pregnant-kate-middleton-leaves-hospital-with-prince-william

By now you’ve doubtless all heard the tragic news about the suspected suicide of the Royal nurse who inadvertently fell victim to a prank call staged by two Australian DJ’s, Mel Greig and Michael Christian.

The lady in question was 42-year-old mother of two Jacintha Saldanha. Saldanha worked at the King Edward VII hospital where newly expectant mom, Kate Middleton was being treated for severe morning sickness. Greig and Christian called up the hospital and pretended – with very bad accents – to be the Queen and Prince Charles. Saldanha can be heard at the start of the call as the DJ’s attempt to find out about Kate’s condition and make some (pretty feeble) jokes along the way.

The prank caused a storm of controversy that has now turned deadly serious following the nurse’s suicide. Greig and Christan have taken themselves off the air, the radio station that broadcast the call is coming under intense pressure and there is even talk of lawsuits – and even criminal charges. At the end of the day no-one really knows what was going on in Saldanha’s life or what really caused her to take her own life – but it’s not hard to connect the dots…

Which brings me to the purpose of this post – the morality of prank calls in the first place.

Now obviously I work in the TV industry rather than radio, where phone pranks are less a part of the medium. But in the TV world we have our own kind of pranks – hidden camera shows. And my own moral position is that I’ve always refused to work on them.

For me there’s just something really mean-spirited and nasty about hidden camera shows and prank calls. At their heart they’re all about embarrassing members of the public. You’re totally laughing at them – not with them. And as the pranks have become more complicated in recent years I frankly find them even more repulsive (I will say though that the Kate pregnancy call IS on the milder side)

I have friends who have produced and worked on hidden camera shows and while I respect their choice – I just don’t share their opinion. I guess it’s because I get really uncomfortable seeing people made fools off if they’re not part of the joke. I just feel so bad for them. I honestly have to turn the radio off if a prank call comes on – or if a hidden camera stunt comes on TV. I honestly can’t watch or listen!

I think a part of it stems from being a gay man. I acutely know what it feels like to be an underdog and made fun off – so I hate seeing other people subjected to the same kind of teasing. Prank calls and hidden camera shows are ultimately a form of bullying – smug people making fun of others for their own amusement. Interesting to note that both Greig and Christian are a good-looking couple. Guess those guys didn’t experience much bullying growing up!

Mel Greig-Michael Christian

Plus let’s be honest here – it wasn’t even a clever gag. Just like shooting water into Tom Cruise’s face at a movie premiere wasn’t. Or destroying someone’s car. Or pretending to ‘sue’ them. Or any of the other junky and juvenile stunts that these pranks frequently involve. If anything it was just kind of pointless, feeble comedy.

Now to be fair there are some hidden camera shows I don’t mind. The show ‘Make My Day’ in which a person unwittingly has the ‘best’ day ever, where everything goes mysteriously ‘right’ doesn’t bother me because it’s a sweet and positive format. And social experiments like What Would You Do are trying to make a point and are therefore an entirely different beast. I’m actually a fan of the NBC show and think it’s pretty fascinating in places. I have little sympathy for a racist or homophobe caught spewing their hateful views out in public.

And don’t think I have a problem ‘torturing’ people on TV! Over the years I’ve sent a soccer player for a crack, back and sack wax, made contestants eat and drink all manner of foul foods and drinks and recently buried a guy in a coffin filled with cockroaches! I know how to stage a stunt!

But I think if you sign up to a reality show you’re fair game. You know what you’re getting into – and honestly, in my experience, my contestants have loved all the stunts they’ve taken part in and we’ve remained friends! To me that’s a world apart from mischievously pranking a total stranger just to poke fun at them. Prank calls and hidden camera shows are cheap laughs always made at someone else’s expense.

Well that’s my take – but I know there are a lot of different opinions on this one. So fire away… do you agree? What should happen to Greig and Christian now? Could any of this have been foreseen? And what’s your take on pranks and hidden camera stunts in general?