Tonight's TV... Bodyshockers

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Once the preserve of seamen, career criminals, and fairground workers, an astonishing one in three of us now sports a tattoo of some description. Dolphins, stars, Chinese menus, entire sleeves of gobbledegook; getting ink is now a multi-million pound business. Blame Beckham, blame Phil “The Power” Taylor, blame peer pressure, blame yourself. But with this much ink being splashed around, it stands to reason that if you’re going to spend money and endure excruciating pain to vandalise your body forever, it may as well be with something meaningful. Or you could just have “Barry is a TWAT!” daubed on your forearm.

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That’s exactly what 19-year-old Stefan from Gloucester did, waking up in Magaluf with no memory of the tattooing, no idea who Barry is, or indeed what he had done to deserve this touching tribute. Attempting to recall the fateful evening in this third episode of Channel 4’s Bodyshockers, he mournfully reflects, “I remember brief bits, but none of it’s Barry-related.”

As idiotic inkings go, it’s probably on a par with the hapless berk in Episode One (now available on 4OD) who had the word “JAPS” tattooed on his eyelid, thus managing to simultaneously offend good taste, an entire nation, and particularly zealous grammar pedants.

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The intertwining story of Stefan and the mysterious Barry make up the bedrock of this latest trawl through provincial stories of self-inflicted misery, which again follows a depressing routine of cavalier idiocy, intense regret, and a swift visit to the laser clinic. Treatment is shown in full flesh-burning detail, and is chirpily performed by the well-groomed Doctor Ben, who is more than happy to relieve patients of a couple of grand for five minutes under the gun.

Presented by Katie Piper – herself the recipient of over 200 procedures following an acid attack six years ago – there’s no deep-rooted attempt to justify why hordes of Brits are happy to use their bodies like toilet walls, other than, in the majority of cases, having ingested huge amounts of alcohol. This is never more evident than when she takes Stefan (and his arm) back to the scene of the crime in Magaluf, where late night revellers have a tattoo in much the same way that more conventional holidaymakers might have an ice cream.

Amongst the horror show is a woman who spontaneously received the gift of “Paul (Scotland)” on her upper leg – presumably from a Scottish man called Paul. By way of balance, there’s a bloke who bares his arse to reveal a lengthy list of girls’ names. And in what is probably not a tribute to Bon Jovi, a woman casually reveals the warning “CAUTION Slippery When Wet,” permanently etched above her minge.

Amidst the human detritus, Piper attempts to talk sense into one prospective ink recipient, a heavily refreshed barmaid who is intent on having a pair of bees tattooed on or near her knees. It’s a paper-thin visual gag that the woman in question even admits that she will definitely regret in later
life, before doing it anyway, at 4am, for 60 Euros.

Just as the shock value is beginning to wane, Bodyshockers ups the ante by including the body-modification story of a Glasgow student, who – like a Sting-endorsed tribal elder – has spent a decade systematically increasing the size of his ear piercings to the point where he can pass a can of Coke through each lobe. Tired of the ridicule, he undergoes surgery to remove his “flabby flesh tunnels,” a gruesome business that ends with a long lingering shot of his detached lobes, sat on a napkin like so much spat-out calamari. Equally horrific is the woman who, having plucked out her eyebrows, has them replaced by hair from the back of her head. If you don’t want to know the result, look away now.

And finally, if you’re still watching, the enduring mystery of Barry’s identity is revealed, ostensibly by quizzing a friend who was there at the time, and indeed scrawled the prototype message for the benefit of the Spanish tattoo artist.

Despite moments of light-heartedness, Bodyshockers is a frequently unpleasant hour’s viewing, and the only real conclusion to be drawn is that people are morons. And that’s permanent.