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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Rebecca Nicholson

Wanda Sykes: will we be laughing to You’ve Been Snooped On?

Wanda Sykes
Wanda Sykes: It should have been an easy gig. Photograph: NBC/Nathan Congleton/Getty Images

When comedian and actress Wanda Sykes signed on to present a show called Ring Nation, which is due to air in some parts of the United States next month, she might not have anticipated that it would become the target of a US senator’s ire.

The series is billed as a You’ve Been Framed or Candid Camera type collection of lighthearted clips taken from people’s doorbell videos. It is made by MGM, which is owned by Amazon, which also owns home-security firm Ring, making it a family affair. It should have been an easy gig. I imagine Harry Hill narrates You’ve Been Framed in his pyjamas, with one eye on the football results. Sykes could crack jokes about people tripping over their doorsteps in her sleep. But Senator Ed Markey has spent considerable time investigating Ring and its questionable practices over such minor matters as civil liberties and privacy. In July, he revealed that Amazon had given Ring footage to law enforcement officials 11 times this year, without the user’s consent.

However, for the TV show, MGM says it will seek the permission of the owner and any identifiable people in the footage, which is nice. “The Ring platform has too often made over-policing and over-surveillance a real and pressing problem for America’s neighbourhoods, and attempts to normalise these problems are no laughing matter,” Markey told the Hollywood Reporter. TV clip shows are an oddity in the digital world. Watching something like You’ve Been Framed, and I am still partial on occasion, is a strange experience. It’s like scrolling through your phone extremely slowly, while a stranger tells you how funny the next bit is. I never understand the compulsion to turn viral online content into TV, when all TV wants to do is go viral.

If only that was the main issue. Ring Nation will be a far cry from watching a drunk relative trip over a plastic garden chair during the dregs of a lively wedding. There’s no doubt that Ring footage makes for viral content; you only have to dip a toe into a TikTok or Reels wormhole to see someone stealing parcels or drunk people trying to open the wrong front door. Deadline, which broke news of the show, described its contents as “neighbours saving neighbours, marriage proposals, military reunions and silly animals”. Repositioning a private and unaccountable surveillance culture as wholesome entertainment? Welcome to 2022.

Brian Cox: I can make an exception for this star turn

Brian Cox
Brian Cox: money talks. Photograph: Phil Wilkonson/PA

Brian Cox, the Succession one, not the planets one, is to present a two-part documentary for Channel 5, with the working title of That’s The Way Money Goes. “Having lived both ends of the wealth gap, this series will allow me to examine my own relationship with money whilst gaining a deeper understanding of how wealth really affects society today,” said Cox, who has often spoken about his tough, poverty-stricken upbringing in Dundee.

While I am rarely fond of celebrities branching out into other lines of work, such as movie stars turned interviewers or famous kids turned chefs – partly because it makes it look as if skilled professions are something anyone with a pretty face can do – I’d make an exception for Cox’s bid to become a TV presenter called Brian Cox. Anyone who has read his interviews or autobiography will know that he is a straight shooter, he clearly knows the world of money and he has the benefit of playing one of the world’s worst capitalist monsters on TV.

Speaking of famous people doing other jobs, Björk will release her first podcast nextthis week, called Sonic Symbolism. It is almost certainly going to be brilliant.

Sylvester Stallone: no free pass in a drought, even for celebrities

Sylvester Stallone
Sylvester Stallone: in the doghouse. Photograph: Dave Allocca/StarPix/REX/Shutterstock

Sylvester Stallone hit the headlines after offering more evidence that romantic ink is a terrible idea, having covered up an ornate bicep tattoo of his wife, Jennifer Flavin. with a portrait of his dog from Rocky, Butkus. She filed for divorce last week.

But he also appeared in a list, revealed by the Los Angeles Times, of celebrities violating drought restrictions in southern California. Stallone, Kevin Hart, Kim and Kourtney Kardashian, who own properties in the Calabasas and Hidden Hills areas, were among 2,000 residents issued with “notices of exceedence”, which means that properties used more than 150% of their water “budget” at least four times in a year, leaving them open to fines and other penalties.

Stallone’s lawyer said his client was “addressing the situation responsibly and proactively” and suggested that “all of the larger properties in the area have similar issues”, though to borrow the ever-quotable quote from Friends, my wallet’s too small for my fifties and my diamond shoes are too tight.

The water company does say that all the celebrities have since “significantly reduced” their consumption, but much like the furore over the news that celebrities such as Kylie Jenner, Taylor Swift and, again, Kim Kardashian, have private jets that supersize their carbon emissions to hundreds, if not thousands, of times that of an ordinary person, it seems that the climate crisis is starting to demand more of famous people than a vegan diet and a reusable tote bag.

• Rebecca Nocholson is an Observer columnist

  • Do you have an opinion on the issues raised in this article? If you would like to submit a letter of up to 250 words to be considered for publication, email it to us at

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