by Darren Ashcroft
Since the advent of reality television human beings have been glued to the box watching other humans beings making idiots of themselves – but is that joke really funny anymore?
You’d be forgiven for thinking there was no more room in such an already crowded genre but it has reached its mighty nadir with Sent To Cov. Television made by idiots, for idiots. The show’s nebulous concept (a full episode has yet to air) has already raised more than enough free and easy publicity with a controversial trailer that was “accidently” leaked online, receiving more than 100,000 views in just two days.
The clip was quickly removed from YouTube; speculation remains around whether it was snapped up by one of many alluded-to channels that had expressed an interest (Channel 5, the BBC), or was it a Cain and Abel act of quality control? The clip itself looks like it was shot on an i-phone (3S) with equally crass segments of “banter”, idiotic statements and misogyny, depicting many of the residents as continually pissed, endemically idiotic, or a mash-up of the two. Hardly a balanced slice of real life.
The no doubt phony bidding war echoes the duplicitous message of the show itself. At one point, it was promoted as a grittier version of TOWIE, or a tongue-in-cheek look at life in the city, whose residents are caricatured as benefits-using scalliwags, swapping babies for bottles and easy lays. Local rag The Coventry Telegraph noted the highlights of the trailer: “a shoplifter and a stripper as well as a man who vomits on the steps of Coventry Cathedral” and issued its own editorial rebuttal.
Was the clip supposed to reflect the city as it genuinely is, day-to-day, an economically deprived and intolerant Gomorrah (a scrolling shot reveals a supposed rogues gallery waiting in the GUM clinic) which is also home to a thriving art scene and two of the country’s top universities, Coventry and Warwick (the latter of which is actually nowhere near Warwick)? It often pays to take the rough with the smooth but none of these aspects feature. The clip is so reviled that cast members have received threats of violence, especially violent homophobic abuse. But there is a pattern here, formed when violence and ugliness begets more of the same, so why purposefully represent a place in a negative light?
Words and images carry their weight through meaning, a certain kind of truth, and what most often resonates is the extent to which these truths resonate with an audience, which is why some art is better than others. The reductive docu-drama genre fucks this equation with manufactured realities.
Another alternative is that the entire Sent To Coventry enterprise is actually a canny meta-joke, a DaDa-ist stab at the pomposity of rubbernecking audiences and modern junk-food TV appetites. If only this were the case, this pornographic, parasitic example of car-crash television would truly be a cunning stunt.
So, Sent To Coventry, which is it: fact, fiction or simply shilling the rubes? Or, just don’t watch it, ignore it, do yourself a favour and read a book instead, anything with words is fine.