TV: The Changing Shape of Reality TV


There’s a new craze of docu-soaps sweeping the nation. Made In Chelsea and Geordie Shore are now joined by Welsh equivalent The Valleys on ITV. God help us, says Caitlin Williams.

Love them or hate them, these shows are huge. They are loud, brash and often ridiculous, but alongside this, highly entertaining, especially with the incestuous love triangles that keep viewers hooked.

There is however, a serious question of how beneficial they are for the UK. Do they just encourage people to spend too much time anxting over fashion, foundation and fake boobs?

Since The Only Way is Essex’s orange entry onto our screens, the national economy has seen a surprising boost; the programme apparently generated £1.4 billion pounds last year. There has been an increase in the sales of everything fake, from tan and nails to eyelashes and many other surgeries besides. The show has also rapidly increased sales of intriguing body arts such as the ‘vajazzle’, by a whopping 400%. It is, though, not just women being influenced by the flashy lifestyles of these reality television cast members. In a bid to become more like Joey Essex there has been a surge in sales of men’s designer clothes and accessories, as well as ‘luxury’ recreational activities such as golf or spa membership.

Featured haunts of the programmes ‘it’ groups have also benefitted from their popularity. A rush of fans wanting to drink the same Chelsea iced-tea as Spencer Matthews or buy the same figure-hugging dress as Amy Childs in a little boutique run by the Faiers sisters, have descended upon Brentwood and Chelsea. In Newcastle this has been called the ‘Geordie Shore effect’, and in particular has led to more visitors to Whitley Bay, the Northumberland seaside resort pitched by producers as the unlikely equivalent of America’s Jersey Shore than ever before. Don’t even think of naturally acquiring a tan though; the only things gained here would be hypothermia and perhaps a nasty sexual disease. You’ve been warned.

But can these influences really be said to benefit our society? I’d rather not see drunken Geordie Shore lookalikes with their knickers out and skin the colour of Mark Wright, or an army of Joey Essexs in ankle watches. But when these programmes have proved to be so popular, it seems a consequence we might have to get used to. This is even more the case in a shoddy economic climate where people can only afford to stay in and watch TV. As the nights get darker, I for one am looking forward to finding out whether Binky and Jamie will finally become ‘Jinky’, and if the Geordie Shore cast will ever just have a quiet night in. But I’ll be doing this with one big difference: never, will I ever, be persuaded to get a vajazzle.


The Valleys is on MTV at 10pm.

Words: Caitlin Williams

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