Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Staged In Chelsea

I can't really comment on Made In Chelsea as I haven't seen it, but I'm not entirely sure I will ever see it, and if I don't watch it then I think it will be hard for me to review it with any authority (although by no means impossible given that, as a pop journalist, I managed to review several hundred films and albums without ever seeing them or listening to them. I also 'wrote' a lot of interviews without actually speaking to the celebrity in question, and put together countless horoscope and problem pages despite never having been an astrologer or an agony aunt. I don't even have any siblings and was unmarried, so any readers who checked up on my background could have established fairly quickly that the chances of me being an aunt were slim to none. I suppose I do have some experience of agony. But these are stories for another time).

ANYWAY. This is not a review of Made In Chelsea. It is more a series of concerns.

First of all: I do not understand this new genre of programming, which seems to have been spearheaded by, I believe, The Hills in the US, and is now sweeping our weak-willed nation in the form of The Only Way Is Essex and the aforementioned Made In Chelsea. I watched about ten minutes of TOWIE a few months ago, and just couldn't get a grip. Fiction, I get: ideally, some clever people sit around in a room and construct a narrative storyline with which to entertain or educate their audience. Then they turn the storyline into a tightly-woven script. Then actors learn the words and, with the help of a director, interpret them for our viewing pleasure. We are given an elaborately-constructed tale and we are free to enjoy it as we wish. Then there is reality TV. I get that too: at its best, some clever people come up with a format and then invite a selection of the general public to appear in front of the camera for us to watch. Programmes in this genre can entertain and inform (Big Brother, C4's The Family), challenge popular conceptions (Wife Swap), or just feed our obsession to see celebrities humiliate themselves while we use our button-pushing power to decide who has to eat maggots (I'm A Celebrity: Get Me Out Of Here). Like it or not, reality TV has been an extraordinarily successful shift in the way we make and consume television, and it's here to stay.

But TOWIE and MIC aren't fiction. And they're not reality. They're exaggerated versions of real people, in staged situations. It's like a fictional series, but with untrained actors. And I just don't get it. In typical Six Degrees of Private Education fashion, several people in the choir with which I sing have firsthand connections with the poshoes in MIC. One of them has been asked by the production team to supply a list of handsome gay male model types, so that the show's Ollie (who somehow has a girlfriend but is clearly gay) can come out with one of them in a future show. From what I'm told, there is no way his 'girlfriend' seriously believes he's straight, nor that he loves her. It is all just an act. But there's the rub: these people can't act. Watching TOWIE was excruciating - not because of the people or the storylines, but because it was sub-Neighbours. The script was rubbish - because there wasn't one. The acting was rubbish - because they're not acting. But all the oh-my-god, I-can't-believe-he-really-said-that shocks that come from reality TV was missing too, because it's not really real. It seems like the worst of all worlds.

Still, people seem to love watching these over-wealthy twenty-somethings blowing their inheritance in south west London. My friend Lucy last night had tears of laughter in her eyes as she ramped up her posh accent and did an impression of Ollie talking to a group of his friends at a dinner party. "Guys, yah? As you all know, it's my BUTHday next week, yah? And I thought, why don't we all do something CRAZY, yah? Like, let's go skiing?" And I get that that is agonising. I get that these crazy rich young people are jaw-droppingly clueless, and that they live on another planet and that that's possibly funny. But the fake-real issue ruins it for me. Because if the setting is a set-up, then what they're saying's probably fake too, and thus we're laughing at people who are pretending to be bigger idiots than they actually are, because reality's not good enough, and no one would believe it if it was totally acted. Sounds lame to me. Might watch the next one though.

In other news, a glitsch (read: MASSIVE COCK-UP) by Blogger last week appears to have reset every single Show Me You Love Me box at the bottom of my blogs (except those I've posted post-glitsch) to a count of one. This disappoints me. And of course, I can tell you about it now, Faithful, and you might be able to let it slide, but what about all the millions of new visitors I will get in future, who perhaps won't read this particular paragraph, but go instead directly to entries I wrote pre-wipeout? They will think that only one person enjoyed what I wrote enough to depress their index finger on their left mouse button, thus clicking a checkbox and making me unbelievably happy. They will then, naturally, conclude that I am a CRAP WRITER. Which is so annoying. I HATE that a total stranger who I will probably never meet will think that about me. OUTRAGEOUS. HOW DARE S/HE. S/HE MUST LOVE ME.

The only solution I can find that will compensate for this lost data and subsequent negative fallout is for Blogger to give me one million pounds. Failing that, I think Blogger should put a disclaimer at the top of each of my affected posts, saying "At the bottom of this entry by Lost Looking For Fish, you will find a checkbox that allows readers to demonstrate that the words above had bought them some pleasure, or, at the very least, not caused them discomfort. Many hundreds of people had ticked the box. However, due to us being really really bad at our jobs in mid-May 2011, the data was lost, and, by the time you read this, it is likely that the count of people who have ticked the box appears to be a measley 'one'. We humbly inform you that this single box-tick is a technical error and is in no way an accurate reflection of the standard of Lost Looking For Fish. We are well aware that this incident will impact negatively on your reading experience: after all, no sane person wants to read an unpopular blog entry. For this, we apologise unreservedly. Please be assured that Lost Looking For Fish is one of the most entertaining and important blogs in the Blogger canon. We hope you enjoy the rest of your reading experience. Best wishes, the Blogger Support Team." That or a million pounds, Blogger - which is it to be?


  1. Emily A16:45

    Love "Six Degrees of Private Education." Although somehow I doubt its very often as many as six...

  2. Hannah09:06

    If I have an incredibly boring day at work any time soon I'll go through and re-click that I didn't hate previous posts. I might even comment whenever there's only one, just to get rid of the "1 ... were ..."

  3. @Emily - ha, yes, too true. ;-)

    @Hannah - thank you! You are truly a supreme member of the Faithful and an OCD Queen of Syntax.

  4. Gilly14:10

    I TOTALLY concur on the non-fiction-non-reality programme genre. I have not watched any of these programmes - and cannot, for this very reason. Even the concept upsets me. And you articulate my sentiments so well.

    PS I don't hate any of your posts but rarely check the box. I will from now on, if it makes you feel better/loved.

  5. ALWAYS TICK THE BOX. Thank you.