The Only Way IS Essex

ITV 2’s new reality TV show has come under some criticism by commentators for being “moronic” and full of “halfwits”. It was slated by the Metro’s Rachel Tarley for being “the result of a rather deeply regretful one-night stand between Hollyoaks and The Hills.” But quite frankly, I love it!

The reality TV show, presented by local girl Denise Van Outen follows seven young people from Essex whose lives centre on fake tan, clubbing and dating. The opening statement sums the following half hour extremely well, claiming that: “This programme contains flash cars, big watches and false boobs. The tans you see might be fake, but the people are all real, although some of what they do has been set up for entertainment purposes.”

I don’t know about you but I always enjoy it when a TV show claims to have some scenes set up “for entertainment purposes”, it always makes me wonder what really is real or not but also implies it’s going to be more exciting than real life!

But who cares to be honest. It’s not a documentary, we’re not expected to watch it and analyse their every move and every sentence. Its trashy telly; something which you can watch at the end of a long hard day and not have to think too much about. And not having to think too much is evidently an important element to not only the viewers but also the cast!

Hooked

I can’t deny that a few minutes into the first episode I did wonder what I had got myself in for and whether my brain would allow me to continue watching something which I feared would knock out a few brain cells with the drivel the cast were coming out with.

But following similar concepts given to the likes of Hollywood reality shows such as The Hills and Laguna Beach the entire programme became somewhat hypnotic.

I was reminded about the first time I watched The Hills. I was frustrated with people’s names constantly coming up on screen to remind viewers about who was who, and being subsequently irritated by the flow of conversations; how the opening of a scene would often start with “So how do you feel about so and so seeing what’s her face last night?” It was just all so set up and I thought “I can’t watch this, surely not?!”

But I did, I quickly became engrossed in their lives.

And the same thing has happened with The Only Way Is Essex. I find myself wanting to find out whether Lauren would ever be over Mark, whether Amy would ever circum to Kirk’s charm and whether Lola really would make it as a successful girl band.

I don’t know whether it’s a way to forget about life or simply because I like a good gossip (evidently the basis of the show). We all know that reality TV is a great way to escape our own lives. The success of Big Brother just emphasises our interest and nosiness in other people’s lives.

We Love Nanny Pat

For those who don’t know, all the characters are pretty much linked. Firstly there is Mark: the true definitive Essex lad who thinks he’s all that. He drives fast cars, buys expensive accessories and clothes and loves the women.

He was dating Lauren for nine years until a couple of months ago and I’m sure I can speak for every other fan when I say it is pure trashy reality TV show genius when the writers have set up a scenario which places both Lauren and Mark in an awkward situation where, more often than not, Lauren has to watch Mark while he flirts with other girls.

In the most recent episode, the plot thickened when we are shown Lauren interviewing a girl at work who turns out to be Mark’s new girlfriend. I can’t deny I was a little excited when the cameras increased the suspense of later that day when they would all be in the same pub at the same time. I couldn’t help but stay watching to see how it all turned out: listen to Mark’s ridiculous excuses and apologies while Lauren sat there pretending she didn’t care before bursting into tears after he left.

That’s what makes it so captivating. The writers know how to keep their audience. It’s like reading a book which you can’t put down. And yet you feel silly at the same time for wanting to continue watching how their lives will pan out.

And then there’s the blossoming relationship between Amy and Kirk. Although not equally as volatile, vulnerable or susceptible to other people’s interference as Mark and Lauren’s relationship, both characters seem to absorb a certain amount of attention.

I can’t help but wonder whether Amy is actually a beauty therapist as she walks around in an outfit reminiscent of Ann Summer’s “Pamper Parlour” costume, but I think that makes it more fun. I mean she’s as ditsy as ever: an aspiring model, it’s clear she lives up to the stereotype of the dumb Essex girl. Loving all the more makeup, fake tan, false boobs, hair extensions, in fact the faker the better!

And although you want to pull your hair out at some of things she comes out with because you think to yourself,, Oh my goodness just how exactly are you getting by in life when you think like that!? But you can’t help but love her. She’s harmless really, a character similar to Carmel from Hollyoaks: ever so simple but amazingly still ambitious.

But still my favourite character is Mark and Jess’ Nan. I don’t know if I’m just slightly biased after living with an Essex boy who was nonstop talk about his Nan but she’s awesome. It’s so funny when she arrives at Mark’s door with yet another dish of food for him.

I mentioned my housemate from Essex: Marks Nan literally lives up to all expectations and preconceptions I have of my friends Nan. A little old woman, who loves her family and spoils her grandchildren rotten, I can’t help but believe she increases the reality to the show, giving it a slightly different angle to just early 20-year-olds out on the town.

Stereotype

The Telegraph has reported that campaigners have “slammed” the show, claiming that it had undone years of hard work to attempt to rid the county of stereotype.

The national newspaper spoke to Daphne Field, from Essex Women’s Advisory Group who said: ”Not only does it pander to an out-dated clichéd stereotype which we have been desperate to move away from, but it actually perpetuates this myth to impressionable young people. “

But quite frankly I don’t think that matters. Television shows prosper in societies stereotyping of groups of people all the time.

I hate to say it but it’s reality that more often than not gangs in police dramas will be black, teenagers will be naive to life and obsessed with alcohol and sex, while the upper class are written to be snobbish and superior.

That’s life. People accept them and are used to the stereotyping. So why should there be so much controversy over something so menial? I think what makes it more fun is the way which they have conceptualized the true.

Secret Addict

Personally, I have been allured by each and every character. I can understand for most people out there that they may not like the stereotypical airhead “morons”, but just give them a chance.

Why move away from something which is so distinctive in English life. The true Essex girl and boy have always existed and by the looks of things, despite people campaigning in an attempt to move away from preconceptions, you can take the person out of Essex but you can’t take the Essex out of the person.

For me, I can’t wait to find out what happens. Even if it doesn’t live up to the documentaries and serious programs I may be expected to watch I like trashy telly. I think it’s there to take your mind off things. Something to talk about.

And let’s face it, I bet there are plenty of other people who are even wishing to be one of the characters. Reports have shown significant increases on dating websites in searches for Essex boys and girls.

So let’s embrace the reality, be immersed in the writer’s suspense and embrace the story lines and characters, because, when times are hard, you’ve had a long day and just want to escape from the world and thought provoking things, “the only way IS Essex”

About Daisy Bambridge

I am a student at Wesminster University studying a Masters in Broadcast Journalism. I recently graduated from Southampton University after studying Politics and International Relations. I have a strong interest in social issues such as crime,drugs, alcohol, eating disorders. I am also deeply fascinated by terrorism, after the disasters of 9/11, as can be seen in my unergraduate dissertation on anti-terror legislation and human rights.
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1 Response to The Only Way IS Essex

  1. Amy Toolan says:

    I totally agree! Love it too!

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