TV Reviews

I remember growing up in the 90’s and never really appreciating Daria, which aired every Saturday on channel 5. I was drawn to the pleasing aesthetic of the show but I could never relate to this ugly, gawky outcast and besides, I didn’t find it funny and the characters voices irritated me. Perhaps I was just too young to fully appreciate her.

Recently there has been somewhat of a Daria revival on freeview channel VIVA, with Daria episodes airing left, right and centre, and this time round, I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with the show which has definitely seen Daria dragged off the mortuary slab, resuscitated and thrust back into her high school uniform to relieve those painfully awkward days.

For those that don’t know, Daria is a series following the lives of the Morgendorffer family, but particularly titular character Daria as they ride the peaks and weather the troughs of life in a new town.

Daria herself is best known for her cutting cynicism, wicked wit and sinister sarcasm. She’s not depressed and she doesn’t have low self esteem, just ‘low esteem for everyone else’. She dresses in drab fashion, clashing colours that would never work on the runway and she seems genuinely bemused and wearied by American teen life.


Little sister Quinn embodies everything that Daria despises about the teenage experience. She’s pretty, popular and perky, a real life Jessica Rabbit, and an odd mixture of doe-eyed Lolita like sexuality and padlocked celibacy with a love of everything bright, shiny and fashionable and a dislike of anything hot, sweaty and dirty. Quinn does indeed have all the depth of a puddle but she still manages to be quite a mesmerizing character. She personifies young newly awakened sexuality that parades but doesn’t really understand itself yet, immaturely beautiful, understanding the effects of her looks but not the responsibilities they entail.

Dad Jake is the little boy who never grew up, and constantly berates himself for selling out and following the conventional norms of society and wife Helen is the businesswoman-cum-mother who tries to excel at it all whilst wearing her perfectly preened suit.

Outside of the intriguing family dynamic and clash of characters are the students of Lawndale high who encapsulate the little world that Daria and Quinn are propelled into. For Daria, this world consists of equally outcast artist Jane (famous for her red jacket, short black hair and witty quips), her brother Trent (a guy who may or may not have finished high school who now spends his time playing in a band called Mystic Spiral – name liable to change, on whom Daria develops the crush to end all crushes and okay, I was won over by Trent myself…), students Brittany and Kevin who exemplify the cheerleader/jock archetypes and Upchuck, the resident deluded lothario with about as much charm and sex appeal as a cockroach mated with a rodent.

Quinn’s world consists of a very different set of acquaintances. Within seconds of her arrival at her new school, Quinn is snapped up by the fashion club and becomes their vice president. Sandi, Stacey and Tiffany form her image conscious gang, symbolic of everything shallow, self-conscious, materialistic and insecure about teenage girls. Indeed, this gang are a kind of pre-Mean Girls or alternate ‘Ashleys’ gang from Recess. They talk boys, eye liner and beauty products and little else. Daria and Quinn’s high school experiences are polar extremes; Daria exists on the periphery and Quinn excels in the spotlight under the glare on the precipice of popularity and obscurity.

Beyond the student body, the teachers are an equally dysfunctional bunch. Mr DeMartino can barely repress his rage at the apathy and stupidity of his students and constantly wishes he was doing something else, whilst Mr O’Neill is still in the Pollyanna mode of teaching, believing that he is making a difference with his blood curdling sensitivity and focus on esteem and emotions.

So what is it that hooked me about Daria this time around? Daria is a show that is a skilful slice of everything that the 90’s was.  Each character represents and relates to a very definite aspect of many peoples lives.

For anyone that’s ever felt isolated by their morals or intelligence, there’s Daria.

For all the ‘what if’s’ and ‘if only’s’ of our romantic life’s, there’s the aching, embarrassing, hormone riddled infatuation that Daria has on Trent, a crush that probably would have little basis for a long lasting relationship but is definitely relatable to every teenage girl on earth.

Quinn is the shiny, super cute queen bee who has everything, and shows moments of maturation and growth beyond her desperate desire to fit in, acknowledging that everyone has something that they are good at, and for her, it’s being popular.

