Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors
Paddy Duffy

GET UPDATES FROM Paddy Duffy

Why TV Needs a Serious Reality Check

Posted: 05/09/11 00:37

Bookending as it does a massive amount of satellite TV ad breaks, it's pretty hard to avoid the fact that the inexplicably bare-chested lads and vamped up dolly birds of Geordie Shore went on holiday to Spain. The mariachi band playing I Predict A Riot en Español is also a helpful hint to decipher what's going on.

Geordie Shore is but the latest in a long line of televised regional case studies showing how crap the world is. It acts as a northern counterweight to the bewilderingly popular The Only Way Is Essex and the palpably odious Made In Chelsea, which in turn owes their existence to the American monstrosities The Hills and Jersey Shore. As propagating cartoonish stereotypes for cynical commercial gain is worth mega bucks these days, small wonder MTV are milking their Newcastle cash cows for all its worth by sending them to Magaluf.

I feel bad for the cast, if that's the right word to use for a people involved in a show of this genre, of Geordie Shore for a number of reasons. First off, people from Tyneside acting up abroad has already been done incredibly well in Auf Wiedersehen Pet, and secondly they're basically the modern day equivalent of Wild West saloon varmints who dance while cowboys fire shots at their shoes. But, the fact they're being exploited as a set-piece to be laughed at is mitigated and even drowned out by their notoriety. The lay of the land now is such that fame is the Holy Grail, and the method of getting that fame is irrelevant. Now more than ever TV producers have a duty to counteract that notion, but they're doing the opposite.

In that context you can't really blame the Geordies for revelling in the attention lavished upon them for doing things they'd likely be doing anyway, but egging them on whether explicitly or implicitly to be as daft and anarchic as possible in the name of ratings is not something responsible programme makers ought to do. Furthermore, they should have enough pride about their work and concern for the people giving them their ratings to care about the difference between being laughed with and laughed at.

The sad thing is that you get the impression the likes of Shore's gobby heart of gold Vicky Pattison or TOWIE's modern day Eliza Doolittle Amy Childs could become stars under any context, but the context in which they have is so appallingly dull, a preposterous carousel of real people pretending to be natural. So, while BBC 4 has the sword of Damacles hovering overhead, other stations are raking it in featuring boozy people copping off with each other and placing jewels on ladybits. And, as long as they rake it in, they'll keep making more shows like Walsall's Wealthiest Wags or Belfast Nights: Get 'Er Bucked, the stars of which will then get picked up as fodder for the sixth series of Celebrity Pissing About A Camera-Laden House, and as long as they do they'll have an queue of new wannabes waiting to take part once people get tired of Jay and Greg's weightlifting nous.

The most terrifying thing about all this though isn't even the shows' popularity or the massive eventual fall some of the protagonists are set up for, but the influence the kinds of shows are exerting. Back Stateside where the contagion started, Audrina Partridge of The Hills fame could likely get Monkey Tennis commissioned, while Jersey Shore's Snooki found a sympathetic body in Senator John McCain over the issue of tanning bed tax. She also, somehow, got herself a book deal. And just to rub salt in the wound Anne Hathaway, whom I love an awful lot for someone I haven't met, claimed "when I saw Snooki, I saw my twin". When a vacuous oompa loompa has the ear of former Presidential candidates, gets to write books, charms Hollywood darlings and has me talking more like Mary Whitehouse than I'm comfortable with, something is horribly, horribly wrong.

One of the most important things anybody can have is aspiration, an ambition to do something significant with their life, for them and hopefully for other people. Television wields enormous power in how those ambitions and aspirations are shaped through the role models it places front and centre on our screens. With that in mind, consider the fact the following made it on to Vicky's biography on the Geordie Shore website:

"Vicky likes to look and feel good and takes a lot of pride in her body. Her only beauty flaw is a missing patch of hair where a girl pulled out her extensions during a scrap."

When a paragraph like that becomes a selling point, it may be time for a rethink.

 

Follow Paddy Duffy on Twitter: www.twitter.com/@PaddyDuffy