My brother-in-law force-fed us some Space Cadets last weekend, a show I’d been assiduously avoiding on principle as I was offended by the very idea of conning people into thinking they were off to space.
The show is both worse and better than I’d imagined. Worse because I hate watching people being conned, and I’m so uncomfortable watching I can hardly sit still at times. It’s lowest common denominator TV.
Better because the people being conned are mostly a complete waste of space and after a relatively short time you’re forced to conclude that they deserve anything that happens to them. I mean, would you seriously believe our local cluster of galaxies is called the Hazelnut Cluster, or that your Russian space shuttle has artifical gravity generators? There’s also a certain shameful thrill in seeing whether the programme can actually pull off the ludicrous hoax.
To counter my deep moral reservations about the whole thing, the makers of the programme have cannily got the family and friends of the contestants to approve the practical joke before starting, and there’s real astronaut training and a trip on a vomit comet for the contestants when they’re done. Also Johnny Vaughan, of all people, treads the fine line between taking the mick and taking it seriously. He knows when to tip his hat to the idea of space travel, or the bravery of the contestants.
Still, overall it’s an uncomfortable and very ambivalent viewing experience.