The Chosen Ones: Modern Day Czech Heroes - or not quite.


The setting is familiar, the viewing a mixture of pain and delight. Fifteen 'Chosen ones' live in a house for several weeks, isolated from the world and with nothing to amuse themselves with but internal squabbling and buffoonery. Every week, the housemates have a chance to gang up on one or two of their group who has fallen out of favour, and they vote him or her off. Fascinating isn't it?

Some listeners may know that in other parts of the world this kind of Big Brother type reality show has almost been done to death. What they may not have known is that the genre escaped the rack, donned a false beard and has made his way over here to enjoy widespread popularity. It has admittedly undergone something of a makeover. In the Czech Republic, the show is not Big Brother - perhaps the name carries too many echoes of political suppression. Rather, it is 'Vyvoleni - Novi Hrdinove' - meaning 'Chosen Ones - The New Heroes.' And if these really are the new heroes of Czech society, I truly mourn its demise as much as I revel in the show's bad taste. Of course, these are no heroes. The fact is that this beauty pageant cum freak show fascinates usually sane people in this country as much as anywhere else.

And it is with some embarrassment that I confess myself an addict to this show. It has a real element of drama, and producers really lay on thick the atmosphere of a duel, where the viewers vote for which of two equally hated contestants they'd like to evict. One recent contest involved Milan and Dan. Boxer Dan had for several weeks been having a somewhat intimate relationship with Veronika, who plays the hackneyed and now modernised role of the beautiful village idiot. I've always found something very sweet about Czech children's language, but hearing it from the mouth of a 19-year-old is something different entirely. In any case, Dan already had a long term girlfriend on the outside. She must have been waiting with a ready axe as she watched her lover philandering with another girl for two weeks on Czech television. In any case, the public voted overwhelmingly to kick him to his judgment.

Disappointingly, since then I've had very little to dig my self-righteous claws into, apart from the usual buffoonery in the house, which usually involves the interns dressing up in some grotesque or skimpy outfits, grooming each other or howling werewolf cries to the full moon. Sometimes I tune in and automatically switch over, thinking I've happened on to Animal Planet. I look around and happily see my Czech housemates equally engrossed as I in the very same rubbish. 'Great,' I think, 'this is truly international bonding.' But wouldn't it have been nicer just to go to the zoo?