April 17, 2009 — -- You think our reality shows are wacky?
When it comes to real-life, on-camera hijinks, Britain has the United States beat. Case in point: last Saturday, on "Britain's Got Talent," bulky, burlesque dancer Fabia Cerra, the anti-Susan Boyle, took the stage in little more than thigh-high red fishnets and proceeded to shake her thing so vigorously that one of her nipple tassels fell off.
Although the network that airs the reality show covered up her breasts with Union Jack flags, dozens of viewers have contacted ITV and British broadcasting watchdog OfCom to complain about the mess-up of the so-called family program.
OfCom is deciding whether to launch an investigation into whether the incident broke taste and decency rules. Meanwhile, video of the slip-up has become a sensation on YouTube and Cerra's pegged to win the reality competition.
It's the latest outrageous moment on British reality TV to make U.S. offerings seem tame by comparison. And it makes sense that Britain pushes the envelope further, considering it came up with many of America's favorite reality competitions first: "American Idol" was spun off of Britian's "Pop Idol," "Dancing With the Stars" was born out of Britian's "Strictly Come Dancing."
That's not to say that this side of the pond doesn't air its own fair share of inane incidents. But to get a sense of the international bar for reality ridiculousness, check out three other examples of over-the-top British TV:
Sure, the switch Jason Mesnick pulled on the finale of "The Bachelor" this year was bad but, compared to the last-episode bombshell dropped on the contestants of Britain's "There's Something About Miriam," it was hardly earth shattering. "Miriam," which aired in 2004, featured six men competing for the heart of a 21-year-old Mexican model named Miriam.
The contestants jumped through the usual dating-show hoops to woo the statuesque brunette and score a $15,000 prize. But in the final episode, after announcing lifeguard Tom Rooke the winner of the competition, Miriam revealed she was born as a man and still had the parts to prove it.
More Examples of Outrageous British Reality TV
On camera, Rooke accepted the prize money and a trip with Miriam, but rejected it all prior to the show's air date and joined the other contestants in a lawsuit that accused the show's producers of conspiracy to commit sexual assault, among other allegations. The six men settled for an undisclosed amount in 2004.
The hot tub hookups of "The Real World" seem like child's play compared to what "Big Brother 2005" contestant Kinga Karolczak did after lounging in the pool. At about 3 a.m., seemingly drunk and stumbling about the house in a bikini top and towel, Karolczak paused in front of fellow contestant Anthony Hutton and flashed him the goods hiding beneath the terrycloth.
Hutton howled with laughter, but Karolczak wasn't done. She picked up an empty wine bottle from the coffee table and proceeded to masturbate with it while Hutton squealed in disbelief. Later that night, Karolczak gave an encore performance of the bottle act in the garden outside the house.
Slapping, shoving, biting and hair-pulling is part and parcel of any successful reality TV show but in 2004, a house-wide brawl on Britain's "Big Brother" grew so crazy, the authorities got involved.
What started out as a drunken late-night food fight turned into pandemonium when contestants started throwing trays and smashing plates. Emma Greenwood screamed at a fellow housemate, "I'll f------- kill you," while other cast members threatened to "rip the head off" one another.
The mounting threats prompted the show's producers to send security guards and police to the house and broadcaster Channel 4 to cut off its live feed of "Big Brother." Greenwood was eventually kicked off the show for escalating the fight.