I had my very first brush with Essex yesterday. Not literally of course- I’ve been there a number of times. But never have I come across people quite like some of the characters encountered in the modern phenomenon that is The Only Way is Essex.
Until now I’ve managed to avoid TOWIE. Not actively but it just never seemed to be on when I was watching TV.
But after having seen the faces of the TOWIE gang all over the media recently I was interested to see what it was really like.
The first thing that struck me was that it was a bit weird. I had read an article previously explaining that it was ‘structured reality’, reinforced by Denise Van Outen reading a disclaimer at the beginning…very…slowly… to make sure we understood that certain events were manipulated for ‘our entertainment’. So basically, although it’s based on their real lives, a lot of it staged.
The result of this is something that feels like a soap opera with really bad actors. Many of them are inhibited and wooden in the presence of the cameras, with some very unnatural conversations taking place, in particular the talks between twins, Dino and Georgio about their plan for getting girls. Another highlight was Nanny Pat’s ‘surprised’ face and less-than-convincing ‘NO?!’ when she heard of Mark’s plan to stay celibate for two whole weeks.
Despite this there are some interesting characters and some of them are very likeable. The laddish, almost disturbingly close relationship between best mates Arg and Mark was funny, as was the dialogue between Kirk and Joey Essex.
Kirk seemed very patient with his friend as Joey made a series of pea-brain observations ‘omg, my brake lights are the same as yours! They’re red as well!’ and ‘Nah people called William aren’t called Bill. That’s people called Billiam,’ as well as asking ‘what’s horsepower?’ and replying ‘really?’ when Kirk joked there were tiny horses in his boot.
Actually, as much as his idiotic comments made me laugh, I did find it a bit worrying that anyone could be so ignorant.
The girls were less appealing. Lydia seemed sweet and was the only one who appeared to have a human face rather than a mask of makeup. The others had slathered it on with a trowel and were living, breathing stereotypes of The Essex Girl. They were pleasant enough but only really seemed to talk earnestly about relationships and in the irritating Gemma Collins’ case, weight-loss. Now Amy Childs has gone there wasn’t even mention of a vajazzle…which on balance I think I’m pleased about.
All in all, I found the programme puzzling. I didn’t not enjoy it, but I wouldn’t say I’d watch again. Not enough happens considering it’s manipulated to be more exciting, yet because it’s been messed with it seems very fake.
Having said that, I can see why it’s done well, as some of the people in it are quite engaging and likeable. They’re certainly better than the cold, Sloane-ish types appearing in Made in Chelsea, even if that lot are less orange.
They know there other ways ‘than Essex’, but maybe they’re less fun.