British reality TV shows and cosmetic surgery have long been bedfellows – TOWIE cast members openly boast about lip fillers and boob jobs, promote procedures in their capacity as #influencers online, and now private clinics looking to cash in advertise their services during ad breaks (though perhaps not for much longer after last year's Love Island breast enlargement ad fiasco).
But the line between the two is about to be broken down entirely, according to plans by Channel 4. The broadcaster is set to commission a new series that screams "Twitter-storm-in-the-making" (see also: Sex Box, Naked Attraction) with an outrageous premise.
In The Surjury, which doesn't yet have a broadcast date, contestants will go in front of a 12-strong jury of the public who will "decide if people get the cosmetic surgery they’ve always dreamed of." Offering them the chance of everything "from bum-lifts to nose jobs, sculpted abs to breast enlargements," it promises to "allow people to explore their choices more thoroughly, and to take measured advice from their peers." (Naked Attraction at least gave the appearance of encouraging people to be comfortable in their own bodies.)
Contestants who want cosmetic surgery must win 75% of the jury's vote in order to secure their procedure and "will be invited back to show off the results" months later. The concept has sparked outrage, with critics condemning it for glamorising cosmetic surgery; the loudest disapproval came from the "voice of plastic surgery in the UK", the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS).
"We are extremely concerned about the message this programme portrays and its particular focus on young people," said its president, Mark Henley, adding that the promotional material alone was enough to make BAPRAS believe "the show will trivialise the serious decision all should take when considering aesthetic procedures."
Henley continued: "It is disappointing that, in 2019, we are still having to remind large broadcasters of the potential harm caused by glamorising cosmetic surgery – particularly when targeting young adults or those with self-esteem issues.
"There is every chance that a show like 'Surjury' – which asks young people to 'pitch' their 'dream' surgery to a panel – will encourage viewers to rush into personal decisions about cosmetic procedures without considering all outcomes and risks, or taking the time to ensure they visit a reputable surgeon."
The show was particularly concerning, he added, given the increasing number of "complicated reconstructive procedures on individuals who have received 'botched surgery' both at home or abroad." BAPRAS research from 2015 found that more than half (59%) of patients who undertook surgery within two weeks of their first consultation were actually less confident about their appearance afterwards.
Becky Cadman, Channel 4's factual entertainment commissioning editor, who gave The Surjury the go-ahead, spoke of the show's "innovative format" and said it would "literally, get under the skin of people who think that a quick fix is their best option."
Ross McCarthy, CEO and executive producer for Gobstopper Television, the production company ("run by millennials") that's making the show, downplayed its potentially damaging impact, describing the concept as "a totally new way of doing peer to peer advice."
He continued: "Our pitchers will either get the surgery they’ve always wanted, or a massive boost in confidence when the public rules they don’t need work at all!" Until it's broadcast, though, the jury's out.
For further advice on what to consider before undergoing cosmetic surgery, take a look at BAPRAS’ Think Over Before You Makeover guidance.