Dr. Sandra Scott’s CV reads like my Sky Plus planner. She’s been on almost everything: Big Brother (celebrity and plebeian), Hell’s Kitchen, I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here and, of course, Tool Academy. She is reason when all descends into madness, as an on screen Psychiatrist she’s there to ensure the contestants are kept mentally stable and offers psychological support. You would think, with all that under her belt, she’d be an avid reality TV watcher. But no, ‘

Watching reality shows is usually work – I associate it with working’. A pretty poor excuse, in my opinion, and, almost as an afterthought, she claims she watches The Apprentice. A top quality production without doubt, but if it doesn’t have racial slurs, on-screen masturbation or kangaroo testicles it’s just not my kind of ‘reality’. As she has such intimate knowledge of the ins and outs of the production of reality television, I ask if she’d ever go on as a contestant: ‘I think I’d like to see how I’d cope. With all this experience you think you should know exactly how to play the game and how to come across well.’ It’s quite clear, to anyone with any concern for his or her pride and dignity, that reality television is the worst thing to do ever. No matter how great the prize, how hungry you are for fame, you will end up knickers-out on page four of OK!. With her insight into the workings of reality TV shows, you would think her aversion would become more acute; would she actually subject herself to one? ‘No, no I wouldn’t’. Sensible woman.

Her career progression has been a series of serendipitous events. Educated at the University of the West Indies, she was drawn to psychiatry simply because she thought it would be less physically demanding than other fields of medicine; evidently the right move, and a decision process dear to my own heart. The start of her television career was slightly more dramatic. In a casual meeting with David Wolstencroft, the writer of Psychos, she managed to get pretty ‘huff cuff’ (an excellent term I will definitely be incorporating into my vocabulary). ‘I was talking to him, and mid-sentence, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a person collapse. I went over and sorted them out, and then came straight back. I just sort of went into auto-pilot because I was quite drunk.’ Dr. Sandra Scott is evidently a woman who can work under pressure. Wolstencroft was equally impressed and his production company Kudos hired her to work on Psychos, an ‘uncompromising portrait’ of a psychiatric hospital in Glasgow. One of the characters was not very loosely based on Dr. Scott and she was consulted to provide realistic details and themes. Eventually they offered her a place on screen and the rest, as they say, is history.

Dr. Scott is a psychiatrist first and foremost. She works for and is a trustee of children’s charity ChildHope and her professional work has primarily been with children and teenagers. The context in which she works on television is rarely sensitive or serious, and I ask if her role on screen differs from the one she plays elsewhere. ‘On television, I’m not doing psychiatry. They’re not patients. I’m not monitoring their mental states in the same sort of way. I’m doing psychology.’ She is careful to make this distinction. There is some suggestion that the psychological help provided on reality television is little more than pseudo-science, for want of a better term. Dr. Scott is obviously aware of this suggestion and was wary about even being interviewed, a wariness born out of her extensive experience of journalists and journalism – ‘the press is quite hostile, you quickly learn savviness, through necessity.’ However, she seems to embody the counter-argument. Rarely in the interview does she deviate from talking about the seriousness, both of her work and of her approach to it. She claims to care about the people who subject themselves to the public humiliation that we call reality TV. ‘You are dealing with people’s emotions, and they are real people. And they have issues. It is just not useful as the professional there to help them to be poking fun and being unpleasant.’

She also claims to have lovely things to say about each and every contestant on Tool Academy. That can’t be true. We must be talking about two completely different sets of people, has she not been watching the program? I mean, come on, it’s a group of twelve men, who all considered themselves fit for a program searching for the ‘ultimate lad’. Anyone who self-identifies as such must either be delusional (I don’t think some of the contestants would have lasted long had that actually been the title) or slightly repellent. Her personal favourite is Harry. ‘I will always have a special place for Harry, he made me cry. I don’t think I’ve done that before.’ My personal favourite is Harry too, but for slightly different reasons. Hers are more professional, she feels he made real progress, ‘because he found it so particularly difficult to express himself emotionally, and then he did it so beautifully.’ Apparently it was ‘exceptionally moving’. I suppose you need to be less of a cynic and more romantic to be in this line of work.

I can see the appeal in working on reality TV. Not only do you get to see the hilarity first hand, you also get to work with the dishy men that present the shows. Just being in the same building as Dermot O’Leary would make me cry out with desire. Dr. Scott has even been in the same bed as Rick Edwards; what wouldn’t I do to trade places with her?! Unfortunately I am unable to uncover much dirt. ‘He’s very professional. He’s a good person to work with because he brings the humour so I don’t have to get involved with that.’ This works well with Dr. Scott’s sense of integrity. Working in a position of support, she’s careful to provide a sincere alternative to the wise-cracking presenters. ‘People trust me, and I would never want to betray that trust for some cheap gag.’

What about her relationship advice? ‘Communication, equality and respect’ are crucial to a stable and happy relationship. She takes care to stress that ‘equality’ is not about being the same. ‘You’ve both got to be contributing. Once you get out of the romantic phase, people end up feeling used or a burden. A degree of equality is important.’ It is interesting that equality features so much in her relationship ethos. After all, Tool Academy is styled on the idea that the man is to blame. The bloke is supposed to be in need of reform, when in reality the women on the programme are no less reprehensible. ‘It’s a reality show, it’s entertaining, the focus is the blokes. But within that, it always takes two to tango’. Dr. Scott does not take her role lightly, and she seems to be a model of sincerity in a very unreal reality world.

 

 


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