The fashion club represent herd mentality to hilarious effect, Jane represents alternate living, and Trent personifies the lazy but contradictorily ambitious attitude of a slacker with dreams.

Helen and Jake represent the power house matriarch and the coddled, ineffectual father becoming increasingly prevalent and I’ve never seen a better example of a teacher who just doesn’t give a rat’s ass (that would be Mr D.)

Daria is a brilliantly clever take on 90’s life seen through the eyes of a disillusioned teenage girl who can see through the fluff and pretence of cute clothes and bouncy hair, but what’s most important about this show is its heart. If it were made today, Daria would be portrayed as vivid and beautiful, and wholly unrelatable as an outcast loser ‘brain’. Instead, we can relate to Daria’s reluctance to fit in, her ability to soar above the average teenage issues (like getting a nose job or updating your wardrobe) and her awareness of the fact that there is more to life than high school. In this way, Daria is a role model for any outcast girl, or indeed, all outcasts, to escape from their petty problems and realise that Daria has been there and done that already. Daria doesn’t get the guy (Trent is always just a ‘coulda, shoulda, woulda’ crush, she  is never popular and she never manages to achieve bouncy hair) , but she does survive high school, and she does so by never sacrificing who she is, and that is all any of us can really ask for.

Series 2, Episode 3

Channel 4

9 o’clock

Channel 4 is renowned for its provocative, distasteful titles but does tend to scrape the surface of some rather poignant matters.

This time, the focus is on our obsessive relationship with a very narrow definition of beauty that an increasing number of women and men are cutting, injecting and butchering themselves to fit.

A handful of highly desired features are sought after by the individuals who pursue the never-ending search for idealised beauty: full lips, long luscious locks, large glimmering eyes, pearly white teeth, a smooth, wrinkle free forehead, a slim figure complete with large breasts and an ample bottom (buxom and gravity defying of course) and skin the colour of untrodden golden sands.

Few, if any of us, are naturally endowed with the majority or all of these attributes but yet this has become the pinnacle of perceived human attractiveness. The achieving of such beauty has generated a market of make-up, plastic surgery, hair extensions, false tan and various other products designed to strip the bank balance of girls and boys with disposable incomes (or their harassed, harangued parents) and the far reaching grip of the marketing machine is targeting younger and younger age demographics, forcing girls and boys to become preoccupied with their appearances earlier and earlier.

There has always been a pressure to look good and it’s not difficult to envision that there always will be. Beauty has always been valued, but over the years the definition of beauty has shrunk to fit a narrower, more defined margin, to the exclusion of an assortment of various other looks.

Magazines, movies and newspapers tend to portray a certain kind of look, to the exclusion and alienation of all others.

So what happens when the cataclysmic combination of a self-confessed beauty worshipping narcissist shares life’s with a person with a facial disability/disfigurement?

What can the two exchange and learn from one another?

Is there merit to the fanatical pursuit of beauty? Do we need to shift our priorities? Is our quest for beauty draining us emotionally, mentally and spiritually? (As well as financially).

You might come to this show with preconceptions about the ‘beauty’ and the ‘beast’. You might assume the beauty is vacuous, insecure, self-oriented, lacks will power and has all the sustenance of cotton candy. You might also assume the ‘beast’ is warm hearted, has triumphed over adversity, and has a greater grounding and understanding of what ‘really’ matters. This show attempts to unravel these preconceived notions, or solidify them. The interesting thing is that many of the beauties are adamant that they are self-confident and completely at ease with their dedication to a strict beauty regimen, perceiving it as both achievable and necessary. Some light probing though, suggests that the majority of the women are caught in a cycle of both short sightedness and deep rooted insecurities. By fixing the outside excessively, they feel they are soothing some great internal monster that threatens to engulf them with a yawn. What the show tends to reveal, as a trend, is that the beauties, despite being aesthetically appealing are often dealing with a ‘beast’ of their own in the form of a mental disfigurement, rather than a physical one, be it depression, an eating disorder or devastating insecurity.

