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I Went to the Very First Filming Session of Katie Hopkins' New TV Show

If Katie Hopkins Ruled The World began filming on Tuesday night – I sat alongside some other people who despise her in the audience.

by Gavin Haynes
24 July 2015, 12:20pm

(Screen shot via)

"Katie Price."

I'm sat in the audience of a TV show, and the woman next to me – a twenty-something Cockney in a denim skirt – is whispering the answer to what's on the screen in front of us.

What's on screen is the cleft of a vulva, visible through grey leggings. No face is shown in the photo, yet this Rain Man of the front bottom seems certain she can pick out the distinctive topography of a pudenda among millions of potential owners.

"Let's see what happens when we zoom out..." says Mark Dolan, a peripheral TV presenter who's most famous for formerly hosting Channel 4's ill-fated Balls of Steel and a show with, er, Katie Price on something called Fubar Radio. "It's Katie Price's camel toe!"

The girl looks to her friends for acknowledgement. They don't seem quite as impressed as she thinks they ought to be.

The audience clap, apropos of nothing. On the small stage in front of us, ringleader Katie Hopkins smiles that big goofy wedding day smile of hers. Dolan, her comedy foil for the purposes of the show, smiles too, the smile of someone being paid for their genial bedside manner.

Vanessa Feltz, another guest, might smile too if her tightly sutured face still let her.

"What about you, Vanessa," Katie strikes up. "What do you think about your vagina?"

"I am very pleased with it and... that's all I will say," Vanessa Feltz's lips say. She thinks more. "I have had a lot of compliments, down the years..."

Welcome to If Katie Hopkins Ruled The World – due to premiere on the TLC channel in August – in which Britain's foremost human-clickbait obverse-journalist moves her brand back to where it started, on TV, with her first headline show. I went along on Tuesday night to sit in the live studio audience as the opening episode was being recorded.

The premise is obvious enough. It's Room 101, but with "new laws" replacing "things we would like to banish". The first proposed law of show number one is: "If You See A Camel Toe, Let Them Know". Hopkins calls on her guests, who also include Educating Yorkshire celebrity teacher "Mr B" and US comedian Dave Fulton, to spar with her about whether this is good or bad thing. Then the "law" is put to an audience vote. The following question before our sub-plenum of drab outer-London types who failed to get tickets for Graham Norton is: "If Your Spouse Gains Three Stone, That Is Legitimate Grounds For Divorce". And so on.

Strangely, no one in TLC's production department seems to have gone for the belly laughs to be had in Katie Hopkins' policies re: trans-Mediterranean migrant boats ("drill holes in the bottom"). Or in the status of the migrants themselves ("cockroaches").

Surely there's a photo zoom job to be done on that too? Whether the swimmer caught in the close-up is just going for a cheeky summer dip in the Med, or – camera pulls out – is bobbing, drowned, 50 miles off the coast of Malta?

No, instead, they stick to the softer stuff: OAPs who walk too slowly in the supermarket, whether we should just give-it-a-rest with the social media, a debate that asks if the term "smart casual" is an infuriating oxymoron.

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All of which seems like an hour's foreplay given what we know our host is capable of fucking with her red-hot opinion cock. Within the first 15 minutes Hopkins has run through all of her rolodexed controversial thoughts on why fat people should stop shoving half the fridge in their faces and old people should just stay indoors until further notice. The first episode seems to be visibly listing. Where can this go that it hasn't already been? What is there to add to "stupid fat fucks" and "women shouldn't go on maternity leave"?

The opening camel toe debate sums up the pointlessness. Hopkins remarks that you need to tell people uncomfortable truths, or else you've failed to truly respect them. "But truth isn't absolute," Feltz counters, the Immanuel Kant of the Loose Women age. "People have different opinions about what's right."

And there you have it. Potato. Potahto. Sometimes you need a little finesse and sometimes you need a lot. Everybody's entitled to their opinion. Except Katie Hopkins. Who is entitled to not be entitled to hers. For professional purposes.

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Perhaps much of that sense of futility is just me – I am relatively immune to opinions because I work in the sausage factory where they are made. For most of the audience, the professionally hard-hitting thoughts of this mother-of-three genuinely makes them sit up and either applaud or scream. That level of suspension of disbelief is constantly astonishing to journalists.

In fact, there is a small hardcore who seem to have come here with their minds made up that Hopkins is vermin who should be drowned somewhere off Lampedusa along with her three kids. In an ugly, off-key moment, surely due to be edited out ahead of the show's airing in August, a beefy man inexplicably carrying a boxing title-belt gives Katie a piece of his mind about how she ought to button it and treat everyone with more respect. "I'm not sure why you came to a show named If Katie Hopkins Ruled The World," Dolan smirks.

Hopkins survives precisely because she is glib enough and smart enough to pull off that doublethink. The trick of being wilfully bad but laughing along with everyone else at how bad she is. "I think you're about seven and a half minutes into your 15 minutes of fame," is how Fulton puts The Hopkins Phenomenon to his host. At the start of the hour, that would have sounded hopelessly optimistic. Until Hopkins shows how surprisingly watchable her glib smarts can be: she's a giggly pissed party mum rather than a sour old Thatcherite pissbag, quite warm, a generous payer of compliments. One of the chief amusements in sitting through this very slick if unimaginative panel show is simply trying to reconcile her acrid views with a Hopkins who clearly isn't the troll-devil of popular lore.

Is this schism because – as Jon Ronson suggested in his recent Guardian interview – she has such bad epilepsy that she might die at any moment, and so wants to leave a decent inheritance to her kids? Or is it – as Ronson also asked her – because she's a fucking sociopath?

For now, every journalist beavering in the content silos should avoid answering that and simply get down on his or her knees to give thanks that her unpopular thoughts have driven millions of unique users to content platforms and portals throughout the social web. Content has been created, and in a way that is borderline alchemy.

The media knows that opinions are like arseholes: everybody's got one. But at least Katie Hopkins' is distinct enough to make her the prima anatomical freak in her own travelling circus.

@gavhaynes

More on VICE:

Katie Hopkins and the Dangers of Obverse Journalism

The British State's Wilful Negligence Is Killing Immigrants in the Mediterranean

Photographing Britain's Anonymous Craigslist Sex Parties

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