Cannes, France | AFP | Reality television shows like “Big Brother” and “Love Island” have been blamed for helping create the Instagram aesthetic of perfect, bronzed hairless bodies.
But a new show is trying to repair the damage unrealistic standards are doing to people’s body image.
“Naked Beach” is one of the hottest properties at MIPTV, the world’s top television market taking place in Cannes on the French Riviera.
The show takes three people who hate their bodies and flies them to a Greek beach where with the help of experts and therapists they learn to love themselves again.
Having embraced their lumps and bumps they strip off and go nude on the beach in a feelgood finale.
The body-positive format has been snapped up by broadcasters across Europe even before it went out for the first time on Britain’s Channel 4 on Thursday.
Co-devised by University of London psychologist Dr Keon West, mental health campaigner Natasha Devon also oversees the show.
She said that Britain — one of the global powerhouses of reality TV — also “has some of the lowest body image scores in the world”.
Andrea Jackson, of distributors Magnify Media, said the genius of the show is that “it’s a makeover format that doesn’t seek to change the way we look but how we think about ourselves.”
She said it proved that “intelligent development can produce brilliant entertainment to address some of the biggest social issues of our time.”
– ‘Your Money or My Life’ –
“Naked Beach” is part of a new wave of shows about to hit the small screen that take their social responsibilities very seriously, analysts say.
Virginia Mouseler of The Wit database said there is a “new appetite for shows that can make a difference to people’s lives”.
She said the new French reality show “Hire Me If You Can” tries to give to a new start to people who “normally would not get as far as a job interview” because of their past or their age.
Tears are shed as “they audition for a week so employers can see them for who they are before they hear about their backgrounds.”
The emotional volume is cranked up to a new level in the heartbreaking “Your Money Or My Life”, a show in which people with terminal conditions plead for cash to pay for treatment that might prolong their lives.
Already a sensation in the Netherlands, money poured in to the crowd funding campaigns to save the contestants, Mouseler said.
Another Dutch format, “Been There, Done That”, has celebrities who have come through tough times mentoring young people to overcome similar challenges, from transitioning to anorexia to addiction and depression.
“Secret Teacher” — which will screen in the UK later this year — has successful business people going undercover in tough schools as teaching assistants to help bring out teenagers’ talents.
Each mentor will also make “a life-changing offer” to one lucky student to help launch their business career.
– Non-PC questions –
Mouseler said a plethora of therapy-based shows are popping up on schedules across the world, with the Belgian show “Therapy” breaking new ground by exploring the intimate relationship between a patient and their shrink.
While patients’ faces remain hidden, some of the country’s top psychologists opened their consulting room to the cameras.
A new Israeli show, “The Conflict”, uses drama therapy to try to heal broken families and friendships, employing actors to re-enact clashes in the hope of “finding a way through” for both sides.
However, an Australian show called “You Can’t Ask That” proves that taking the bull by the horns is often the best way to avoid misunderstandings.
Billed as “the show that asks politically incorrect questions”, it is one of the most successful factual formats in the world this year.
Each episode involves “awkward, inappropriate or uncomfortable questions you’ve always wanted to know but were too afraid to ask” being put to misunderstood, minority and marginalised groups including Muslims, transgender and people of short stature.
If the embarrassment of asking cringe-worthy questions is too much to live with, there is always the new Belgium show “The Weekend”.
In it a group of people who have had to face some of life’s toughest challenges find support from a diverse group of new friends “they would not normally meet in real life”.
They might include the contestants of a new big-budget French survival show called “District Z”, fronted by film star Jean Reno, who have to fight off zombie attacks in order to win bars of gold.