As of last night, the peculiar television experiment known as The Ridges, TV3, is over - but not, apparently, before most of us were over it.
The ratings for the much-ballyhooed indigenous take on Kardashian-land slumped rapidly, suggesting that sometimes, contrary to H L Mencken's famous old saying about showbiz, you can go broke underestimating the taste of the public.
The series' fatal flaw was not the awfulness of stage mother Sally Ridge, propelling her sweetly clueless daughter toward the cruellest possible kind of limelight. From Cruella de Vil to Janice Soprano, television thrives on a well-honed villainess. The problem was that all of a sudden ... nothing happened. And the one big thing that did happen, last night's celebrity boxing match, was old, old news.
Once the victorious squealing had abated and the mascara-imperilling tears were dried, the viewer was left with the bleak feeling that even the spoilt, rich, beautiful and famous were not to be envied, because they led such unstimulating lives. How depressing is that?
Jaime might seem superficially fortunate, in that unlike most rudderless young people of her age, there's no sniff of her having to get a job, train for a career or present herself to Work and Income for a benefit assessment. She just is.
But imagine having a mother who actively encourages you to participate in a salaciously mounted boxing match, when you: A. are not a boxer nor any kind of athlete; B. will be expected to parade your body exposing vast chunks of flesh; C. will have to lose a ridiculous amount of weight in a short time while which will leave you weak and tearful and D. you will be in camera-shot during the whole fiasco.
It's hard to select the series' single most appalling moment, but Sally's disinterested amusement while her daughter literally starved and dehydrated herself for days before the weigh-in - ''Hey, where's your personality gone?'' - was fairly charming. And the bit where Jaime was subjected to a colonic irrigation, and the sound technician secretly recorded proceedings behind the door - ''Is it coming, Jaime? Lots?'' followed by sundry farting noises - was also pretty special.
The signal inanity was the mother and daughter plea, as the series went to air, ''Don't judge us!'' And the poor mouse in episode one may never work in showbiz again.
At the risk of hailing a false dawn, the ratings disappointment of The Ridges might at least serve as a low tidemark below which television producers will hesitate to venture in future.
- © Fairfax NZ News