The 21st century has provided us with many odd moments. The revelation of our Prime Minister’s alleged promiscuous past with a dead swine head; the South Korean-born epidemic known as “Gangnam Style” and a young drunk woman from Newcastle called Charlotte Crosby farting and then urinating all over her fuck friend “Gaz” on national television: (NSFW).
That word: “odd”. It’s perhaps the best way to describe Geordie Shore. At times the events and language used on screen are so ludicrous and bizarre that it feels like a piece of post-modern satire like Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror. Other programmes of the Geordie Shore ilk possess the same brand of otherworldly weirdness, from patient zero code named Jersey Shore, to our own more drama-centred offerings like Made in Chelsea and The Only Way is Essex.
Despite being as mad as a bag of shaved cats, each of these shows claims to be a child of the reality television genre; a window into a world unknown by us “normals”. Perhaps this preface is the secret behind the success of Geordie Shore, TOWIE and Made in Chelsea. If we accept the notion that these acts of peeing on each other, mass confrontations by exes in organic bistro wine bars, and bordering on bi-polar moments of love and hate are reality, then the lure of this kind of programming becomes something akin to that of a nature documentary or a trip to the zoo.
We find ourselves glued to the screen, wondering whether Gaz the Geordie Gazelle will fall prey to the clutches of Charlotte the cock-hungry Cheetah or gawping at the exotic Snooki and other strange orange beasts from the deep concrete forests of New Jersey. South Park, as it often does, exemplifies our attitudes to this brand of reality TV in its parody episode, It’s a Jersey Thing:[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFvKpTKlkus]
It’ll come as no great shock that Geordie Shore hasn’t been a smash hit with everyone. Critical scores for the series are typically poor and reflect a consensual public opinion that this is a trashy and potentially poisonous form of television. This is a fair point. Geordie Shore in particular appears to glamourise a carefree attitude towards consuming staggering quantities of alcohol, having as many sexual partners as possible and smacking your mate in the face for trying to chat up a girl you’re casually sleeping with.
Considering the young age of the Geordie Shore audience, this could have a potentially damaging influence on teenagers and young adults and their attitudes towards Britain’s clubbing lifestyle. This is the case if you buy into the notion that the buffoonery of the cast of Geordie and Jersey Shore are acts of reality; the word reality has heavy connotations and adds a degree of dramatic weight to the actions that take place on screen.
The truth of the matter is, when watching an episode of Geordie Shore or Made in Chelsea, you’re watching a cleverly edited version of events, events that have already been staged to various degrees. You’re watching a crafted perception of reality.
Consider this: if Geordie Shore was advertised as a soap opera do you think it would receive the same notes of critique? Perhaps Geordie Shore requires a re-branding as trashy soap opera rather than trashy reality show. The quality or content of the show would not change, but perhaps the connotations surrounding the programme would appear to match the tone of the series. After all, Geordie Shore is not a serious piece of television, it’s a bit of harmless fun and as soon you accept this it becomes just that: harmless.
And if something is harmless it can’t be that bad, can it?