I must be a sucker for punishment. As much as I might enjoy occasionally dipping my toe into the shallow waters of trash TV, the prospect of sitting through yet another scripted reality show, featuring an all-new cast of vacuous attention-hogs, fills me with dread. It seems as though every few weeks, a new one pops up on the EPG, like malignant melanomas on a sunbather’s neck.
This time around we're visiting Merseyside, to check in with another gaggle of fame-hungry wannabes. Why Liverpool? Well, I guess ‘Scouse’ lends itself more easily to punning titles than Aberystwyth. It also helps that the 'Pool is packed to the rafters with wannabe WAGs, models and stylists, all keen to elevate their 'minor local celebrity' status into something more durable.
With the stars of Made in Chelsea clopping over the horizon in their expensive shoes, and Mark Wright currently checking himself for ticks in the Australian jungle, the coast is clear for these new kids up on blocks (well, it is Liverpool after all) to take their turn in front of the cameras. Coming up in the next hour of ‘Desperate Scousewives’, we'll be meeting a couple of self-important bloggers, a gay 'power couple', the cousin of Abbey Crouch and a glamour model. Exciting times.
The name of the show is the only remotely creative thing about the whole enterprise, but even that falls apart when the opening credits begin. See, none of them are wives, and they’re clearly about as domesticated as a pack of feral dogs roaming a sink-estate. But that title has to be explained, so they’ve been dressed from the seconds bin of Ann Summers, and given a range of domestic cleaning utensils to brandish seductively. It does nothing for me, but I bet Ken Dodd’s got a rager.
Later, Jodie complains to a loaf of Boswells (I believe that’s the correct collective noun) that in London, people thought she was Lady Gaga
Might as well start as we mean to go on, with a grating voiceover that’s like being kicked in the ear by a pantomime horse. This is Jodie, and she’s singing the praises of her home city, calling out all the things it’s renowned for, including “muzackhhhh, geyerrrls and billdins.” Jodie’s been away from the ‘Pool for too long, and now she’s back to stake her claim on the city. Her hair is whiter than Donnie Osmond, and the giant gold CND earrings seem like a last minute choice. But she gamely stands at the top of the steps outside the train station and bellows “Liverpool, I’m back”. It’s met with utter disinterest, except for one off-screen voice that mumbles “Gizzakiss.”
Later, Jodie complains to a loaf of Boswells (I believe that’s the correct collective noun) that in London, people thought she was Lady Gaga. Here in Liverpool, “No-one bats an eyelid”. That’s because they can’t – their lashes are simply too heavy. Undeterred by her hometown’s indifference, Jodie declares that she’s back in the ‘Pool to “smash it”. After one too many close-ups, I’m putting in money on the fact that the only thing likely to be smashed will end in seven years’ bad luck.
With our intermittent narrator now introduced, it’s time to meet the local (or not that local, seeing as he sounds like he’s from Rochdale) bad-boy. Joe’s a player (we know this because every time he’s mentioned, someone points that out) and serial heart breaker. He’s currently trying to kick out Layla, having given her “a go” on his bed. Layla struggles gamely with one of the most artificial scenes I’ve ever seen on any of these shows, managing to muster a half-hearted sadface after Joe offers to walk her down to the cab he’d already called.
She’s left to stand on the street corner, all fur coat and no knickers – probably because they’re tucked behind Joe’s headboard. In a rare occurrence for one of these show, Layla finds herself with no-one to talk to, so she breaks the fourth wall and talks to the camera crew. She’s actually quite pretty, but her sullen demeanour makes her look like a depressed Thundercat. I shall call her Whine-O.
She’s left to stand on the street corner, all fur coat and no knickers – probably because they’re tucked behind Joe’s headboard
To perk things up a bit, we cut away to Amanda and Chloe, who are out for a bit of early morning shopping with their hair in giant soup-can rollers. I imagine they’re supposed to be famous, so a couple of bystanders are goaded into approaching them for a photo with the opening line "We've seen all your modelling work and we think you're great." Remember the introductory voiceover that warned some of these scenes have been set up for out entertainment? I think this may be one of them. The two girls are browsing a dress shop, speaking in little four syllable bursts, every one of which? Goes up at the end? Like a question? But not really?
