Reality TV - A window on Iraq?

07 September 2010 | 9:24 - By Matthew Hall

For those Iraqis wanting respite from the grim reality of day-to-day life there’s always escape in television - and there are some unusual offerings in this war-wracked country.


A shot from 'Put him in Bucca.' (Al Baghdadia)

“Combat” may have formally ended for the United States military in Iraq, but it has taken little time for normal service to resume.

In Iraq it seems violence is the new normal. 

According to reports, the past weekend saw suicide bombings, an attack on a military headquarters, the murder of military and government officials, and US troops called back into action.

On Sunday, at least five suicide bombers wired with explosives made a coordinated attack on an Iraqi military base in Baghdad, killing at least 12 people.

That attack prompted US forces to assist Iraqi military in defending the base just four days after President Obama declared combat missions in Iraq had ended.

Violence continued elsewhere, with an army General and Ministry of Agriculture official shot dead in separate incidents in Baghdad. Meanwhile the bodies of five construction workers were found riddled with bullets in an apartment in the city of Samarra.

The dead workers were reportedly employed by a company building a police station and youth centre.

Other incidents over the weekend included a double-bombing in western Baghdad, a roadside bombing in the south of the city, and an attack by gunmen on a police checkpoint.

Just another day in the city.

For those Iraqis wanting respite from the grim reality of day-to-day life there’s always escape in television.

Tune into Al-Baghdadia and viewers can watch “Put Him In Bucca”, a prank reality TV show named for a prison camp in which unsuspecting celebrities are told they are going to jail after being caught with (unbeknown to them) a fake bomb in their car.

Hilarity, for the viewer, is apparently sure to follow.

As the New York Times reports, celebrities are “invited to the headquarters of the private television station Al Baghdadia to be interviewed, but en route to the station a fake bomb would be planted in their car while they were being searched by Iraqi soldiers, who were in on the deception.

“The unwitting celebrities are then secretly filmed, Candid-Camera-style, as they reacted with shock, disbelief and anger as fake checkpoint guards shout abuse at them: ‘Why do you want to blow us up?”’ ‘You are a terrorist.’ ‘How much did they pay you to do it? You will be executed.’

Watch an episode here. It’s intended to be humorous which perhaps demonstrates just how dark everyday life in parts of Iraq has become.

Comments (in Arabic) on the station’s website about the program also give an insight into life in Iraq.

“The program is very nice,” says one viewer. “The nicest thing is that the soldiers are acting in a very good and convincing way.”

Another: “Everyone knows that Iraq is living under unnatural circumstances on all sides, so why do you make a program that is based on fear, provocation and mocking, especially to Iraqis.”

Maybe this is proof reality TV shows are a window into a society.

Australia gets cooking competitions, talent shows, and real estate battles.

Iraq? Car bombs and imprisonment.

No jokes about who has the better programming choices, please.

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About this Blog

Matthew Hall presents a first-hand look at world events from a different angle.

Matthew Hall New York-based writer Matthew Hall has chased fugitives across Texas, been shot in outback Australia and has lunched with Liza Minnelli.