Despite the fact that I live in Los Angeles (and have a brain), I’ve been enjoying the ITV docu-soap, The Only Way is Essex.
You may judge but I care not, as I know I’m not the only one grateful to the bloke who’s been uploading all the episodes to You Tube.
There are thousands of Brits in California, and much as we love the sunshine, eggs over easy and the lack of a National Health Service (that last one was sarcasm), we all still adore our Marmite, PG Tips, curry nights, five-aside footie teams, traditional roast dinners – and yes, we also like to watch a bit of British telly (more Sherlock, please).
With that in mind, it’s time for me to some ‘fings off my chest’ and explain exactly why I’m hooked. Or at least try. I realise that living here I’m missing the tabloid hype that the cast have been subject to but I have credentials of my own, so read on mate.
I wasn’t born in Essex but I grew up in Southend-on-Sea, in an age when skinheads could still be seen terrorizing the High Street, and the Kursaal was still a viable music venue.
Throughout my life I’ve battled the ‘Essex Girl’ label, the many predictable jokes (‘What does an Essex girl use as sex protection? Answer: A bus shelter’), and don’t even bother to ask about my white stilettos. If I had a pair – and I never have – I’d probably throw them at your head.
The show has been lambasted for its shallow portrayal of Essex’s yoof. Although to look at fashion-something Lauren, ‘Chief Vajazzler’ Amy and ‘door-whore’ Sam with their spray tans and thick layers of make-up, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a show about drag queens. But along with Nanny Pat’s shepherd’s pie (not to mention her sausage plait), their penchant for looking like a collection of over-torched creme brulee’s, is part of the charm.
If I sound like I don’t care for The Only Way is Essex then you’d be wrong – at least, I think so. Series one has just ended, and I can’t decide whether or not I’m upset.
Like the candy floss they sell on Southend pier, the show is delightful fluff, but ultimately, probably very bad for you.
Take square-jawed promoter Mark, aka the Eddie Cibrian of Chigwell, who part- owns Deuces Bar and opens bottles of Corona with his teeth. ‘When you love someone, set it free’, he opines about a girl called It. ‘If it don’t come back, it was never love’.
He has the wisdom of a tube of hair gel. On the plus side, watching him being massaged in his Calvins on a shocking pink towel at Amy’s salon, surely signals the death of the metrosexual male.
Mark and Lauren’s on/off yawn-fest of a relationship is the centre of the show but Kirk‘s story is the most compelling. Unlike Mark, he doesn’t have a square jaw. He looks like Lembit Opik’s lovechild. He’s worth a few quid thanks to the Sugar Hut bar, owns an Arfur Daley overcoat and spends all his time fretting over Amy, and either how to get her to fall in love with him, or get her to go away.
‘Of course he says he likes ya, you’ve got fake boobs and you look really nice’, he says to her, of a rival suitor, before showing her his creepy pin-up girl tattoo, that he swears isn’t Amy but looks exactly like her hairy double.
He decided to win her affections by beefing up, and has been personal training with Ben, part man, part concrete slab, who told Kirk ‘You ain’t gonna win no birds with that top’. To which Kirk replied. ‘I am dedicated. Have you seen my tattoo?’
The series culminated with Mark offering Kirk a boxing throw-down. ‘You know what, sod it, whoever wins, wins,’ said Mark, with all the sagacity of a bus stop in Brentwood. The lads sealed the deal with a manly back slap and a shot.
They’re an adorable cast of ignoramuses, and I shall miss them in a way that you miss the time in bed after you’ve had a long sickness, but not the sickness itself.
What we’ve learned is this: Nanny Pat wants to tour with Jessica’s girl band LOLA (so she can feed them endless sausage plaits), Amy is about to launch her bangers onto an unsuspecting nation, wedding singer Arg is back with bouffant-haired barmaid Lyd, while Lauren is deciding whether or not to go to Dubai (please go).
I won’t spoil the outcome (suffice to say that a lot of acrylic nails were bitten that night), because as Mark said, when his bar mysteriously burned down on opening night. ‘Everyfink ‘appens for a reason’.
Maybe we need series two to work out exactly what that reason might be?
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Or if I’m not enticing enough, follow Nanny Pat.