The Czech Republic, some critics have noted, will never be quite the same following the arrival of reality TV. For a month or so now millions of mostly young viewers have more or less glued themselves to their TVs to watch people living in fish bowls. For now, the Czech edition of a newer format, known as Vyvoleni - the Chosen Ones - has bloodied the nose of the more famous Big Brother. But, in essence, both programmes rely on similar formulas to attract audiences: shrewdly edited - as well as live - moments capturing conflict as well as agreement, spontaneity as well as high-posturing, flirting as well as the promise of sex.

They're contests. And to greater or lesser degrees, at least in commercial terms, the formulas have worked.

Czechs now watching regularly are engaging in something Vyvoleni's chirpy host Tereza Pergernova has coined as "smirink" - an Anglicisation of the Czech verb "smirovat" - to peep as in peeping Tom. With giggles Ms Pergnerova regularly invites viewers to join her in "smirink" almost every night. Some images have been racy, and some have certainly been in poor taste, but a lot has also been much ado about nothing.

If film, like Alfred Hitchcock said, is life with the boring bits cut out, then reality shows are too often life with too many boring bits left in.

That doesn't mean some people don't take them seriously: many now can't tear their eyes away from the "almost famous" every night. Others, meanwhile, have complained, bombarding the Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting with objections, saying that the programmes were corrupting the moral upbringing of the country's youth.

The Council responded handing down historically high fines, and was probably correct in doing so, if nothing else than as a warning that some material should definitely not be broadcast before ten pm. But, in financial terms for the broadcasters those were just a slap on the wrist.

Smirink is sticking around - here like everywhere else.

Moral upbringing is a difficult issue at the best of times: it's always seemed to me that most of all it is really a matter for parents. They above all have to take an active interest in their kids, so that extraneous influences like dodgy TV programmes - or trash in general - hit the "armour" and bounce off. No state institution, not even schools, can act as surrogate.

And, there's nothing easier than changing the channel, or just turning the TV off. We should also give kids credit for knowing a whole lot more than they let on: we were all thirteen once, sneaking peeks at things we should have never seen at such an innocent age.

But, I do have this confession: when I was in my final years at grade school in Canada and my fellow students talked about last nights serials, I never knew what they were talking about. That's because I was busy - I'd never have admitted it then - watching shows like Masterpiece Theatre on public television, Brideshead Revisited or the works of D.H. Lawrence. Even if I didn't understand them then, I got into the habit. In some cases, such as Sons & Lovers, I was sent early by my parents to bed. But, I can tell you I crept back and hid behind a curtain and watched anyway.

As an adult I then came back anyways to all the pop culture I had missed: TV serials, kung fu movies that Tarantino loves, and god know what else.

Personally, I can live without reality shows but they have reaffirmed my conviction that we all have to take peeks once in a while if nothing else than for "balance". Though smirink is a newly-coined term in the Czech lexicon, it's not really "new" at all.