do watch some Britcom DVDs and "Scrubs" DVDs. Other than that it's films or nothing. Is it just me, or has most TV gone way downhill? Maybe it's always been downhill and my standards have changed since I value my time more. . .

Blogger thisismarcus said...

I caught the final episode and it was all "for real" after all. The Big Reveal backfired a little because you could tell the contestants were NOT happy. Members of their families complicit in the deception were revealed, as if to ease the program-makers' guilt. They pledged to send them to Russia for genuine astronaut training, though they won't be going into space, and each got £5000 for every day they believed the illusion. In summing up, one said he was totally bummed out because he wanted to be an astronaut and another said she was ultimately "a little bit heart-broken" by the experience.

Blogger Trundling Grunt said...

Note to candace:

There is good television out there - it's just camouflaged so effectively by all the crap. Try Extras or The Robinsons?

Blogger Candace said...

Never heard of them. American or British?

Blogger Trundling Grunt said...

Extras is/has been on HBO. It's Ricky Gervais' new show and, while it isn't quite up to the Office, definitely has some cringemaking moments.

The Robinsons (or was it Meet the Robinsons?) was on BBC America and starred the chap who played Tim from the Office.

Hmm, Office theme there - never thought of that.

Oh yes, and House is very good.

Blogger DrHeimlich said...

I would agree that the bait-and-switch is not to be commended, except that anyone who is stupid enough to actually believe they're on a space station with articial gravity probably deserves what's coming to them.

But if they actually got paid £5000 for every day they believed the scam -- that just pisses me off. That's actually *rewarding* stupidity.

Blogger Joeri Hoste said...

The movie is Capricorn One. "The mission was a sham. The murders were real." :-) However the movie references a landing on mars, not the moon. The moon of course would make a much too controversial topic :-)

Blogger Candace said...

I've only seen part of 1 Office episode. The goatee guy (main guy perhaps?) was so icky I couldn't stand it (I know he's s'posed to be, but *cringe* ), but I spotted "Dentarthurdent" and wanted to see what he would get up to, LOL!

I don't get HBO, but I get BBCA. I should look for that. I just am so out of the habit of even thinking to turn on the TV, I'm likely to forget. Kills me to pay for satellite for channels we never ever watch, but dh must have his football. :oP

"House?" Just plain House? BBCA?

Blogger Trundling Grunt said...

No, House is on Fox - 9pm Tuesday Eastern. Hugh Laurie playing a disgruntled American doctor with a drug problem (think I saw him last time I went to the quack come to think of it). Worth a look.

The Office - cringemaking? Absolutely and therein lies the charm (ok, that's the wrong word). I'm hoping to get it on DVD so I can dispense it in small doses.

I am shooting a bit blind in trying to recommend stuff but looks like BBCA has something that *might* be good on Friday - Christmas Lights with Robson Green. Maybe swap notes on that.

Blogger Candace said...

I KWYM. I used to think Keeping Up Appearances was funny for the cringe factor, but dh couldn't stand it. I bet the Office would grow on me. A friend of mine watched them all in one go on DVD I guess. Or maybe it was a full season.

Did you see the lame-o US attmpt at "Coupling?" OMG that was so awful. I had no intention of even watching, but dh said that out of morbid curiosity we should at least see the first few mins and I will admit to some morbid curiosity on my own part. It was SO BAD! Why buy rights to a show that is that popular so you can CHANGE it?!!?!? And making the characters American completely shot it in the - um - backside, because you don't expect the same kind of hang-ups from Americans, LOL! Some people don't have a clue. Maybe they thought no one would understand the accent? That just kills me. But that's a whole blog post in itself. Come to think of it, I've already done that one, LOL!

I'll have to look at BBCA again. Though I may have just struck a deal that will rid me of our useless Satellite (and the accompanying bills) forever! *grin*

I like the Red Dwarf DVDs a lot. Ever seen that? The books are a scream, too.

Blogger Trundling Grunt said...

Sadly a lot of UK things don't survive the translation to the US - Coupling (I had wiped that from my mind), Cracker, Ab. Fab.. The style of humour is too different to make it.

Red Dwarf - yes, that is good but I've not seen all of the later episodes and have lost track a bit. The episode with the GELF is one of my favorites if only for the scenes where Lister has taught Kryten to lie. Haven't read the books though - must look those up.

