Over the weekend I received an email from a reader saying this:
“Please cover TOWIE. My chums and I are getting reality tv blog withdrawal”
How nice of you, John and chums, to pay me a compliment like this. Presumably they are regular readers of my Made In Chelsea reviews, and perhaps my articles about The Apprentice, Party House and Big Brother. I threw the towel in on the Big Brother round ups because, frankly, it’s on every day and I can’t cope with it. The Apprentice is normally on our screens at this time of year but I learned the other day that it’s been postponed until the Autumn because of the selfish world cup that we’re not in anymore (were we ever really in it?) I suppose, seeing as TOWIE is generally seen as the natural alternative to Made In Chelsea, it’s a valid point to raise: why don’t I review Essex?
I’ll tell you why…
TOWIE is like the ugly embarrassing step-sister of MIC. I used to watch TOWIE back in it’s first/second seasons. What’s it on now – season 64 or something? The problem with this show is that I don’t particularly admire its production value. The quality is not comparable to MIC with its glossy locations, its vaseline-tinted beauty shots and its actual ability to string a sentence together. While the cast of MIC can be found in Marrakech, Chamonix and Venice, the cast of TOWIE are only ever seen schlepping back and forth to “Marbs” wearing ill-fitting sarongs and carrying sagging lilos under their arms. While the MIC cast shoot scenes everywhere from the Bluebird cafe to Longleat Manor, the TOWIE cast never seem to venture beyond the Sugarhut. When Lucy Watson Instagrams a snap of her in her New York St. Regis hotel room, Lauren Goodger will Instagram a shot of her wrapped in bandages in her built-in wardrobe from her home in Dagenham.
This makes me sound like a TV snob. Or just a snob in general. Yes, I compare both shows in terms of production quality, because I work in the industry. But the fact of the matter is that I used to watch TOWIE and it got monotonous, predictable and grating. It’s too easy to poke fun at the ridiculousness of that show. You don’t need me to do it.
The other difference here is that the MIC lot are being tongue-in-cheek, and they know it. The Essex crew seem to be blissfully unaware that they are actually embarrassing themselves. And as a writer, that’s just not as fun to comment on. It almost seems too easy.
But let’s play devil’s advocate and give it a try. I have just watched some recent clips of TOWIE. In Marbs, a girl called “Jas” is shouting in Dan Osbourne’s face. She is wearing a white all-in-one and he is calling her a slut. She throws a drink in his face and no-one in the bar reacts because it actually looks like it was filmed in a studio in Ealing. Jas is then on the beach talking to two other girls I’ve never seen in my life about their love lives. Apparently some bloke has sent one of them a direct message. No one cares. Back in Essex, Lauren Pope is with a man in a fish and chip shop and Lydia and Arg walk in. He’s still obese, she still can’t breathe through her nose. There’s a new gay man in it called Vas who thinks he’s Grace Jones.