Couch Potato Pickings

On Sky 1 tonight at 11pm (and tomorrow at 9pm)

Jim Carrey

In tonight’s film, Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey) lives an ordinary life in the picture perfect town of Seahaven, unaware that he is the unwitting star of a fly-on-the-wall documentary soap opera and that all his family and friends are actors.

When this mischievous comedy was made back in 1997, just before the post-millenium reality TV explosion, I’m sure nobody ever imagined that life would imitate it in any way.

Jim Carrey

But in many ways it has, and to extreme levels. Just look at how we’re tuning in every day to Jade Goody’s soap opera of a life as it approaches its sad finale.

Just this weekend, my friends and I were discussing our reactions to Jade’s extraordinary TV journey over a curry. I have to confess that I was somewhat comforted to learn that I’m not alone in experiencing a daily dose of curiosity, horror and guilt when I catch sight of the tabloid headlines. It appears that we all share an immense feeling of discomfort as we acknowledge ourselves as spectators witnessing Jade’s final days. This is perhaps partly because our culture isn’t geared to dealing with mortality – we find handy euphemisms to avoid facing it head on and try as much as possible to keep the reality of it well behind closed doors – but our discomfort is also very much about guilt.

Yes, we created Jade Goody the TV star. We laughed at her and laughed with her, we celebrated her then we ripped her to shreds, and now we are therefore obliged to watch her upsetting decline. Witnessing the trauma of her deteriorating health seems unavoidable. I’m hoping it’s not because we’re all hooked to car crash TV. I like to believe that it’s because now we’ve finally realised perhaps that we owe it to Jade in some way to stay with her until the end.

Jim Carrey

I just hope that Jade’s suffering doesn’t last long and that we lovers of reality TV learn something significant about life and death by being party to her ordeal. This movie tonight may well be lighthearted comedy, but I know my laughter will be bittersweet.