Wrap me in canvas and call me camp, but I love off-ratings television.

It’s so perverse. There is something unnaturally satisfying about committing to a sitcom you know was cancelled after its first season. It’s the sort of refracted reasoning that compelled me to try the limited edition Mexican burger at McDonalds, or read The Da Vinci Code or visit Las Vegas.

The truly awful can be riveting. It’s certainly what drove me to tune into every episode of Pacific Blue in summer 1996, a show set on the beaches of Santa Monica about policemen who ride bicycles. That show starred Rick Rossovich, a shocking actor with really great calves.

Yet this year I’ve shunned According To Jim, even though it stars James Belushi, an actor who tragically didn’t overdose from injecting cocaine and heroin at the Chateau Marmont in 1982.

I’m even ignoring Hope And Faith and that’s got Ted McGinley in it! (You must remember him. He was the coach from the second last season of Happy Days and is such a broadcasting albatross he’s the patron saint of www.jumptheshark.com.)
Why such a turnaround? Because this year the gods of televizh have downed the stakes: this year we have B-Grade reality television.

Yes, Virginia, this season it’s on almost every channel, but the best/worst pick is on Channel Seven. The Rebel Billionaire: Branson’s Quest For The Best is a poorly realised second cousin to The Apprentice, only with Virgin’s Richard Branson playing the Donald Trump character.

In The Apprentice, contestants are given vaguely realistic business tasks like marketing a new type of Pepsi, or selling real estate.

Branson chooses to test his chosen chumps by asking them to perform seriously dangerous physical stunts, involving hot air balloons and biplanes. It’s amazingly dumb.

Last week’s challenge involved jumping off the side of a cliff in Zimbabwe into the waiting arms of another contestant -“ as if living there wasn’t dangerous enough.

Next week the poor schmos have to spend the night in an African game reserve complete with Blair Witch self-filming and what seems to be genuine crying. In a future episode set in London there will be streaking. Unmissable.

Rebel Billionaire screens on Channel Seven on Monday nights at 10:30pm.

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