A UK TV company has come under fierce criticism after announcing a new reality-TV based gameshow in which contestants will be stalked and murdered by a notorious serial killer. “Six families will be followed by camera crews for six weeks – every moment of their lives will be recorded. At the end of each week the audience at home will be able to nominate which two families will become potential victims of the killer. During the following week he’ll make his choice and strike – the question is, will he massacre the whole family at once or pick them off one by one? Potential victims will have the chance to save themselves by performing tasks set by the other families. The final twist will come when there is only one family left – they will have to nominate each other for murder until there is only one left! We’re confident this will be a huge ratings winner,” says a spokesman for Channel Six. “We aim to combine the voyeurism of Big Brother with the ‘who’s next’ ethos of Survivor and the gory thrills of Friday the Thirteenth! The serial killer we’ve contracted for the series has promised that he’ll make the murders as spectacular and original as possible. We’re also toying with the idea of allowing the audience to decide which weapon or implement he uses each time!”

The channel has struck a deal with the infamous ‘Midnight Mangler’ to be the series’ resident serial killer. They had earlier provoked criticism for sponsoring six of the Mangler’s previous killings in exchange for exclusive live TV rights. It recorded some of its highest ever ratings for the events, during which a camera crew accompanied the masked killer as he carried out his trademark nocturnal ‘home invasion’ attacks – battering down the doors of houses picked at random and slaughtering any occupants with axe, chainsaw or meat-cleaver. “The public’s response to that series was astonishing. We even had women sending in their addresses and photos and inviting him to come and kill them slowly and horribly!” says a Channel Six executive. “We were inundated with letters asking for the Mangler’s autograph – we sent out literally tens of thousands of photos of the Mangler (wearing his mask, of course), personally signed by him in the blood of his victims! Consequently, we’re preparing a huge range of merchandising for the new series – replica chainsaws, masks, fake severed limbs, blood-spattered T-shirts, the lot! It’ll be worth millions! There’s no doubt, murder is the new porn – the public just can’t get enough of it!” With a half a million pound cash prize on offer to the survivor, Channel Six believe they will have no shortage of contestants: “People will do it just to get on TV – they’ll do anything for five minutes of fame these days!”

However, not everyone is happy with this commercialisation of mass murder. “Its cheapening the whole business,” laments the veteran serial killer dubbed ‘The Phantom’ by the popular press, due to his ability to commit the most bizarre murders unseen and without leaving any trace or clue behind him. “In my day it was an art form – you planned meticulously and put some thought into it, carefully arranging the body and the murder scene into an aesthetically pleasing tableau. This modern generation lack originality – I’m proud of the fact that no two of my killings were identical. You know, I’d claimed eight victims before the police finally realised there was a link! This modern generation lacks originality – all their murders are inspired by slasher films like Nightmare on Elm Street or Hannibal. They’re like boy bands – doing flashy but empty cover versions of other people’s work that probably wasn’t any good in the first place!” The Phantom has been engaged in a deadly feud with the Mangler since May last year, when, having just exceeded the Phantom’s body count by claiming his thirty-first victim, the Mangler sent a gloating letter to a national newspaper describing the Phantom as being an uninspired has-been badly out of touch with public taste. An infuriated Phantom replied with an unprecedented murder spree, claiming twelve victims in as many days – killing each in a manner connected with their star sign.

“There’s a good example – the authorities didn’t figure out the link until the fifth victim, the Taurus I crushed with a bull dropped onto his car from a railway bridge. There’s got to be some irony in the manner of the murders – a Pisces choked to death with a halibut, a Leo eaten alive by her own pet cats, for instance – but there’s no subtlety or irony in the Mangler’s killings, he just chops them up with a chainsaw,” says the Phantom. “You have to retain an air of mystery, or the public will never respect you!” The Mangler has been quick to respond to these criticisms. “To the Phantom and his generation murder is some kind of abstract intellectual pursuit, for people today murder is sexy! Frankly, I get a hard on every time I take someone down! And I’m not the only one – lots of chicks are clearly turned on by murder! Being a notorious killer is a terrific way of meeting women – that is one of the main reasons I got into this business,” he chuckles. “Death is the ultimate sexual thrill – the French don’t call the orgasm the ‘little death’ for nothing! You’d be amazed at the number of women who contact me and want me to murder them! Sometimes I oblige – they love it, squealing with pleasure as I carve off their buttocks and groaning in ecstasy as I cut off their nipples with garden shears! Magic!”

TV chiefs agree, having recently turned down the Phantom’s proposal for a highbrow series in which celebrity investigators would each week have to figure out the links between his latest victims. “You’ve got to move with the times – the Phantom’s style of murder is stuck back in the Agatha Christie era! The public today don’t want to have to unravel complex mysteries and motivations – they want non-stop bloody action,” says a Channel Six producer. Anxious to ensure that the public’s apparently insatiable demand for murder continues to be met, Channel Six are rumoured to be developing a talent contest for potential serial killers along the lines of the BBC’s recent Fame Academy. “Nothing has been decided yet, but we are thinking of auditioning young people to find a dozen with the right backgrounds – cruelty to pets, arson, social maladjustment, sexual impotence – and bring them together in a big house for thirteen weeks, where they’d be taught the basics of murder by expert convicted killers,” says a spokesperson. “They’d get to practice their skills on down and outs, illegal immigrants and prostitutes, with the winner (voted for by the public), getting his own TV show and a year’s amnesty.”