Our brand-new columnist Nicola Robey takes the baton from Nell, and runs with it; in her first column, she investigates reality TV's journey from truth to pseudo-fiction, taking in The Hills, The City and, of course, The Only Way is Essex...
Before I begin, let me introduce myself, for what follows in this, my first column, shall probably leave me judged beyond redemption.
I am Nicola, I’m 24 and have tentatively acquired the Columnist baton from the wonder that is Nell. It’s a tough act to follow, but I shall endeavour to regale you with my insights over the next few months.
Let the judgement begin. I’m an addict. I don’t wake up on park benches, reside in a flat full of soiled mattresses or sell my family’s valuables to fuel it: my addiction is far more worrying.
It started with LA-based supposed “reality” TV programme The Hills and has spiralled to encapsulate the whole faux reality genre. I admit this for a reason. It’s the fact that fiction is lunging into the realm of reality, evolving the genre into a whole different beast.
The fact is, I know it’s fake. These faux shows are so extremely staged that they fondle the truth to the point of embarrassment. Yet, there’s something about watching a plethora of obnoxious, melodramatic youths living vicariously through their parents’ dollar, all the while claiming to be real, that I can’t resist. I once managed to watch so many episodes I had a nose bleed. Seriously.
The intrigue for me lies in figuring out where reality begins and fiction takes over. I was left baffled when I discovered that Heidi Montag and her chump onscreen boyfriend Spencer Pratt had got married in real life. It opened up a whole terrifying minefield of uncertainty. Could people like this really exist?
Clearly Adam DeVillo – creator and puppet master of shows such as The Hills and its New York spin-off The City – has cottoned onto the fact that there’s quite an appeal for the growing tenuity of fiction and reality, and thankfully I’m not the only one that appreciates this post-modern dabbling.
Even American Psycho author Brett Easton Ellis admitted, “I think that Adam DeVillo is a mad genius. He creates it and controls it perfectly.” This meddling seems to have taken the genre that once purported to represent reality to a place more precisely described as pseudo-fiction.
Obviously leaving re-runs of ’90s Heathrow-based programme Airport out of the equation, I stopped watching the tired, overdone voyeuristic style of reality TV a long time ago; mainly because I couldn’t bear watching another zany Big Brother housemate sit around and occasionally burn some porridge. Even when Coolio entered the house, it sparked no interest in me, and I owned both of his singles on cassette.
The demise of such painfully accurate portrayals of reality make me wonder whether producers have realised that we’d rather be lulled into a faux dramatic splendour than be reminded of the tedium of daily life.
I know it’s hideous, but now that the The Hills has reached its end, I shall religiously follow its UK equivalent, The Only way is Essex. When it comes to escapism, it’s not so much the truth I’m after any more, but a little more drama – and perhaps a nosebleed.