Friday, 19 August 2016

19/08/16 - YBF!

Fans of shit telly will no doubt be aware of You’ve Been Framed! - the clip show that gleefully showcases mankind’s haplessness and the acute embarrassment caused by inadvertently cocking things up. This feeds into a primal behaviour that’s as old as the human species itself, going some way beyond schadenfreude; there’s no shame in pointing at someone and laughing when they fall off a chair or squirt ketchup in their eye. Sure, it’s not very nice, but it’s just what we do. Embrace it.

Unfortunately, You’ve Been Framed! is pretty terrible these days. It’s basically just Harry Hill narrating a YouTube fail compilation video, accompanied by oodles of agonisingly overblown canned laughter. It’s a show that doesn’t need to exist in 2016. But back in the early 1990s? Ah, that was when it was properly entertaining…
In the nineties, you see, we didn’t have the ubiquity of online fail videos. We just had ordinary people with camcorders, recording onto actual tape. (OK, I say it was ‘properly entertaining’, I was a child at the time. Make allowances.) As expertly observed in a 1995 episode of Bottom (in which Richie and Eddie try to stage a mishap to send in to Jeremy Beadle's Viciously Hilarious Domestic Violent Incidents), the premise of the show was for ITV to effectively steal the concept of America’s Funniest Home Videos and broker a deal in which the two could swap footage, on the basis that not all that many people could afford camcorders back then; viewers also submitted footage, but the real hook was that, well, most of it was made up. Sure, there was a decent amount of real footage – no-one would deliberately plunge their entire wedding party into a lake or crash an airplane through a barn – but quite a lot of the clips were very clearly staged. Much of it involved accidents happening during activities that there would be no reason for anybody to film, unless they knew that there was going to be an ‘accident’ – people sitting at desks or paying for things at supermarket checkouts or reversing into their garages, and then something painful or destructive happened and Jeremy Beadle appeared, sniggering like a priapically enthused rodent.
The lucre was a strong lure – each clip that got broadcast netted the person who submitted it a tidy £250, so it was well worth smashing something up as long as you made a cinematically entertaining job of it. Indeed, it’s become a uniquely British and highly commonplace response to anything that may go painfully wrong in day-to-day life: “Ooh, you could get £250 for that!”

OK, full disclosure: when I started writing this, I was aiming to make the point that You’ve Been Framed! was very much of its time; that it was perfect for the 1990s, but couldn’t possibly exist today because the format is entirely redundant - why stretch out a bunch of clips over a painful half-hour when you can see them all (and much more besides) neatly stitched together on YouTube? Simply search for ‘fail compilation’ and behold the idiocy of mankind in all its stupefying glory.
…but then I Googled it and realised that the show is, in fact, still on the telly. What’s more, it’s never really been off the telly – Beadle presented it from 1990-97, the reprehensible and fundamentally terrible Lisa Riley took over from 1998-2002, then Jonathan Wilkes (a man commonly described as “Robbie Williams’ friend”, having achieved little of note himself) did a year of it in 2004, and Harry Hill’s been doing it ever since. Who’s watching it? The elderly, probably. And people with shitty broadband speeds.
It’s not alone in the marketplace either. Rude Tube exists to unashamedly scrape YouTube for content, efficiently rounding up all the clips that everyone who knows how to use the internet has already seen several years ago, as well as providing the needless Alex Zane with the sort of platform that his level of talent deserves.

Not only does You’ve Been Framed! inexplicably still exist, but it’s still on ITV too. I know, I expected it to be languishing in the badlands of the high-hundreds Sky channels too. And they’re still paying £250 a pop for user-submitted videos (inflation? What’s that?), thereby ensuring a healthy flow of staged incidents. The level of real footage is presumably far higher these days, given advances in tech and the fact that everyone’s filming each other all the time with their phones these days, but there’s still the presence of Harry Hill and the canned laughter to deal with. Why not try following the You’ve Been Framed! Twitter feed instead, if you must? At least there’s no commentary.

Here’s some classic Beadle-era You’ve Been Framed! from 1994: 

It’s not actually as staged as I remember. Oh, cruel cynicism. But if you feel compelled to watch modern-era YBF!, let me just warn you that it looks like this:

Christ. The canned laughter is actually physically painful.
See, this doesn’t need to exist any more. You’ve Been Framed! is just moron-fodder for people who’ve never heard of YouTube. Find yourself a well-crafted fail compilation and save yourself the irritation. The ’90s are long-gone, it’s time to move on.

Red Ramen

This show is one of the funniest things on YouTube. I think all cooking programmes would be improved immeasurably by the addition of straight gin, constant panic, and the phrase "We... are trying... our FUCKING BEST"


Squeaky shoes