As I sat having a cuppa with friends the other day, watching our kids play in the garden, the subject turned to TOWIE - The Only Way Is Essex, for those of us not in the know.
I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s the show which, if I’m honest I still don’t really get; a strange combination of soap opera and reality TV that has propelled a whole new generation of fake tanned, big-breasted, loud-mouthed and low-moralled people into the spotlight.
After a few minutes spent dissecting the latest happenings of TOWIE, the conversation turned to The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, and then to Geordie Shore.
I couldn’t comment because I’ve never seen so much as an episode. Not interested. I love these friends, but I genuinely believe shows like this represent a declining society. They place on a pedastal everything that is wrong with our twenty and thirty-something generation - and this is coming from someone who is still OF that generation. And yet they are everywhere.
I remember a time before reality TV. Do you?
When the very first Big Brother came out 15 years ago, we all sat glued to our TVs to see this strange social experiment - that’s how it was promoted - play out live on air. It was like nothing we’d ever seen, no scripts, no characters, just real people like you and I.
Today, reality TV seems to have taken over and, with it, created a whole new sub-species of celebrity - the Reality TV Celeb. Which, let’s be fair, is no celeb at all. These people haven’t done anything, haven’t achieved anything. They have no talent to speak of and nothing I can see that deserves our celebration.
And yet everywhere I look, one or the other of them is popping up, as the presenter of a new show, or in the Strictly Come Dancing ballroom. We can watch them eating disgusting things and degrading themselves in the jungle; or see them getting drunk and bitching about each other, all in the name of entertainment. We can even - for those who’ve tuned into Gogglebox - sit in front of the TV and watch them...sitting in front of the TV.
And just what message are these ‘role models’ - who grace every magazine cover - sending to our children? That wearing revealing outfits and getting drunk is a good way to get attention? That there’s no need to work hard to improve your mind or build your character, you’re better off spending that time in the gym working on your body, because that’s what people really care about?