I remember it well, I was single at the time and had moved back to my Mum’s house with the view to calming down my ‘drunken early twenty something antics’ whilst also saving some money. It was a really good move actually, I’d recommend it to anyone.
Anyway, I could easily spend the rest of this blog post telling you all about how moving back to my Mum’s house at the age of 24 was a good decision, or I could tell you the real reason for this article.
The Only Way Is Essex began way back in October 2010. I’ve watched EVERY SINGLE one of the 200 episodes of the ground-breaking reality TV series ever since its inception. I’ve followed the stories, the cast members and the fall outs very closely over the years. Heck, I’ve even made 2 excursions to the UK’s very own Orange County. I’ve danced in Sugar Hut, while necking bottles of Grey Goose vodka, I’ve had a vajazzle in Amy Childs beauty salon and I’ve even indulged in a tête-à-tête with Mr Essex himself; the one and only aptly named Joey Essex.
Here’s me with Mr Essex himself way back in 2012.
So, you could say I’m well placed to discuss my thoughts on a TV programme that was aired on ITVBe last night entitled The Power Of TOWIE.
A show that looks back on the phenomenon of the structured reality TV show, a genre of TV that has become more and more popular as the years have gone by. Who better to narrate this documentary than original TOWIE cast member Mark Wright? He who flew the TOWIE nest back in 2011 to carve himself a career off the back of the show that made him famous.
Taking a look at James Argent’s audition tape from all the way back in 2010 was an eye opener, he looked so young and a total world away from the more confident character he portrays himself as now. I met Arg in a nightclub in Bristol just after Series 1 first aired. I told him, or should I say, I lied to him, that he sang Fly Me To The Moon better than Frank Sinatra. Even he looked at me in total disbelief. I don’t think I’ll ever live that one down. To tell you the truth, I’m cringing as I type.
I firmly believe social media has helped with the popularity of TOWIE and its fellow reality TV shows. It gives viewers a platform to air their opinions on the scenes they’re watching and to strike up conversations with the shows’ stars themselves. Most Sunday’s and Wednesday’s TOWIE will be a trending topic on Twitter within the UK, which illustrates just how popular the show still remains almost 6 years on.
I can recall critics absolutely slating the show when it first aired back in October 2010, I think a lot of this was down to confusion. I for one, remember watching the show with an air of confusion myself. What is this? Is this for real? Are these people actors? WHAT ON EARTH IS A VAJAZZLE? I remember watching the first episode with the early noughties TV series Footballers Wives in the back of my mind. I couldn’t help but feel they were quite similar with the glitz and the glamour and the dramatic storylines. Slowly but surely the show found a place in people’s hearts and became the must watch show of the new decade. For me, it was 45 minutes, twice a week, of pure escapism.
I watched the BAFTA’s ceremony in May 2011. They couldn’t possibly win a hugely coveted award like a BAFTA could they? Surely not? But they did. And I, as a viewer, believe that changed the face of TV there and then and helped a relatively new TV genre gain more exposure and a larger audience of fans. The high-brow BAFTA ceremony audience certainly didn’t know how to react. Tentatively clapping with a look of pure bemusement across their faces.
Never been to Sugar Hut then Martin Freeman?
I can definitely appreciate just how the TOWIE sensation has helped boost the economy by a whopping billion quid. Fake eyelashes, fashion brands, perfume, fake hair, fake tan, DVD’s, fake nails…yeah OK, I think you get the ‘fake’ picture here. Marbella has gained huge popularity and became the one stop European holiday destination for glamorous pool parties and the like. It even became the backdrop for the structured reality TV show Life On Marbs last summer.
The Power of TOWIE touches on the debate of whether the women in The Only Way Is Essex are “risky role models”. Chloe Sims points out, rather pertinently, that she didn’t sign up to be a role model. I have to say I agree with her here. She signed up to take part in a post watershed reality TV show about her life in Essex, does that mean she automatically becomes a role model? I’m not quite sure it’s label that should be bestowed upon her and the rest of her castmates.
You can’t knock some of the TOWIE girls for their entrepreneurism. OK, I’m not exactly a fan of the clothes they ‘design’ and sell in their shops but can we deny them the chance to capitalise on their fame? I guess not.
One thing I have to say I’m glad never took off was Bobby’s ‘thong schlong’. It reminded me of a burrito wrapped in tinfoil. Nowt sexy about that, I can tell you.
Of course, although TOWIE will have its legions of superfans, the loyal people who watch every episode (like myself) and take part in the TOWIE tours, where you can pay £30 to embark on a tour of Essex hotspots like Brentwood and Loughton; it will also have its critics. The people who roll their eyes at the mere mention of the acronym TOWIE.
The Power Of TOWIE touched on the negative aspect that TOWIE has had on the county of Essex. How some of the locals dislike being associated with the show itself and the impact the success has had on their day to day lives. I don’t live in Essex, however, I’ve regularly read reports on how the show has brought a huge amount of tourism to the area and that business is booming. If a TV production team were to bring The Only Way Is Bristol to our screens (perish the thought), perhaps it would get on my (lack of) tits a bit. I guess it’s hard for me, someone who lives a couple of hundred miles away from Essex to appreciate.
I have to admit, over the years I’ve adopted some of the TOWIE phrases and words. Jel is one I still use now, and Reem is a word that would leave my mouth on the regular in my mid to late twenties (I tend not to use it quite so much these days, I am nearly 30 after all). Agg? It was eggy in my day. Why’s he getting so eggy??!!
OK, so for me, as an avid TOWIE fan, I have to admit the show isn’t as good as it once was. I still have my favourites (Pete Wicks if you’re asking), but with so many departures over the 17 series’ and with me not being a huge fan of change, watching The Power Of TOWIE reminded me just how good it was during its early years. It was a real treat to take a walk down memory lane, watching some of the scenes I’d forgotten and reminded of some of the scenes I loved to watch the first time around.
A tribute to Nanny Pat was very fitting. I recently read that she was only supposed to make a short appearance in TOWIE, however 5 years on was celebrating her 80th Birthday on the show itself. Nanny Pat, for me, was TOWIE.
One thing I did find rather strange and simply had to write about was the distinct lack of Lauren Goodger. Lauren was an original cast member who made a brief ‘cameo’ appearance during the Christmas special in 2015. Both Amy Childs and Joey Essex were interviewed and featured on The Power Of TOWIE but Lauren’s no show spoke volumes. Could it have had something to do with the narrator of the episode being none other than her ex? Her ex whom she had a rather acrimonious split with to say the least? The juries out on that one but I certainly found it interesting she didn’t take part.
Will TOWIE be around for another 200 episodes? I think it probably will, while people are still watching it, still talking about it and still writing about it the popularity will remain, but one thing is for certain, the early years were when The Only Way WAS Essex.