Channel 4’s Josh Must Win does not send the positive message it thinks it does

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Geordie reality television stars Vicky Pattison and Amber Gill were part of the panel that helped Josh win.

Channel 4’s brand-new social experiment, The Underdog: Josh Must Win came to a close last night, and I was left feeling slightly uncomfortable at what I had just viewed. 

The Underdog: Josh Must Win began on Monday, March 25 and saw a group of aspiring reality stars enter a house to participate in a fictional reality show named The Favourite. 

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The contestants competed in various challenges and competed for a chance to be given the title of The Favourite by the fellow contestants, which ultimately meant they were the most popular housemate.

However, unbeknownst to contestants the show was actually named Josh Must Win, and every challenge and eliminated was being orchestrated by a panel of reality experts, which including Geordie Shore’s Vicky Pattison, Love Island’s Amber Gill, The Only Way Is Essex’s Pete Wick and Radio DJ Nick Grimshaw. 

Because among the contestants was Josh, who is not your typical reality star, and the panel’s goal was to ensure he came out on top as the winner. If he did, a prize pot of £100k would be shared among every contestant.

As the show progressed, I found myself enjoying it and rooting for Josh to win. However, I couldn’t help but think of how cruel the premise actually was. 

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Although I can see how Channel 4 may think that it is sending a positive message to viewers, that ‘normal’ people can actually win a popularity contestant, it is worth noting that Josh was up for elimination on the very first episode, and had it not been for the panel keeping him in he may have lost his place in the competition very early. 

The panel also rigged various challenges to make Josh shine and others fall, which I found was cruel to the other contestants who were being lied to, with their confidence being brought down in the process. 

As the panel reached their goal and Josh was crowned the winner in the final episode last night (Tuesday, April 9), I couldn’t help but feel incredibly uncomfortable as Josh discussed his delight at the result, before being told it was all fake.

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Although Josh took it well, and the panel assured him that he won off his own back (they just helped him along the way), as a viewer I felt that was not the case at all. 

It was nice to see Josh come out of his shell as the show progressed, and he was a deserving winner but it just didn’t feel right that he and the other contestants weren’t able to participate in a fair game. 

Of course it made for excellent viewing, to see how easily a show can be deliberately created by people behind the scenes to make one person do well, but at the forefront of my mind was the fact that they were ultimately messing with real people, and their feelings. 

As the eliminated cast joined the panel in the control room, it was obvious by some contestants' faces and body language that they weren’t too happy with the deception. 

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'The Underdog: Josh Must Win' is starting on E4. Pictured are Josh, along with celebrity panel Nick Grimshaw, Amber Rose Gill, Pete Wicks and Vicky Pattison. Photo by Channel 4.'The Underdog: Josh Must Win' is starting on E4. Pictured are Josh, along with celebrity panel Nick Grimshaw, Amber Rose Gill, Pete Wicks and Vicky Pattison. Photo by Channel 4.
'The Underdog: Josh Must Win' is starting on E4. Pictured are Josh, along with celebrity panel Nick Grimshaw, Amber Rose Gill, Pete Wicks and Vicky Pattison. Photo by Channel 4. | Channel 4

Cast member Louie, who was a confident, outgoing contestant who was an almost sure-win for the show, remained quiet and stone-faced in the background once he found out the truth, despite creating a real friendship with Josh during their time in the house. 

Instead of sending the positive message it hoped to, I felt that The Underdog: Josh Must Win instead gave the impression that ‘normal’ people like Josh can only win these types of competition shows, with the help of ‘popular’ people and not on his own. 

I’d love to hear from the cast of the show and Josh himself, to see how the show impacted them, especially after it has now been shown on television.

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