Thursday, 17 November 2011

The Only Way is Essex - series three review: where is we at?

With the conclusion of the third series of The Only Way is Essex, let's take stock of where we are, shall we  - because don't forget tv-ooh takes all this stuff extremely and very seriously indeed STERN FACE.

This here new tv format - oh how we've grappled with terms such as "structured reality", "reality soap" and "soap done on the cheap" in our search for a meaningful and useful description - has now become established and understood by the masses (that's us, reader, us).

Look at Essex's BAFTA, Essex's various imitators, and now, the commission for four further 10-episode series of Essex to run throughout 2012.

The programme has well and truly arrived - even if its ITV2 audience is still relatively small - and it's arrived just as Mark Wright has left, sobbing like a great big girl.

But what will Mark's departure mean for the show? Will anyone else follow in his footsteps? And how much do we really even care?

Sam Faiers: Possibly leaving, possibly not.
So what about those threats to leave the show then?   

Harry, Arg, Lauren G and Sam are all said to be considering their future on the show. SO WHAT. BIG DEAL. BLOODY WELL LEAVE THEN.

Harry doesn't have much to do now Amy has left, although his dates with Kurt have been amusing; Sam and Arg are both fun but won't have much to do now Mark's left (now that Lydia and Arg have settled down a bit); and, frankly, Lauren G needs some counselling to deal with her unresolved anger about everything. Did you see her kick off at Mark and Sam the other week? And then she had the nerve - the nerve! - to tell Lauren P that she "doesn't have problem with Sam".

If they've got better offers to go and do other stuff, take them. If not, stay where you are and make hay. History tells us the chance of a long and successful tv career are probably quite small, at best.

Essex as 'soap on the cheap'?

What became more noticeable during series three is how much more "set up" the show felt. Of course, it's been this way since episode one, and it's always said as much at the start of every show, but watching Mark's drawn out farewell - long lingering shots at some contrived event or other designed to bring the cast all together in the last third of the episode, him looking sombre on a staircase, and moist eyes all over - it had the production values and appearance of a full-on soap episode, only with a cast who aren't professional actors and who aren't paid very much.

Which I guess is a compliment to the producers, the editors and the cast, if nothing else.

Actual real life ignored in preference to 'constructed' real life?

As discussed here on tv-ooh, with the story about Maria in The Sun and her alleged former life, the real reason Mark left the show is to become a full time celebrity, taking up an offer to appear on ITV1 career-revive-athon I'm A Celebrity.

That's all fine, but in the show he left "to get away from it all" rather than to "pursue a career on the telly". If the show's meant to be about real people in real life, why isn't it informed by what's going on in their real lives, which are now influenced by the fact they're on the telly and have become celebrities (sort of).

Are we meant to conclude that we're seeing "representations" of these people, rather than them "as themselves".

The answer, of course, is yes.

Nanny Pat: Good at ironing
Nanny Pat

Where are her peers? Should she not be at the bingo? Is her role as Wright family matriarch now limited following Mark's absence? Who will do his ironing? Sister Jess is still around, but she's never been as prominent as Mark - although a snog with Joey Essex in the last episode could be an interesting storyline to develop.They could both wear Joey's tiny shorts and go around saying 'reem' a lot.

Other stuff

Gemma's wise and worldly (and tactless) observations - like telling Mario and Lucy to grow up - have won her new fans, and Chloe and her endless pursuit of a fuller pair of buttocks (and describing German food as "filth") should ensure her a place in the show. Sensible and secure Lauren P is often the voice of reason, and Maria and Joey and Kirk are all good to watch.  So that's nice eh.

The point - and there is one - is that most of these were bought in after the first series began, so if those original characters do decide to leave, they'll just be replaced. Mark and his tears, and his curious use of the word "cuddle" over the word "hug", may well be missed on Essex - but he'll likely be all over the telly anyway.

And the show will carry on.


Roll on Essex Christmas special.

Previous related stories:
The Only Way is Essex: Maria's "worst week"; reality redefined (again); and a flppin' colonic for Arg. Give me strength
An inexplicably serious and thoughtful review of The Only Way is Essex series 3 episode 1
Only Way Is Essex: Series two - a verdict: the winners, the losers
Only Way Is Essex - the dumbed down, dumbed down
Only Way Is Essex: Reality/drama hybrid wins heart, confuses mind

1 comment:

  1. It's on its 3rd series? Gawed, that's a sad state of affairs. I'm very proud to say I've not watched one single episode but I've had the misfortune to hear that these non entities have had the temerity to cover Wham's Last Christmas.