This week we meet Holly Kent and Nelly Shaheen. Holly is a model and pole dancer, who initiated her career at the tender age of seventeen. Self-assured and assertive, Holly appears entirely in control of her destiny with the same cold tenacity worn by successful glamour models such as Jordan. She finds pole dancing liberating and claims she never feels happier or more at ease anywhere else than in a gentleman’s club. Although she doesn’t claim so directly, it appears that her career enthuses her with a sense of identity and womanhood.

Nelly by contrast, suffers with harlequin ichthyosis, a skin condition that forces her to partake in a gruelling skincare regime every morning to sooth her blistering skin.

The two instantly click. Both are confident, direct women who are cardinal in their approach. But Nelly exposes Holly’s less than glamorous past, revealing her battles with bulimia and crippling insecurity. Holly then turned to plastic surgery, parting with her cash for fillers and Botox at the tender age of twenty-two to combat the looming signs of aging long before their onslaught.

Holly is stubborn in her declarations that her chosen path makes her happy, but Nelly whisks her away to LA where hardened ex industry girls reveal their disillusionment and dissatisfaction with a world that centred itself solely on their looks and had no use for them when they were no longer novel and fresh out of the box shiny.

The girls become firm friends, cementing a new ideology that the external may be shallowly and superficially important, but the inside is the generator of all potential and power that can inspire a life. Nelly shines as a happy, warm and powerful young woman with the perspective to guide and inspire legions of others who struggle with disabilities or insecurities, and hopefully Holly will put her powerful ambition to a more worthwhile cause that will benefit her both in the short and long term.

Aired: Tuesday 3rd April 2012

Channel 4

When adverts for ‘The Undateables’ began to air, viewers automatically fell into one of two camps. There were those who, suffering from a reality TV malaise, assumed the show would be exploitative and shameless, and there were those who were generally (and perhaps shamelessly) interested in what rendered someone ‘undatable’. These kinds of shows evoke a bizarre voyeuristic urge in me. Any show that gives me a glimpse into another person’s life always intrigues me. This is how I’ve been unwillingly sucked into shows such as ‘The World According to Paris’ and ‘Audrina’, because despite how scripted and false they are, I enjoy peeking over the white picket fence.

Despite the provocative and controversial title, ‘The Undatables’ is a very human look at the difficulties several individuals living with different disabilities have to endure in the dating world, which is hard at the best of times for the best of us, in an increasingly shallow and superficial society. First we meet Richard, an aspergers sufferer, who douses himself in cologne prior to his date and eats her food. Richard has an endearing innocence to his character but finds it difficult to navigate the dating world when his aspergers means that he only likes to date women within a certain radius and he can’t always pick up on social cues in conversation. We then meet Luke, a tourettes sufferer who is matched with the very accepting Lucy, who reacts only with mischievous laughter when Luke refers to her as a ‘slag’. Finally, we are introduced to trainee teacher Penny who suffers with extremely brittle bones that leave her wheelchair bound. Despite this, Penny dreams of the typical, TALL, dark and handsome boyfriend who will accept her for who she is.

Dating is always a minefield at best, but this show exposes what most of us know anyway, that anyone that doesn’t fit a preconceived mould will find dating harder than others, but also that there is someone for everyone (whether that someone wants them back is another story). I found this a very compelling watch and I truly felt for the characters. Even with their quirks and eccentricities, they were still very choosy (and so they should be).

So does the show exploit its characters? In my opinion, no. Sure, I can picture some 14 year old drones drinking beer and laughing at the TV, but that laughter might be more of a reflection on the ignorance of the viewers. I think the majority of watchers would enjoy this sensitive and honest portrayal of what dating is like for a disabled person. The search for love and acceptance is what makes us human, and it was a very sweet journey to watch these guys and girls bravely take that voyage.

