How real is reality TV? Dom Kureen takes a look at how the lines have become blurred since Endemol brought Big Brother kicking and screaming to UK screens at the turn of the Millenium.
The conniving housemate’s best laid plans and schemes had finally unravelled on day 35 of the series, when chief bloodhound (and eventual winner) Craig Phillips tracked the scent that had caused millions of viewers to jab their television screens and scream vicious curse words into thin air for more than a month.
At the time it seemed to matter, with loveable Scouser Craig the perfect foil for dastardly crater-faced villain Nick.
The sense of injustice was raw and authentic, the fact that until then those living at close quarters were unable to recognise the deviant’s mischievous antics only added to the ongoing nationwide exasperation. Tabloids stirred the pot, calling for Bateman to be deported and naming him ‘the most hated man in Britain.’
THE MOST HATED MAN IN BRITAIN!!!
Not a convicted paedophile, a rapist, a murderer, a psychotic vigilante selling Crack-Cocaine to school children – The most hated man in Britain according to the dirt sheets was a 32 year-old dimwit who’d snuck a pen and a few scraps of paper past Channel Four security.
Looking at it now, Nick’s indiscretions wouldn’t even generate a ripple among the needy, ravenous whoring of his reality show contemporaries, who play to cameras like neglected toddlers seeking the recognition of strangers.
What was once a genre grounded in the factual has evolved into a scripted sermon of soap opera rhetoric, aimed at advertising products and getting Twitter trends by promoting the interaction of idiots.
Modification became a necessity, people growing weary of 24-hour feeds dominated by snoozing, mastication and mundane jibber-jabber.
Even the juicy bits were rendered irrelevant by time-delay and on the spot editing, ensuring they were reserved as flesh for the next highlight reel.
Success inevitably spawns imitation. Just as Big Brother and The Real World blazed a trail for Celebrity Love Island and I’m A Celebrity, so The Osbournes unlocked the door for the curiously watchable Hogan Knows Best and worthless What Katie Did Next, the latter of which consisted almost exclusively of the obscenely-norked Katie Price berating her humbled hubby, Peter Andre, whose subdued emasculation led to universal sympathy and an even worse spin-off.
It came full circle at the end of the ‘noughties’, with the rise of exclusively scripted (un)reality TV, where scenes are set up solely for the satiation of a wide-eyed audience.
This all brings us nicely to Made In Chelsea; undoubtedly entertaining in a perverse, barely credible way. A make believe universe revolving around equal parts bitching, fucking, cocktails and cock tales.
The Hello magazine of the small screen, Spencer Matthews and co. proudly parade around South West London, their tail feathers gleaming, with not a hint of tangible hardship or hair out of place within the confines of a painstakingly conceived goldfish bowl.
The appeal lies in the voyeuristic observation of the jet-set lifestyles enjoyed by a gaggle of coiffured rich kids, playing with daddy and mummy’s fortunes, heirs to corporations who share body fluids and Jacuzzis in a state of perpetual down time.
It’s fun, but reality?? The veneers that adorn the collective cast’s faces are less phoney than the narratives that play out, act by act, for the consumption of long distance rubberneckers.
Even so, SW3’s brand of entertainment is indisputably several notches above the brainless ‘Real Housewives of…’ franchise and retains a modicum of value courtesy of engaging caricatures and slick presentation.
The continued saturation of the reality genre necessitates an amplification of salacious, unfeasible concepts to provide shock value, the lifeblood of these productions for over a decade now.
A childish public school graduate scribbling names onto scrunched up A5 crescents torn from a notepad no longer gratifies the lust of devotees, numbed by years of smut, hyperbole and recurring adaptations of good Vs evil.
In 2016 reality TV is a three dimensional comic book, ideal for pickling the psyche and providing aesthetically captivating colour schemes. For Gotham, Keystone and Metropolis read Chelsea, Essex and, until recently, the Jersey shore.
How much further can the envelope be nudged? Only time will tell. For the next clutch of fame-hungry wannabes and gluttonous fans nothing seems taboo.
Prepare not to be shocked… in the most shocking way possible.