It doesn’t matter what I think of the new, clunkily titled Vogue Williams-fronted E4 show Send Nudes: Body SOS, (Wednesday, 10.15pm, E4) because it doesn’t exist.
What must have happened is this: some weeks ago, I must have got into an accident and fallen into a long, sad coma. It doesn’t matter about the specifics – you don’t exist, I don’t exist, this column does not actually “exist” – but I think it was on my birthday, when that bus swerved very close to my head. I think what actually happened is it hit me, the bus, and I am brutally unconscious, and everything that has happened to me for the past month and a half has been the delirium of my dying brain. And there is no more proof that I am in an imagined world of my own mania than “Send Nudes: Body SOS”, which is clearly a message from the illuminated realm telling me to wake up, wake up, wake up.
The show, if it were real, would go like this: Vogue Williams invites two people to an eerily white-lit studio so they can gaze at an avatar of their own naked body, made via 140 nude photos of them, rendered by a team of surgeons and artists. The people tell Vogue what they want to change about their body with surgery – in this week’s show it’s Steven, who wants a bigger flaccid penis, and Steph, who wants smaller, more comfortable boobs. They describe what surgery they would like, how it would impact their life, then the avatar resizes to show them what they would look like if they did it. They say: “Wow.” A surgeon appears via a disembodied video call and cheerfully talks them through the scarring they would suffer. And then – no, I wasn’t expecting this twist either, so I was impressed the dark recesses of my brain invented it – a panel of 50 people stare at the nude avatar and vote on whether they find its new penis or boobs more attractive.
I wonder what I look like in my coma. Do I seem placid, calm? Or do I seem like I am in a state of feverish agitation, fingers clamped into a claw? It is impossible to know. What we can only focus on down here is Send Nudes. Some proof that this show does not exist: the human mind is not capable of inventing new faces, and can only draw on ones it has seen before, and so the panellists in this show have been patched in from another Channel 4 or E4 franchise: a Naked Attraction participant, a spare Celebs Go Dating date, one-episode Gogglebox appearers. I can only imagine I have encountered panel members “LV General and Ty Logan” at some insipid brand event and decided to transplant them into this. Further proof: the whole thing is a mush of existing formats, Naked Attraction mixed with Snog, Marry, Avoid and sprinkled with some half-hearted body positivity I assume was leftover from a Dove advert brainstorm. It is unclear why Vogue Williams was chosen for this one. Again: my subconscious is in charge of this, not me.
For the sake of maintaining a veneer of reality I am going to approach this show as if it is actually happening and E4 is actually showing it on television, and so: it’s not actually as bad as you think. Naked Attraction, the sort of knowing older sister to Send Nudes, took a few episodes to over-hurdle its own mad format and become the absolute perfect show to watch giggling on the sofa when you come home wine-drunk. I feel Send Nudes could easily occupy that unmined schedule slot if it wanted to. Sometimes TV needs to be po-faced in its silliness to really make your jaw drop, pause, and go: “Sorry, WHAT?” to the person watching along with you, and Send Nudes has plenty of that. It lets you decide what’s bizarre about it rather than constantly telling you (there is an astonishingly small amount of screen time given over to the “140-camera nudity cage”, for example). Among my favourite questions to ask when watching reality television is: “Why – sorry, but why – why would anyone actually choose to be on this?”, and Send Nudes makes you ask that every 90 to 100 seconds.
But it isn’t real and it doesn’t matter. If you can read this, know I am trying to come back. I am slamming my head against the glass and hoping to break it. I’m coming back to you, I miss you, I’m sorry. I didn’t realise I was out until my mind invented Send Nudes.