Paris Hilton is Barbie incarnate. From her Repunzle-esque butter-blonde hair to her bottomless blue eyes to the general pristine, fresh out of the box perfection and cleanliness she radiates, there’s no doubt about it – she is Hollywood’s Z-list blonde. She’s pampered, preened and perfect. Notorious heiress and scandalised socialite, she rocketed to fame off the back of a homemade porn tape released by an ill-fated ex boyfriend. Plus she’s got that Disney star grin.

She became a household name and poster child of spoilt, shallow and stupid (and sexy) whilst being silly and skedaddling about and getting up to various sensationalised scandals and shenanigans with former friend Nicole Richie. Paris was the clown-footed beanpole and Nicole was the cheeky cherubic one. The two cavorted around caravans and harassed their new households for money in the send-up of their selfishness ‘The Simple Life’ and since then, I don’t really know what Paris has been up to, aside from collecting a menagerie of exotic animals and brushing her hair in front of the mirror whilst attempting and pretty much succeeding (for a time) at breaking into the world of film (she took a pole through the head in ‘House of Wax’ and hooked up with a black actor to quash those racism rumours).

Paris Hilton 14

It seemed that the reality TV star crown had passed from Paris to the Kardashian sisters (one of which, Kim, also leapfrogged her way to fame thanks to a porn tape). It was now the turn of the doe-eyed, deep-tanned brunettes to saunter about acting moronic and moany, ‘entertaining’ us with their day-to-day stints in ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’. But Paris seems to have awakened from her dead-pan, fish-eyed slumber in latest reality offering ‘The World According to Paris’. It’s not exactly Stephen Hawking’s answer to how the universe was formed, but there you have it.

So what do we learn about Paris? In her syrupy, sugary, sickening voice over’s, Paris informs us that she’s having to crash at sister Nicky’s pad after her residence is broken into. We also learn that Paris is somewhat intolerant of new assistant Lexie’s side job as a writer of porn scenarios forcing her to choose between penning naughty sex scenes and working for Queen Parie. But there must be more right? Yes…there is. Paris can’t stomach her 8 am community service stint, nor can she stand close friend Brooke’s, (ex of Charlie ‘Winning’ Sheen) new assistant, whom she refers to with ironic short-sightedness as a ‘hungry tiger’. Paris has also bagged herself a boyfriend, Las Vegas club owner Cy, but the fabric of their wafer thin relationship is stretched to breaking point when a married with children ex begins to bombard her with texts.

For me, reality TV is a guilty pleasure. You don’t admit to watching it in the cold, harsh light of day. You watch it by candlelight, half hidden behind the sofa, with the curtains drawn and the subtitles on with cheetos in your hair. Then you go to work and talk about that awesome documentary you watched about the dangers of climate change. The truth is there is something inherently watchable about trash TV, and that includes the slew of ‘em from Jersey Shore to Teen Mom, and there is something fascinating (yes I said it) about trying to decipher whether Paris is a carefully constructed image, a sort of blur between Marilyn Monroe and a Cindy doll, or just a genuinely vacuous little girl lost in Hollyweird. In the world of silver screen blondes, she’s the curdled cream that rises to the top of the milk jar – the antithesis, the send-up, the satire of the beautiful, breathy blonde.

For the most part, Paris shows herself to be cold, narcissistic, judgemental, hypocritical, delusional and insufferable and her ‘world’ is equally so. Paris doesn’t realise that she herself is a ‘hungry tiger’ – desperate for a crumb of fame and to bask in the limelight of reflected success. If I can admire Paris for one thing, it’s her inability to bow down to the boob job brigade, but as Paris confides that the baby girl voice has gotten her everything she’s wanted and jostles her way through adult relationships like an emotionally immature, attention-whoring 13 year old, you realise that Nicole Richie might have settled down and levelled out, but Paris is still projecting…well, Paris, a facade with all the depth of a Disneyland ride. She hasn’t really changed and she’s not quite ready to show us the ‘real’ her.

