1 9 6 8 (UK)
1 x 105 minute episode
Set in 2050, the appetites and passions of the British masses are controlled by television, with a constant stream of pornography regulating sexual desire, and gluttony programmes to put people off food.
The ‘low drive’ people who form 98 per cent of the population don’t need to read, write or even speak to each other. When audiences show signs of boredom, the ‘high drive’ broadcasters must find new methods to engage them.
All tensions – such as war, hate, love and loyalty – have been removed, and there’s art-sex and sport-sex. This happens to be the year of the sex Olympics.
The play’s main characters devise a television programme called The Live Life Show in which a group of discontented people – Deanie (Suzanne Neve), Nat Mender (Tony Vogel) and their child – is separated from society and sent to a small island.
Their ensuing struggle to adapt to new surroundings is broadcast live, with the viewing public’s voyeuristic pleasure heightened by the problems participants endure.
Despite death, grief, rape and murder, all the viewing audience do is roar with laughter. Tension, like sex, does them no harm as long as it’s on the other side of the screen.
Both the template for this fictitious entertainment and the audience’s rapt reaction seem to presage the proliferation of reality television in the 1990s, and, in particular, Castaway (2000), a show in which members of the public volunteered to live on an inhospitable island deprived of everyday luxuries normally available to society.
The Year of the Sex Olympics was first broadcast as part of BBC2’s Theatre 625. Sadly, only a black and white version survives today.
Co-ordinator Ugo Priest