Sunday's a great night for TV. Once the thrills of the X-Factor eviction are out of the way, you can settle down into a sumptuously mounted, no-expense-spared, BAFTA-winning costume drama about an utterly unfamiliar lifestyle. Or, if you don't fancy The Only Way Is Essex, I guess you could always have a crack at Downton Abbey.
TOWIE is described by its producers as a "semi-reality show", in the same way that Steven Spielberg might describe his forthcoming Tintin adaptation as "semi-live action". Only his characters look a little more realistic. In preparation for tonight's episode, I checked out the official TOWIE Twitter feed, which asked "Who's looking forward to this evening's episode of TOWIE? It's going to be explosive!" Perhaps Nanny Pat's sausage plait needed a bit longer in the oven.
As is the norm for ITV shows, we begin with a recap of what happened on the last episode. Harry discovered a link between the MRI vaccine and paralytic poliomyelitis, Lauren took time out from DJing and running a bakery to stage an oral reading of The Iliad in its original Greek, and the Georgiades twins had a major barney about their wildly varying interpretations of A Brief History of Time. I may have imagined some or all of the above.
In tonight's show, Kirk and Joey are busy beating their meat in the kitchen. Hilariously, they're not wanking, they're tenderising a steak with a rolling pin. Although, the odd bulge in Joey's shorts suggests that the alternative explanation wouldn't be out of the question. Meanwhile, Billie and Sam are planning a girls night in, and Gemma's fringe is driving her mental. Gemma's the first to say "At the end of the day..." and it's only about ten in the morning. She's also "Not being funny..." but she didn't need to tell us that.
Lauren, Maria and a spare Lauren (useful in emergencies) are sitting in a shop full of handbags, talking about Maria's big date. At times, it's hard to tell where the voices are coming from. My tip - if it's got a clasp on the front, it's probably not one of the cast. The fat characters are working out with the twins, who tell a side-splitting tale about a time they tried dating the same girl. But they both look exactly like Louis Spence, so it's about as convincing as the rest of this ridiculous show.
At times, it's hard to tell where the voices are coming from. My tip - if it's got a clasp on the front, it's probably not one of the cast
Something's going down between Kirk and Mark, and it's all starting to get a bit confusing. I've got a degree, and I'm able to hold down a regular job, but I seriously don't have a clue what's going on. All they've done is marinade some meat, plan a slumber party and do some sit-ups, but I'm starting to feel like I'm watching Twin Peaks. Come to think of it, I wouldn't be surprised if one of them suddenly had a vision of a scruffy killer clambering across the sofa.
Mark's in his walk-in wardrobe and here's his friend David Walliams to explain some kind of complicated arrangement for a drink this evening. Mark pulls a face like a chimp trying to read an Ordnance Survey map in Welsh. I guess this means he's not happy.
The girls night in looks like an amazing time - they can't wait to "get all the gossip on everyone's love life." Don't they have Sky+? They could have just caught up on Wednesday's episode. They're all talking about getting bunches of flowers and Gemma doesn't look too impressed. But that might be because one of the blondes is blocking her access to the cake stand. No, it turns out she's annoyed with Maria for going out with Mick, despite being the one to set them up in the first place. Ever the diplomat, she makes it up with a "Love you babes." Said with feeling. Despite the high drama of that confrontation, I suspect the real reason she's in the kitchen is to stock up on those Haribo false teeth.
Now the girls, and the gay kid who looks like an orange KFC spork, are talking about feeling secure enough to take a shit in front of their boyfriends. "You've got to keep something a secret" cautions one of them. Maybe your original cup-size? Meanwhile, Mario and the gang are lamenting the fact that James has run off to be Mark's bitch. But who can blame him, since the Champagne's flowing and the silver tongue is out in full force: "Yo girls. You wanna come for a drink." For the girls in question, playing hard to get means saying "Cos you're so charming yeah?" then going for a drink anyway. One of them is a page three girl, which comes as a complete surprise to absolutely no-one. Unfortunately, the boys don't get too far with their potential conquests, since Mario, Lydia and Lucy have turned up at the same club. Mark thought it might be helpful to point out that he slept with Lucy three weeks ago. It's all kicking off, and now the unhappy couple are "taking a break."
And finally, here's Denise Van Outen phoning in a voice-over with a teaser of what to expect from the next episode. Problem is, all the clips are from the show we've just sat through. If the editors aren't paying attention, how the hell are we supposed to follow it. Fuck this, I'm going to watch Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy instead. That's got to be easier to understand.
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