In defence of Sun, Sex and Suspicious Parents

So in the “Age of Austerity” the Director General’s axe is falling on the neck of young BBC Three. At the tender age of 11 BBC Three will have its televisual wings clipped and transferred to an internet only channel. Despite the conventional wisdom suggesting young people have given up on traditional media, be it print, cinema, literature or television, there are many who see this restructuring as a step back rather than a step forward for the BBC’s only youth orientated channel. As my 25 yr old cousin succinctly put the other day “I don’t watch telly on my laptop, I’m not a fucking student” well quite.

I for one am somewhat ambivalent.  It’s hard to dispute the evidence that points toward television becoming an almost exclusively online experience. Whether or not this is an adequate argument to reduce the funding and output of BBC Three is another question.

Easy though it is to dismiss the cultural value of BBC Three with its garish pink logo, loud idents and flippant celebrity news updates as a channel it has consistently been tricking our nation’s young people into learning valuable life lessons for almost a decade. One of its flagship shows that does this so well is Sun Sex and Suspicious Parents. Though I have grown very bored of Sun Sex and its various offshoots I can also acknowledge its surprisingly moral centre.

Like almost all reality television “Sunsex” is founded on the promise of human conflict without which all reality tv is doomed to wither and die. The teenager eager to cut apron strings and get impossibly drunk flies abroad to have the holiday of a lifetime, the parent not quite able to cut those strings secretly follows them over to tut, gasp and laugh at footage of their antics.

The show promises the mother of all showdowns following the big reveal, as parents scold and recriminate and kids howl at invasions of privacy mortified by the intrusion. Perhaps the show has become a victim of its own success, I doubt there’s a teenager left in Britain who’d accept a film-crew on their holiday without some suspicion, but the confrontations between parent and child seem remarkably tame. More often than not what follows is a sensible discussion about because the child is growing up, they need freedom to make their own mistakes but with that freedom comes responsibility to face the consequences of those mistakes. The parents learn to let go and the kids come away more appreciative of the unconditional love and support they’ve often taken for granted.

Well hang on! Where’s my falling out, where’s the thrown tequila bottles and the bleeping of censored swears? Isn’t that what this format is all about? Perhaps not, it seems even when the BBC tries to make exploitative reality tv for the masses it can’t help (intentionally or otherwise) to foster cross-generational understanding and respect.

The BBC are about to axe their only dedicated youth channel. A channel whose programmes have not only successfully migrated to BBC One and Two but provide a much needed outlet for the concerns and desires of a significant part of the populace.  I for one believe you’ll hard pressed to find a channel that embodies the values of the BBC to inform, educate and entertain nearly quite so well as BBC Three. Yes Sunsex that includes you too.


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