Structured (or scripted) reality TVshowsPost modern mediaMarch 2012
What is ‘The Only Way is Essex’?✤ It follows the lives of people who live in Essex and the stereotypes that exist - boob jobs, Botox, stilettoes, Harvester restaurants, fake tan, and rose wine. “Oh My God” and “Giving it large”.✤ “For those of you who haven’t treated yourselves to a night basking in its trashy glow Essex…is like a poorly acted Hollyoaks that purports to be real. It focuses on the glamorous and tempestuous lives of a group of twenty-something ‘friends’ as they glide through club nights, pub lunches and vajazzles (don’t ask). It sounds terrible, hell, it is terrible. But absolutely compulsive. Like a giant glittering pink car crash it is impossible to look away. I confess further: I watch this programme religiously.”✤ Nadia Ramoul✤ Middlebrowmagazine
ITV✤ Claire Zolkwer, ITVs commissioning editor for entertainment, said: "As a commissioner, the holy grail is a new genre – something that is channel- deﬁning and ground-breaking; and on ITV2, it had to be brash too in order to punch through the terrestrial channels.✤ "We worked with the production company to hatch a plan that would borrow from many genres and it eventually became a hybrid, as I see it, of drama, reality and comedy. The comedy/ warm angle was so important."✤ "These shows work best when you have a tribe of people who are rooted in one geographical location and already know each other. Its the opposite of Big Brother where you threw together a group of strangers and hope that they form relationships."
The Only Way is Essexhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vfd6tVqCS5s&feature=fvwrel✤ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EsVO1hsrOnIhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_vTzuZk1OHA&feature=relmfuhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nog7ldxYnSM&feature=related
Is it fake?✤ Structured reality means that whilst locations and scenarios are set-up by the shows producers, the interaction between the cast is apparently real.✤ The show cheerfully acknowledges that scenes are set up, with locations often moved for the beneﬁt of the cameras. So are these shows simply as fake as Lauren Goodgers tan?✤ "Well steer the characters to certain places. Before the cameras roll well say remember to ask what happened last night," said a producer. "In the edit, Ill cut words out of sentences to make it more writerly and give it that soap opera quality. But we dont make anything happen that they dont want to happen. The emotional narrative is real.✤ The show itself averages viewing ﬁgures of 1.5 million on ITV2 at 10pm with another 0.5M watching online.
Is it fake?✤ However the shows popularity has led to questions over whether the relationships on screen are real or not.✤ Mark Wright has denied his relationship with fellow cast member Lauren Goodger is strictly for the cameras. He said: "All the storylines are real. Mine and Laurens relationship is certainly not fake. "Weve been together for 10 years - on and off. And weve only been on the TV for the last eight months." Lauren added: "The show wouldnt allow a fake relationship.✤ "If we went to the producers and said, Were going to get together for fake, they would say, Were not interested.
What is its genre?✤ It is a work of bricolage, taking elements from a number of shows so that it is an eclectic mix of genres.✤ It is part documentary✤ Part constructed (set up) reality TV✤ Part soap opera✤ Part comedy✤ It is known as structured reality so in essence a reality comedy docu-soap much like Ladette to Lady or My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding or Made in Chelsea or The Trip.
Why is it post modern?✤ It is self reﬂective in that the contributors are very knowingly part of the process of making the TV programme and refer to their knowledge of the process of TV production throughout. Cast members also break the fourth wall by talking to camera, reference the fact that their roles are structured and argue about the relative (or not) importance of each character in relation to another.✤ At one point someone says about Lauren’s friend being “shut up, you’re just an extra” to another contributor, implying they are in on the fact that the stars of the shows partly put on an act.✤ Hyper-real interactions and scenarios are playing out by exaggerated characters. they play up to the camera and exaggerated their language, behaviour and actions as a camera is following them. They are aware possibly that the more sensational exploits will be the ones that will be edited in.
Conclusion: how post modern is‘The only Way is Essex’…✤ It is very relevant and current new type of genre that is post modern because it’s:✤ a work of bricolage✤ hyper-conscious✤ self reﬂective✤ breaks the fourth wall✤ blurs reality and ﬁction. Simultaneously accepts and resists that it is a work of ﬁction. Characters are over the top and uncannily real yet utterly constructed at the same time.
Other constructed reality series:Desperate Scousewives✤ Desperate Scousewives is positioned somewhere between soap opera and documentary; this TV series "scripted reality" follows the same popular, hybrid genre as "The Only Way Is Essex" and "Made In Chelsea."✤ The notion of the intersection of "time" and "space" is at work here: its "space" is recognisably Liverpool and it is edited as if it is in "real" time, when it didnt happen in real time.✤ Have fun spotting its post modern features, includes the playful irony of its derivative title.✤ The programmes fakeness in its representation of reality is richly evident. its "constructedness" is ever-present: its stilted, self-conscious dialogue is amusing because it is so prefabricated; every aspect of its "characters" appearance, right down to its female players eyelashes is false. The shows women look, and behave, like Barbi Dolls. Stereotyping between the sexes is extreme: the men "really" are from Mars and the women seemingly from Venus. Their "characters" are as stereotypical as those who used to feature in Striker, a comic strip on a promiscuous footballer from a well-known tabloid newspaper.
The Trip✤ Why do you think its post modern?http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YWXMFWox3Bw&feature=relatedhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFIQIpC5_wYhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZmKvavJjAPQ&feature=relmfuhttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NWLBEm3dV9w&feature=related✤