Last week I did a bit of work for Big Corp, assessing people for their geek qualities. It was like that time I went to Brazil and assessed geeks. Only this time I didn't go anywhere and the people I was interviewing were rather paler than their Brazilian peers.
I really enjoyed doing the assessments. What I liked about it was how nice they all were, even when they were told they didn't make the grade. Without exception they were smiley and pleasant, and took constructive criticism in a really positive way. Eager to learn and to improve, they agreed to work with their colleagues - some of whom had done better than them in the assessment - to fill the gaps I identified in their knowledge.
It was the exact opposite of the strops you sometimes see people throw on reality TV shows. Like that nutty Pink impersonator who went ballistic when she didn't make the cut on X-Factor.
The geeks I assessed were more like those lovely people on The Great British Bake Off, which seems to me to be the least competitive reality TV show ever made. (For those outside the UK: I'd explain the show but I think the name says it all). I love the way the baking rivals help each other out: one of them will scurry over to help another pick up the cakes she dropped on the way out of the oven, they shout encouragement to each other, and pass on tips. And they're humble, even self-deprecating, when the judges give them feedback.
TLOML laughs when we watch it: 'It's so British,' he says, 'They're so polite to each other.' When a Great British Bake Off contestant helps another rescue a dropped sponge, he says on an American competitive cooking show their competitor would be cackling with delight. When Great British Bake Off contestant says of their planned recipe, 'I hope it works, I'm a bit nervous', he reckons the American counterpart would say 'This is going to be awesome, it'll blow you guys away'.
I think he may be being a bit harsh on his compatriots. But there is something very sweetly, Britishly understated about this show. Maybe that's why it's been so phenomenally successful. It's a nice gentle ride of a show, basically.
I can see Bake Off TV taking off elsewhere, as so many British TV shows have done. But they'd need to inject a killer 'winning spirit' streak and a tonne of drama to the contestants first.