Traumatising TV: Dystopian Shows and Hoaxes That Scarred the UK

Gregg Wallace’s chilling ‘Miracle Meat’ documentary on Channel 4 is just the latest in a long line of disturbing hoaxes and too-realistic dramas that collectively traumatised the nation.

Gregg Wallace in The Miracle Meat documentary
Photo: Channel 4

There have already been several hundred complaints to Ofcom over Gregg Wallace’s “documentary” The British Miracle Meat, which aired on Channel 4 in July, and introduced the nation to the supposed rise in lab-grown meat derived from human flesh.

This groundbreaking satire was an instant viral hit, but seemed to divide the nation between those who thought it was a genius piece of television, and those who were disturbed, disgusted, or even duped. 

But this is far from the first time that British television has controversially traumatised the nation: The British Miracle Meat is merely the latest in this country’s rich tradition of using dystopian TV shows and hoaxes to permanently scar the public. Let’s take a look (if you dare) at this particularly bleak area of British TV history, most of which you’ve probably long-since wiped from your memory (sorry):

The War Game (1966)

So horrifying was this pseudo-documentary about British nuclear war and its aftermath that the BBC actually refused to broadcast it when it first came out in the sixties, and it was almost 20 years before it was eventually televised in 1985. It certainly pulls zero punches: we see a panicked nation, desperately ill-prepared for nuclear war, and watch as the bombs begin to detonate, with families hopelessly exposed to their deadly effects. Due to The War Games fake news report style, we hear the narrator gravely describing injuries like “melting eyeballs”, armed police shooting victims who have been left to die, and there being far too many dead to bury. The film is the work of Peter Watkins, who created other harrowing pseudo-documentaries like Punishment Park and The Journey. The War Game’s hyper realistic style has helped it endure through the decades, and it’s still utterly terrifying.


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