‘Hey, you’re a twenty-something young unprofessional, come watch the latest series of this hilarious reality show whilst you cry into your ready meal for one.’ I’m going to let you in on a secret; when we talk about reality TV shows, we actually mean staged programmes involving real people with too little talent to act, chosen instead on their ability to fulfil a stock character role and slur/ swear (delete as appropriate) their way through planned situations.
Phew. Now you’re up to speed. The best of all these reality shows returned to MTV this week: Geordie Shore.
When the channel finally stopped letting Kerry Katona loose in her local crack den and tired of trying to relaunch Lisa Scott Lee’s “career”, they faced quite the reality show conundrum. Looking stateside at what MTV USA offered in the way of reality shows, it would have be more than a challenge to try and replicate them. Cribs would never really work on this side of the pond – no one wants to follow Jessie J round her Dalston studio flat whilst her facial features get in an argument with each other. Similarly, Teen Mom is already a long-running feature on ITV: The Jeremy Kyle Show.
So imagine the sheer ecstasy of producers when an unpaid intern took a break from stock-checking the post-it notes to say ‘what about making Jersey Shore in Newcastle? Call it Geordie Shore’. Sweet heavens, they must have had both their lunch and travel expenses paid in reward.
So off MTV went to round-up their plucky cast of budding thespians. That was ‘thespians’ not lesbians, put your tongue away Gary. *Tusk*, what is he like, eh? Gary was hired as the alpha male of Geordie Shore. According to the show’s opening credits he should have a degree in pulling women. Would that be BA or BSc? He’s the kind of loveable rogue that men want to be and women want to be in them.
Gary is actually a refreshing contrast to the alpha males of other reality shows. Take Spencer “Spenny” from Made in Chelsea. His turn on the show has proved that he received his honours degree in ‘How to dress like an Eton graduate working part-time as a JLS backing-dancer’. Potentially with a minor in ‘Items the T-Birds sent back.’ Apart from moronic dressing, Spenny is too often scripted as the reformed bad boy, who despite reassuring his girlfriend (cue: walking-advert for PMS, Louise) that he is faithful, actually never is.
But doesn’t Gary get around too? Why yes he does – the only performance indicators the Geordie Shore cast are given is how many birds they can bang. The difference between the Chelsea and Geordie rogues is that Gary’s behaviour is scripted so bluntly that the honest way in which he approaches his promiscuity is actually something we can accept. Yes he will have sex with you and five other lasses that same evening, but do you know what? At least you know what you’re signing up for ladies, there’s no sugar-coated promise of monogamy going on here.
Maybe it’s this cavalier approach to sexual encounters that appeals to the exhibitionist (metaphorically) in all of us. It wasn’t so long ago that Fifty Shades swept the nation, spreading thighs faster than you can say ‘pass the paddle, dearest’ and the crude honesty with which our Geordies conduct their sex lives is part of the reason we’re hooked. Gone are the days of bunny-boiler Michelle luring her “chicken” Stu into a homemade den in the Big Brother lounge for a quick pick and a poke behind a tablecloth. Oh no. In the Geordie Shore house, condoms are handed out like smarties and exposing both bulging breasts across the dinner table is as commonplace as an eating disorder in The Hills.
Ah The Hills, the scripted reality that started it all. Glamorous cars, beautiful women and bags worth as much as a deposit for a flat in Westminster – wasn’t it great? Well, actually, it got a bit dull to be honest. In this LA-based show the only thing blander than the dietary requirements were the conversations between characters. An average 5 minute clip involved 4 minutes and 50 seconds of gormlessly sipping sugar-free ice tea, with one character spending the remaining 10 seconds tentatively saying “could you pass the Ryvitas? My tapeworm is having a fat day.”
Discourse between our Geordie Shore characters, on the other hand, could not be more different. Cast members don’t talk directly to each other, rather they wade around in their own verbal diarrhoea and shovel fistfuls of it in whatever direction outside noise is coming from – some people refer to this as “banter”. The majority of conversation is based around consuming enough jagermeister to bring down a cattle horse (“getting mortal”) and making advances towards members of the opposite sex and sealing the deal with a kiss (“tashing on”).
Even better than lessons in local dialect, a final nod should go to the genius behind Geordie Shore’s shrewd and inspired assertions about the key elements that make up their complex characters: “While everyone was learning to ride bikes, Holly was learning to suck cock” notes Charlotte.
Sleep tight, Shakespeare. All the world is still a stage and all the men and women merely players.