Gotta Grudge: the wrongest show on television?
As the Extreme Sports Channel prepares to unleash Gotta Grudge on the nation, we look at what could well be the guiltiest pleasure in the history of broadcasting.
Let's say you've had a massive disagreement with a colleague at work. Or perhaps you've got a beef with a best mate who's bedded your beloved. Do you sit down and talk it over like sensible human beings? No, of course not. Being sensible is for losers. What you want to do is invite them to appear on a TV show where you can literally beat each other up while beautiful women blow kisses in the background and sports commentators become almost sexually excited by the sight of each flying, bloodied tooth.
Welcome, hapless citizens, to Gotta Grudge – a new reality series that should really have been a 30-second segment in a film like RoboCop or Starship Troopers. You know, those satirical cut-away TV bits which are meant to show just how crazed and shameless their futuristic society has become? Well, it's happened, people. We now officially live there. The only place left to go is a real-life version of The Running Man, in which the one contestant not to be electrocuted or chainsawed in half gets a record deal with Syco Entertainment.
Yet there's also a bit of an inconvenient truth here. And that's the fact that Gotta Grudge happens to be horribly entertaining. Think of the best bit in any given episode of Jeremy Kyle or Jerry Springer: ie, when two of the bickering idiots on stage finally lose their rag and start to rise ominously off their chairs, only to be restrained by the bouncers. Well, Gotta Grudge is that exact bit turned into an entire TV show, except that instead of being restrained and calmed down, they're handed boxing gloves and instructed to smack each other till their faces resemble actual Spam.
Therein lies the irresistible, car-crash appeal of the show. And what makes it all the more compelling/hypnotic/worrying is the fact that it's not just some telly version of Fight Club, with guys and gals battering each other for the sheer pleasure of ultaviolence for its own sake. Their grudges are very real, triggered by lost jobs, accusations of alcoholism, and other ickily personal stuff. All of which makes their pre-fight trash talk both menacing and hilarious at the same time. "It might have to do with the fact that I knocked up his sister a couple of years back," boasts one of the fighters. "If it was up to me, I'd be settling this grudge with a shotgun," says another (to which we would say, stop putting thoughts in TV execs' heads).
It all makes you wonder whether the grudges really ARE settled by their on-screen fisticuffs, or whether it'll only inspire them to have a rematch later on, without boxing gloves and with added crowbars. Well, to make ourselves feel better we'll just have to assume that the sort of people who'd appear on a show like Gotta Grudge wouldn't, you know, resort to unnecessary violence at the drop of a hat. It's also sort of reassuring to note that the actual presenters don't pretend this is anything other than the maddest programme ever conceived. As one of them says with a semi-apologetic grin on her face, "We throw them into a ring, we film it and we call it a TV show!" They sure do, and we're powerless to resist – at least until that Cowellised Running Man actually happens…
Gotta Grudge begins on the Extreme Sports Channel on Monday 9 April at 9pm