For those lucky enough not have witnessed the latest cruel twist in the world of reality television, I recommend Geordie Shore. The show follows a dozen drunken louts through their various escapades and love affairs on Tyneside. The cameras go everywhere, and the ‘cast’, who simply play themselves, bare everything from their bottoms to their souls.
You can’t escape it. These shows are everywhere. The obsession with this genre of pseudo-reality, unscripted peep show seems unstoppable. While Geordie Shore is meant to shine a light on the nightlife of Newcastle, The Only Way is Essex lifts the lid on the world of wannabe Wags and preened lads of that upwardly mobile, though often horizontal, part of England’s south-east. Stateside we are treated to The Hills and Jersey Shore — that is, the original franchise and the tackiest one.
None, though, jar quite so much as Channel 4’s Made In Chelsea. We are invited to believe that a well-schooled, but poorly educated, bunch of loaded twenty-somethings represent the new generation of Sloane Rangers. If this is really true, come back the 1980s. All is forgiven.
Jamie Laing could well be the wealthiest of the gang, but ‘posh’ is a push. Heir to the McVitie’s millions, he last hit the headlines after his girlfriend posted pictures of him masturbating online. A model of class. Francis Boulle dropped out of university to be an ‘entrepreneur’ and uses catchphrases like ‘business is the warfare of the modern age and I am a general’ — though the family diamond mine must help.
Then there is Ollie Lock, a vacuous perma-tanned George of the Jungle -lookalike, if George was an amateur drag queen of no discernable sex. And who could forget the one called Binky, who I’d say was cast as the stupid one — but that would be unduly complimentary toward her co-stars.
People watch soaps like EastEnders or Corrie for a mixture of escapism and to relate to the problems the plotline presents. Yet the makers of this show must think the pseudo-allure of pissing money away on the King’s Road is something to aspire to, because that’s all the characters do. Oh, and they ‘date’ each other and occasionally go clay pigeon shooting.
Not a pheasant in sight. What is billed as a glimpse into the lives of upper-class, well-bred Chelsea residents should be pilloried for false advertising. While the stars of The Only Way is Essex, the slightly chavvier cousin of Made in Chelsea, flaunt their booze-fuelled, plastic, footballers’ wives lifestyle, at least it’s all as obviously fake as their tits and tans. SW1’s answer is just as shallow, though. In case the producers had not noticed, all the Sloane Rangers were priced out of Chelsea years ago. If you want to see tweed jackets at a weekend and girls in pearls, the only way is Battersea these days.
And of the characters’ nocturnal activity? Surely you don’t have to fake a night out? Well, there was a big hoohah when regulars of KR nightspot Raffles saw their favourite dive featured on the show and complained that membership standards were slipping. The club went to great lengths to assure members that they would ‘never allow filming to take place for real. All the scenes were set up.’ The real Chelsea scene has kicked back and the most exclusive venues, especially those frequented by the royals, would never dream of opening their doors to any cameras.
While it would be the kiss of death for Chelsea staples like Maggie’s, Barts and Beaufort House to be featured on the show, other less exclusive venues have seen the pound signs. One pub featured in the show, The Phene, will even make you a Made in Chelsea cocktail.
Everyone’s lives are interesting in theory — even this lot, perhaps. Yet the show is neither an accurate reflection of reality nor an interesting, scripted, study of the human psyche. Instead it manages to flop limply somewhere between the two.
The acting, simply put, is terrible, though even that is not the biggest flaw in the show. The format works; the stars of Geordie Shore are not trying to be somebody else. They do not need to act. The entertainment there is that they are not pretending. In Made in Chelsea, the fact that it’s all a total sham performed by charlatans renders the format pointless.
Just give it a proper script and be done with it. You may recognise the accents, locations, the streets and even the bars, but it is a world away from anything you might describe as reality.