How Should a Person Be?

Joanna Biggs writes:

Every episode of Made in Chelsea, a ‘structured reality’ TV show which follows the lives and loves of a group of real (and very posh) people, is prefaced with a warning: ‘Some scenes have been created for your entertainment.’ But which ones? I’ve seen all four seasons now (I’m not proud of myself), so I’ve got pretty good at the game. There can’t be many trust-fund kids so untouched by the triple dip as to be able to throw a party every week, so the bash that rounds off each episode must be the programme makers’ way to get all the characters in a room with drinks to throw over one another. And when the puppyish heir to a biscuit fortune knocks at the haughty brunette’s door late at night, a bottle of whisky in hand, surely it was the producers who provided the crystal tumblers? In other scenes it’s not so clear: when the fickle boyfriend calls just as the girl he wronged is discussing his bad character with her friends, she seems genuinely taken by surprise and the pouty conversation they have must be to some degree real. Or is this something they’ve rehearsed? It’s hard to believe anyone would write dialogue with that many repetitions of the word ‘like’. And isn’t what you say to a misbehaving boyfriend to some extent rehearsed anyway, even if only in your head? I watched the first episode of Made in Chelsea to see what the fuss was about, but the second to find out what happened next. And even though I’d tired of the squelchy pop music, the shots of sunlight through iron railings and the way the characters divide into blank or hammy by the 28th episode, I still found something in it. The pleasure of watching young rich people being authentically ridiculous was matched by the satisfaction of spotting the shaping hand. I was watching a reality show for the art of it.

(LRB 24 January 2013)

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