Aired: 6th January 2012

Channel: 4

Zooey Deschanel can act awkward, desperate and gawky to a T. It’s her ‘thing’. Jennifer Anniston’s booked the ‘eternally Rachel riding out a series of emotional relationship-related rollercoaster’s’ gig and Meg Ryan was the Queen of the blonde, ditzy rom-com girls. We seem to like actors that play a type and then deliver that type in a succession of identical roles with only alternating names, fellow characters and scenarios to differentiate them from the last.  Perhaps we don’t like to be surprised. Zooey’s ‘thing’ is to act the goofy cross of E.T and Katy Perry’s backwater cousin on demand, but she’s a pretty cute and endearing girl with lamp-light blue eyes, so it seems to work for her. As such, it was only really a matter of time before she became the titular character in her own sitcom.

Zooey is Jessica ‘Jess’ Day, whose well-meaning world falls apart when she discovers that her boyfriend Spencer has been cheating on her. After cavorting around the room nude trying to play erotic with a potted plant and a cushion, Jess realises she needs to call time on the relationship and find some new lodgings. This is the concept of New Girl, Foxes latest American offering which is sure to succeed once it washes up on UK waters, all bug-eyed and irritating.

The premise of the pilot episode was that with great immediacy, Jess had located the perfect apartment on Craigslist where she finds herself berated with questions from the three settled housemates. Jess is a goldfish in a piranha tank, a kitten in a petshop of pit bulls…a…well you get the drift. There’s Nick (Jake Johnson) whose suffered a breakup of his own six months ago (but he’s over it…*sarcasm off*), Schmidt (Max Greenfield), the douche of the group who is a high flying lawyer and womaniser extraordinaire (his name also allows for endless word play such as ‘Hey Schmidt stain!’), and Coach, (Damon Wayans Jr.) a shouty, angry, angry young man who can’t talk to women but can shout your body into shape in sessions.  Sadly, Coach is out after the pilot so don’t get too used to him.

Jess’s awkward, bumbling interview technique finally strikes a chord with her unimpressed hosts when she reveals that she has a hot model bestie CeCe (Hannah Simone) so the boys naturally accept her as their fourth and final flatmate. They soon begin to regret their choice when Jess degenerates into floods of tears at any given opportunity, watches Dirty Dancing on repeat and bursts into spontaneous song.  The boys decide that the only way to cheer Jess up and escape the insanity of her effervescently cheery personality is to get her a rebound.

With the boy’s expert coaching, Jess manages to secure herself a rebound date, by saying little, laughing at all of his jokes and demanding rebound sex. Unfortunately, the date doesn’t pan out due to Jess’s childlike neediness and text onslaughts. The boys, booked up with a party, decide to come to her aid and serenade her with ‘Time of My Life’.

This show has been heralded as something of a ‘new Friends’. I don’t think it’s quite that, even if there is something of the OCD Monica and the cloud cuckoo land Phoebe in Jess’s character and a vague remnant of Joey hovering around Schmidt. Nonetheless, it’s a sweet and funny, slightly indie look at 3 guys and 1 girl in a flat share looking to live life and find love. I don’t know if Jess will becoming slightly unpalatable as the series wears on but for now her fish out of water kookiness seems to be going down well. I’m also looking forward to finding out whether Jess finds long-term love with one of her three flatmates…watch this space…

Aired: 05.01.2012

Channel: 5

For those who’ve never heard of Big Brother (and I expect they form a minority group of narcoleptics, adventures and warrior tribesman from far flung Islands), this reality show has become somewhat of a British institution.

The pioneering spirit of the Americans, children of the pilgrims, have a preference for down and dirty Survivor and the dog against dog Beauty and the Geek, but for the British, home of bad weather and cosy fires, we like to watch a dozen people shoved into a house for a long duration of time whilst eagerly awaiting the cabin fever to set in.

For many people, the highlight of their summer is sitting on their sofa crying over evictions and deciphering whether people are having sex from the movement of covers and the stifled sounds intermittently sparking into their microphones.

When Big Brother first emerged back in 2000 it was a Channel 4 product that was marketed to us in an entirely different way. It was on late at night and was depicted as being more of an experiment as well as a game show, a way of monitoring how people lived when watched and exploring their psychology.