As Layla waits for her cab, another car whizzes past containing Elissa and Jaiden. She’s a ‘respected professional journalist’ and he’s the self-confessed ‘bitchiest blogger in Britain’. During the show, it emerges that Jaiden’s catchphrase is “I’m not being funny”. Having looked at his blog, I’m happy to confirm that fact. Since the two of them spend their days commenting on the other cast members, I suppose they’re our unofficial Greek chorus. Although I don’t recall Sophocles ever writing “Your hair extensions are shit.”
Jodie is now interviewing for a salon job with Mark and Chris. According to the show’s official website, Chris says "I think as a couple we will become a Power Couple. We have a positive image to promote amongst the gay community and hopefully help people who are yet to come out.” Someone should probably tell him that it takes more than a pocket-sized dog and a terraced house to be a ‘power couple’. In the only amusing exchange in the whole hour, Mark tells Jodie “We’re really looking at anal bleaching”, to which she responds with “That's a bit Hollywood isn't it. We're only in Anfield." She’s got a point, I can see plenty of orange twats, but not a single pasty arsehole.
In an effort to demonstrate her styling skills, Jodie gives a model what she calls ‘Scouse Eyebrows’ which end up looking like two strips of B-road running across the poor girl’s face. The boys don’t look too impressed, probably because the whole thing played out like a sketch on Russ Abbot’s Madhouse.
She’s got a point, I can see plenty of orange twats, but not a single pasty arsehole.
As the episode progresses, we realise that all of these characters are going to be attending the Juice FM Annual Style Awards. Perhaps there’s a new category for services to leopard print, in which case they’re all in with a shot. Even the boys. The editors insist on cutting back and forth between a bunch of people who all look the same, drinking Cava in push-up bras. I was going to laboriously describe each of these scenes, but it’d be even more boring to read than it was to sit through. So instead, let me tell you a story about the glory days of advertising.
Back in the 1960s, advertisers came up with a simple formula for selling products to housewives. The ads usually involved two women – an idiot, and the smarter neighbour who was here to show her the error of her ways, thanks to some miraculous new product. In advertising shorthand, this set-up was known as ‘Two cunts in a kitchen’, often abbreviated to 2Cs-in-a-K. Perhaps taking its cues from this tried and tested concept, Desperate Scousewives shows us 2Cs-in-a-bedroom, 2Cs-in-a-dress-shop, 2Cs-in-a-bar and 2Cs-in-a-hotel. It’s a shame they didn’t team up with QVC – a couple of product demos and they could have cleaned up. The only bright spot in these endless scenes of two women talking about bugger all, is when glamour model Amanda shows Chloe her sexy new calendar: “Ooh, how many pages are there?” asks her clueless protégé.
The less said about the ‘awards show’ the better, since it’s the least convincing event since Dale Winton married Nell McAndrew. The only people who seem to arrive are cast members of the show, and the two ‘paparazzi’ photographers look as though they’re probably on E4’s payroll. Meanwhile, our roving reporters Elissa and Jaiden hang out in the doorway snarking to people’s faces. Elissa says she’s waiting for “real celebrities”, so I hope she’s got thermals on under that green sack of a dress. She could be in for long night.
In a lazy attempt to initiate some fireworks, Elissa confronts Joe about their troubled history and Debbie makes a move on hotel magnate George. He tells her his family owns the Hilton hotel, but his last name is Panayiotou, so something doesn’t add up. Not to worry, I doubt Debbie does either.
The final scenes involve Amanda tackling Jaiden for his bitchy tweets about her. She tells Chloe she’s going to give him a piece of her mind, but I’m not sure she’s got enough to spare. “End of story,” she boldly declares, and I can’t help wishing that someone would. She and Jaiden argue about who ranks lower in the celebrity universe, accusing each other of being Z-list. In all honesty, neither of them even rank on the English alphabet. If there’s a celebrity list where these two belong, I think it starts with a Wingding.
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