Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cowell's Latest Show Red or Black? Breaks All Rules of Television; Columnist

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Cowell's Latest Show Red or Black? Breaks All Rules of Television; Columnist

Article excerpt

Byline: Tom Gutteridge

YESTERDAY a second woman-beating rat crawled out of the rotting timbers of the sinking ship called Red Or Black? Are we surprised? Well I, for one, am amazed. Having produced television entertainment most of my professional life, I am shocked that Simon Cowell's company broke a cardinal rule of the gameshow: that all participants must be thoroughly checked. "Backgrounds, psychs and meds", we call them.

Background checks are simple and cheap. For less than pounds 50, you can find out if someone has a record with the Criminal Records Bureau. Producers automatically exclude those who do because they don't want to traumatise their victims, or give the Press a scandal that might damage the reputation of the show. As the revelations of the past few days demonstrate, the damage tarnishes not just the programme, but the network itself.

For pounds So I'm astonished that have put him on the Nathan Hageman, who was awarded pounds 1m at the end of the first episode, wasn't weeded out at the first hurdle. He had been jailed for five years for beating up his ex-girlfriend, and his criminal record sits in public view for life. For pounds 50, the broadcaster would have known not to put him on the screen at all, let alone make him a millionaire.

The "psych" test costs more, but is essential for any programme offering a big cash prize. Contestants sit for a good hour with a psychologist, who is tasked with uncovering emotional and mental flaws. This not only reassures the producer that the player can cope with the pressures of winning or losing, but also protects other contestants and programme staff. What if an aggrieved loser were to attack Ant and Dec? Anyone with the slightest hint of aggression is automatically excluded, which makes Mr Hageman's appearance even more extraordinary. In America, the mere threat of violence whispered off-camera by a reality contestant would lead to instant disqualification. In physical game shows, or reality series like Big Brother, many other contestants fall at the medical. …

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