Fast forward several years and the show has vacated to Channel 5 and in keeping with the sensationalised times, has become far less low key, and instead a more edgy, desperate, grappling kind of show, eager for viewers and eager for housemates. One way of achieving this was to convince celebrities to move into the house. What could be more exciting than watching normal people living their lives on camera than watching celebrities with strategically marketed images to uphold, completely change our perceptions of who they are in one racially heated argument?

In my youth, I was a complete and utter Big Brother obsessive but for the last few years I realised I’d ‘outgrown’ the show – the formula was never any different and the contestants were always variants of the same stereotypical staples, selected to maximise the potential for arguments, sexual trysts and complete mental melt downs. As such it’s kind of embarrassing to admit you like watching this show. It’s like confessing to harbouring a penchant for watching prisoners fry in the electric chair or seeing kittens thrown into the ocean.

Sadly, channel hopping last night (always dangerous…I should stick to regular hopping), I found myself watching the contestants entering the house and I pray for strength because I might just regress and get sucked into this weird, warped world.

For those who are interested, here is a rundown of the latest celebrity contestants. Some are from years gone by, others are successful names, I have no idea who some of them are…either way, their motivation is usually to gain a little of the colloquial, every-day sheen that Big Brother manages to baste its contestants with, in the vague hope that they might just be able to use the show as a platform to greater success and social and cultural relevance. Maybe it’s just a case that the recession has hit the celebs just as hard as us normal folk:

1.       Natalie Cassidy

Natalie Cassidy

Natalie Cassidy was well known as established character Sonia Fowler on British soap Eastenders – a look at the life of a group of East End errr people who lived in the small and incestuous Albert Square. As such its rather fitting that Natalie should leap from one British institution to another, embracing the potential of reality TV.  She has since produced a fitness DVD and stared in numerous documentaries and projects. Bizarrely, Natalie Cassidy alone is what has endeared me to this latest series.

2.       Michael Madsen

Big Brother always gets ahead of itself by seeking out big names from across the pond, but whilst we once might have scoffed at BB’s gall, the fact that they’ve managed to get people like Pamela Anderson and Jackie Stallone on board reveals the shows terrifying power. I still have no idea what strings they had to pull to get Michael Madsen to say yes. Michael is memorable from a catalogue of film roles including Free Willy and Reservoir Dogs and dare I say, is far too good for this show. Big Brother tends to wipe the sheen off of many an apple, but I’m still hoping that Michael emerges as the winner!

3. Andrew Stone

Andrew Stone

You might recall Andrew from reality show ‘Pineapple Dance Studio’ where he emerged as an eccentric and frankly hilarious caricature of a ‘metrosexual’ performer, outdone only by co-star Louis Spence who liked to prance and dance his way around the studio. There’s something equally endearing and irritating about Andrew. I wouldn’t know whether to punch him or hold him tight to my bosom.

4.       K and K

Kristina and Karissa Shannon

For me the most interesting fact about this American Playboy duo is not the fact that they slept with Hugh Heffner (and probably together) but the fact that they are twins AND Libras (far too much duplication going on!). Every series has to include the staple of the sexy blonde, and this series has given viewers two for the price of one. Possibly an Americanised version of the ‘Samanda’ twins from an earlier series.

5. Frankie Cocozza

Frankie Cocozza

Anyone who has watched this years X Factor will be aware of Brighton Boy Frankie, who disappeared from the show under a storm cloud of controversy following his dismissal by mentor Gary Barlow (that has to hurt). In celebrity land though, there really is no such thing as getting the sack…Big Brother is always around to collect the dregs and allow them to circle the drain before their final flush into no-man’s land. Presumably, Frankie is here to redeem himself and tell his side of the story.

6. Gareth Thomas

Gareth Thomas

I have to say, as someone that does not follow Rugby and probably never will, I have no idea who Gareth Thomas is but supposedly he is a former Welsh Rugby player who achieved much success prior to his retirement. Also, intriguingly, he is gay and has done much to support the difficulties surrounding the predicament of coming out in such a masculine and traditional environment.

