My obsession with reality telly, specifically Made In Chelsea, is deemed a bit...unseemly in certain circles. There's a horrible, horrible recession. If you're a woman, a poor person or a poorly person, you've never had it so bad, and things are getting worse. We should be up chimneys, raising awareness, or putting on benefit concerts for gaggles of urchins, or making banners that read "Big society? More like pig society, David Ham-eron" and staging searing musical versions of Animal Farm. Admitting that you like to watch posh people snogging and going to lovely parties is akin to turning up to a local council meeting with a massive bag made out of conflict diamonds and swan, and then eating the lining.
But I do. I love Caggie and Millie and Binkie and Cheska and Ollie and Proudlock and their mates. I even have a soft spot for Rosie the reality villain. (I'm sure she's a lovely lady in real life, but in front of the cameras she's Jafar in a gilet.) They are real, and they are un-real. They have what Julian Fellowes calls "the patina of wealth" - their teeth, hair and shoes are so shiny that when you catch sight of them in the street, they look as bright, beautiful and unexpected as Jessica Rabbit, like gorgeous cartoons lighting up the grey streets. But they fight, fall in love, go on holiday, go to the supermarket, dream of what can't be, hold down jobs, go to meetings, over - accessorise and attempt to achieve a personal best record for the number of marshmallows that can be stuffed in a mouth at any one time - in other words, they're just like us. In the scripted reality world, situations are enhanced and manipulated, but there's a truth to them. It's reality +1.
I'm not the sole champion of the Chelsea set. During the last series, viewing figures were getting on for a million per episode. For friends in their twenties and thirties, giggling along with MIC is a solidly middle class guilty pleasure and passtime. Teenage fans adore the plotlines and the sheer stylishness of the show, and as someone who cut my journalistic teeth on a teen mag, I know that when the youth comes to the thing you have built, it won't be long until the rest of the world follows.
If you're looking for adolescent role models, SW3 is a pretty good place to start your search. Admittedly, it's that bit easier to get a job at a hedge fund when your Dad is or knows a hedge fund manager - but the cast are all career minded. Jewellery designer Amber Atherton may know a bit about the "right" and "wrong" beaches in Ibiza (presumably the "wrong beaches" have no sea, sand or ice cream), but anyone involved in the jewellery trade will be familiar with the business end of a welder's mask. When he's not "doing biker or Valentino" chic, Mark Francis is flaunting a serious set of linguistic skills. Rosie and Louise are academics, Caggie and Gabriella play instruments, Francis, Richard and Jamie all have their own businesses and Millie the heiress has done work experience at a fashion magazine. I've done work experience at a fashion magazine. It's hard. If you can spend your days covered in dust, coffee burns and paper cuts and still smile for the camera at the end of it, you will go far professionally.
All "get on your bike" chat aside, these are people whose sweet, straightforward moral values make them decent sources of inspiration for the kids. If you lie, cheat on your girlfriend or do something horribly selfish, it will catch up with you - and you'll look like an idiot. Friends come first, hard work is rewarded and I have a fairly shonky theory that connects follicle volume with the content of one's character. (The sleeker your hair, the more likely you are to steal people's boyfriends and run around spreading lies and sadness, as pungent and poisonous as a cloud of supermarket perfume.) Millie was messed about with by dandified dastard Hugo, and give or take a martini to the face, she handled the horridness with dignity, and not that many months later is crazy in love with her pop star boyfriend. Jamie "Biscuits" Laing has a terrible business idea and is told not to bother his bank manager with it, but instead of giving up, he works harder and then gets the go ahead.
Sometimes it's easy to laugh at the MIC cast - but it's just as easy to laugh with them. And with winter coming, I can't think of a cheerier way to spend my Monday nights. If you're on Twitter, you should definitely watch and join the pardy. Think of it as a BYOB trip to Boujis where you can wear your slippers.Suggest a correction