So, what are they calling shows like Made In Chelsea and The Only Way Is Essex in Medialand? There must be a collective word for the genre - Babblevision or Souphead Bingo, or some such.
For the uninitiated 1, these shows are basically scripted reality television: like Big Brother, except every scenario onscreen is storyboarded and every emotion or wisecrack is acted out by the fame-hungry amateurs. The characters pretend to go about their daily lives, mugging up for the camera in tones of increasing twattishness, and pretending their way through a series of pre-prepared emotional crises and drunken hijinks in suspiciously well-lit and soundchecked backgrounds.
As entertainment, the genre is somewhere below teeny, melodramatic bonkfest Hollyoaks and a thin sliver above Ow, My Balls! Five minutes of footage would damn an entire generation of media vermin to the Lake of Fire, where they could spend eternity literally shovelling shite for Satan as opposed to the metaphorical shovelling that is their earthly lives. Saint Peter would have to hire a heavenly bulldozer to clear the Pearly Gates of its backlog of ITV producers and Charon the Boatman would have to build himself an armada of cruiseliners to transport them all to the Underworld.
Anyway, there's a long spiel in Private Eye this week railing against the farcically obvious fakeness of MiC and TOWiE, which is a bit like denouncing all the talent shows for being rigged. Speak to anyone who watches these programmes and they admit that yes, they know that every second is fake, before they turn back to their pals to gossip at length about how the stupid one put his foot in it that time when he revealed that blah about arse, and so on.
See, I think the horrified reviewers are missing the point here. The audience know full well that they're watching a fraud, and they don't care - they're willing to suspend disbelief, for entertainment. That's why the shows don't merely clog up their own time slots, but are now selling magazines and chat shows into the bargain.
This doesn't resemble the Big Brother model of shit TV at all. In BB, you knew the contestants were constantly playing up to the cameras, but viewers knew that they weren't being fed all of their lines or faking their emotions too much. MiC and TOWiE are Eastenders or Coronation Street with the added thrill that it's, like, real, even though we all know it's not real.
The proper analogy here is WWF American wrestling. The Ultimate Ballcrusher is pissed at Billy Ray Biceps and the DilDozer, because they teamed up on him in SuperWrestleMania MMMMCMLXXVII. So he's going to get Even, y'all, in the Exploding Cagematch at Super Slamicide Hardcore in Kentucky, but wait! Who's that having a conspiratorial chat with Billy Ray backstage? Why, it's Elvira Irontitties, the Ultimate Ballcrusher's old lady! What could they be cookin' up, d'ya think? 2
And then they hit each other on the head with tables for four hours, in front of a baying audience of slackjawed cretins and sugar-crazed seven-year-olds, and nobody gives a damn whether it's real or not because they've all chewed their giant foam fingers off with the sheer excitement of it all.
Swap that for a Ronsealed woman rattling her veneers at her bullet-headed, brain-donor boyfriend because, like, he was talking to that Shawnessa for like five minutes, and WTF was up with that, and you've got the breakthrough popular entertainment hit of the year.
Now, you may wonder why I think you'd be interested in this stuff. To be honest, I doubt you are, but look at that phrase again - the breakthrough popular entertainment hit of the year. That's no exaggeration, by the way. Where I live, The Only Way Is Essex is the fifth suggested search if you type "The" into Google.
The worrying thing isn't that, ten years from now, practically every show on TV will be ripping off this fuck-awful horror. The real nightmare is that compared to programming ten years from now, these shows are going to look like bloody I, Claudius.
1. Single men, for instance.
2. I'm not exaggerating about wrestling either. Check out the first sixty seconds here. This can't be legal in international rules!