7. Nicola McLean

Nicola McLean

Again I must confess I have no idea who Nicola McLean is…but she has posed for Page 3 nearly 300 times which might mean she becomes the new house pin up (that will most certainly drag the young male viewing demographic in this year). Being married to a famous footballer, Nicola is not a fan of girls who sleep with married men which might cause her to spar with another housemate…

 8. Kirk Norcross

Kirk Norcross

Everyone seems obsessed with The Only Way is Essex (TOWIE), a reality show from ‘stereotype in a can’ style TV that claims to showcase the REAL life’s of a group of Essex young things, one being Kirk himself. Kirk owns ‘Sugar Hut’ one of the shows hubs of lively socialising and is a bit of a cheeky chappy. He is also the ex-boyfriend of former contestant and glamour model Amy Childs (you might remember her from my earlier TV review ‘It’s All about Amy’)

9. Georgia Salpa

Georgia Salpa

The exotic Irish model who has frequently been compared to American counterpart Kim Kardashian, Georgia is somewhat of an up and coming star in Ireland having advertised and modelled her way through an assault course for pretty much every product and company going! She will most likely catch the eye of Kirk Norcross who has confessed for having a little crush on Kim Kardashian lookalikes!

10. Natasha Giggs

Natasha Giggs

This is where Big Brother becomes a moral minefield. We all know the path to fame is littered with backstabbed bodies, shattered dreams and little sprinkles of cocaine…but we also know that one easy breezy short cut to this revered state is to have an affair with a famous man and then have it reach the tabloids. Natasha Giggs, sister in law of Ryan, blew up in the media earlier this year when it was revealed that she slept with her married brother in law but was only one of his many extra-marital affairs. On the surface, Natasha is a controversial choice, encouraging promiscuity and infidelity as a guaranteed path to achieve success and money. She isn’t the best role model, but that is the nature of the fame game.

11. Romeo

Romeo Dunn

If you had a thing for mainstream garage back in the early noughties, you might recall Romeo from garage group So Solid Crew (other notable members include Harvey and Lisa Mafia…and I have no recollection of anyone else).If not this might just spark your memory:  “2 multiplied by 10, plus 1, Romeo done”. With lyrics as groundbreaking as these, it’s not hard to see why the group enjoyed such high profile success

Most people seemed to bicker over whether they preferred Romeo or Harvey, but if I had a preference, I would be a Romeo girl, as he seems a soft-spoken gentleman with a little more going on beneath the surface. Then again he did rename himself Romeo, which suggests either an ill-fated romantic fictional figure, or a massive lothario.

12. Denise Welch

Denise Welch

Most people like a loose woman, cue Denise Welch, renowned actress and television presenter and panellist who enjoys talking sex, marriage and affairs. She’s bound to do a far bit of straight talking once she’s let loose.

So will you watch?

What are your views on Big Brother?

Who would you like to win?

Channel 5

First Episode

Aired: 1st December 2011 (22:00)

Second Episode: 8th December 2011 (22:00)

Amy Childs aka the human embodiment of Jessica Rabbit, has come a long way since she left the cast of TOWIE (The Only way is Essex), a reality show following the same format as a whole host of others that proclaim to represent truth and reality, whilst wallowing in the trough of stereotypes and predictability. When I say a long way, what I mean is that rather than doing her nails and Vajazzling her clients in front of one camera in Essex, she is now doing much the same in front of another camera in Essex, but this time she is not part of an ensemble cast, but the central character, as the title would suggest.

Amy represents all that is stereotypical when it comes to Essex, and though I firmly believe that stereotypes exist for a reason (there is a small kernel of truth just waiting to expand in each one), I would be rather offended if I were a native or even denizen in Essex. She makes stupid sexy with her tumbling red hair (a little less hostile and offensive to the eyes that Rihanna’s previous do) and seems to exist in a world that many girls do despite the hullabaloo of a recession: one that is vacuous, shallow and consists of tenacious materialism and eternal expenditure.