Other favorites - The Young Ones; but that could be an age thing as I am ancient and withered, Father Ted - tragically short.

One hidden US gem; Police Squad - ever seen that?

When Marcus offered people guest spots on his blog, is this what he had in mind d'ya think???

Blogger Candace said...

Oh I LOVE the Young Ones. I'm a bit withered, too, perhaps. (36) That was just classic. I love it when Vyvyan eats the telly cuz they don't have a license. :o) Lots of guest cameos in that one! Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry, Baldrick (Tony Robinson?). . .

No - never seen Police Squad. How old is it?

Oh yeah - I rememeber hearing about House now that you mention it - Hugh Laurie. As an American? Does he live in the States now? (I s'pose at least during shooting.)

I like the Ace Rimmer ones a lot. :) But they're all good. Gotta love the Cat! When we watched Tomb Raider I was yelling "Look! Look! It's Rimmer!" LOL!

I dunno -prolly not what poor Marcus had in mind, but better than "dead air." ;o)

Blogger Trundling Grunt said...

Police Squad was made in 1982. There were only 6 episodes ever made and it failed (apparently) because there was no laugh track and US audiences didn't recognise when it was funny. Ultimately it returned to the big screen as The Naked Gun. Well worth a look imo.

The Young Ones is pretty amazing when you look at the bands and some of the guest cameos (I'd add Robby Coltrane and Ben Elton to your list). The Alexei Sale monologues are also good - especially in Bambi where he is the driver of the train being held up by Mexican revolutionaries. My favorite episode - Sick.

36???? Spring chicken.

Blogger Candace said...

"Bok bok." ;o)

I did like The Naked Gun! Also Top Secret. *snickersnort* But I didn't know NG started out as a series. Interesting!

Yeah - some of those bands - wow, huh? Alexi Sayle is great! Does he do anything now? In Bambi, wasn't the game show host a real celeb of some sort? I remember getting that impression when I watched it long ago. I got them on DVD about a year ago. Going to have to pull them out again. :)

"It's only spitting out." (eeeeew!)
"Now it's pi**ing out."

Blogger Trundling Grunt said...

Ok, took a couple of days off the net - happy Christmas btw.

Alexei Sayle did his own series which was very good - then I moved across the pond to the US and sorta lost track of him. Last time I saw an interview with him he seemed rather sad and bitter for some reason.

The quiz master in Bambi was Griff Rhys Jones who came to fame on TV in Not the 9'O'Clock News with Rowan Atkinson. Did some very good TV and then went into writing. Funny guy - always seems very shy.

Anyhoo, I got The Office for Xmas so am very happy. That and Foxtrot by Genesis which gives you some idea of my vintage.

Blogger thisismarcus said...

I dunno -prolly not what poor Marcus had in mind, but better than "dead air"

Su casio my casio, or whatever!

Mad props to Police Squad BTW. Amazon.com are doing that thing where they register interest and e-mail you when Paramount (IIRC) decide to release it.

Blogger Trundling Grunt said...

I didn't realise Amazon did that - very cool. I would love to get Police Squad as it's a classic.

Sounds like you had a blast in Amsterdam, but that comment belongs to another thread.

And I have finally discovered Candace's blog so must read that - she writes some seriously long posts.....

Blogger Candace said...

Ha - a window into my madness!:o) I'll warn you - sometimes it's VERY mundane.

Poor Alexei. Maybe he identified too much with his Russian character/s and became drunk and depressed. . .

Griff Rhys Jones - OK, know the name, but didn't realise that was him!

Is Foxtrot pre- or post- Peter Gabriel?

OK off to read the new stuff about Amsterdammit. (pleasure delayer)

Blogger Trundling Grunt said...

Maybe the interview caught him on a bad day? He seems to have faded from the spotlight.

Foxtrot is a Peter Gabriel album, they went on to make 2 more before he left the band. I am very old.

So what are you writing?

Blogger Candace said...

I've never heard the PG ones, but have wanted to. Hafta look some up (PG fan.) Very old? Not VERY old if you listen to that. VERY old pre-dates that sort of music, LOL!

I'm writing a LOT of things! Smutty short stories for fast dough (hopefully), a novel, and continuing on with my work in children's fiction (she said sounding almost professional and not letting on that she has only had 1 children's story published in a magazine so far, and a few non-children's poems in various pubs.)


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