It’s clear that Amy wants to follow the yellow brick road paved by the likes of Jordan; the beautiful girl from humble beginnings who capitalises on her stupidity and narcissism to reach the centre of all wealth, luxury and privilege, whilst calling all the shots. Any girl that reaches this magical palace may then play her part in dumbing down the rest of female society, but at least she will be Queen of her own castle – right?

Jordan worked the ranks from model to reality star to shrewd businesswoman, with a finger in virtually every pie (which is enough to put you off of pie for life…) Unfortunately for this Jordan wannabe, she lacks the sharpness, coldness and hard edginess of her predecessor, and though there is something naive and endearing about Amy, who confesses she was belittled at school for her lack of intelligence and is sincerely spellbound (as perhaps most of us are), by her forceful success, she lacks the cut throat, merciless quality of other women that have succeeded in her arc. Marilyn Monroe might have made playing dumb to appear harmless and vulnerable for big chunks of cash popular, but not every girl that has attempted her dynamo act since has quite the same charisma – Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian anyone?

Nonetheless, she manages to possess many of the credentials that would deserve to go on a Jordan lookalikes CV: monotonous voice, limited input on social or cultural discussions and events, more hair than skin, and a good ten hour jaunt in an oven to achieve the baked bronze goddess appeal, so much so that you could deep-fry her and sell her in a family bucket. Maybe most importantly she has the naturally exotic and striking looks of a true model, and only real requires the most subtle of emphasis to accentuate her good features. Perhaps this is why manager to the talentless (Peter, Jordan and Kerry), the same busy body with the nose of a bloodhound that seems to body bag all those who posses style over substance, Claire Powell, has stepped up to guild her through the labyrinth that is her new life.

So what do we learn about the ex-TOWIE star in her new venture? For a brand spanking new series, it doesn’t really emerge with a big bang. We are introduced to her family where she firmly establishes her working class roots; her father is a flower salesman and her mother spends her time tidying up her stray bikinis. Her brother Billy is a looker and all the girls flock to him supposedly.  We also get to meet her puppy Prince Childs and her cousin Harry makes an appreciated appearance, as a waiflike Ellen Degeneres . The rare times I did dip into TOWIE, Harry was probably it’s only saving grace, as he genuinely made me laugh, and for all the wrong reasons. It was nice to see Amy’s loyal and protective stance when it came to her family and interesting to learn that many former friends abandoned her when fame came knocking.  Her life as shown to us appeared to revolve around buying dresses for glamorous events, training her wayward dog Prince Childs and sauntering around salons for her first business venture. Her life, permeated with star studded events, seems shockingly unglamorous – her mum still tidies up after her (as perhaps mums are always doomed to do) and she still sticks like glue to best friend Amy Chapman.  This focus on Amy as a bit of a well meaning dumbo does lend her a likability factor, but we are still just watching a pretty girl try on frocks.

It’s pretty clear to most that reality TV is a kind of refined modern day reimagining of public executions and circus freaks. We enjoy the pantomime and the artificial, contrived, formulaic following of ordinary members of the public who suddenly, one day, are transformed into celebrities for reasons beyond most of our comprehension. Although it does pose endless moral dilemmas at a deeper level i.e. how many big breasted, dumb, high heeled clones do we really need to follow in the footsteps of their fave reality stars when what we really need is nurses and teachers, there is a media fascination with mediocrity and the public seem to enjoy the misadventures of a diamond in the rough.

Amy is devoid of any real personality, nothing really comes through from her, but then again, like Jordan, spending your life obsessing with beauty and image makes you more plastic and doll-like that you could probably prepare for. Is it wrong or weird then, that I found myself liking Amy and finding something quite child-like and sweet about her? It’s easy and effortless viewing, and though Amy is essentially a propped up lobotomy patient, I can’t help but like her, but I don’t think I will be tuning in again. It’s just a little too samey with Amy.

If you want to catch the first instalment, here is a link to channel 5’s showing: