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TV review: The Only Way Is Essex
TOWIE's Gemma Collins
Bursting back onto the scene like a pink lycra dress-wearing disco diva in her local nightclub, The Only Way is Essex returned to ITV2 for its fifth series.
The revolving cast door has seen some notable departures and promising arrivals, but the essence of the show remains intact; a colourful cast and lots of action in nail bars, nightclubs, gyms and tanning salons.
So say hello to more vacuous people engaging in often poorly stage-managed set-ups, conversations and situations, except this lot aren't in Chelsea, Liverpool or Newcastle. What's more, they remain - by far - the most successful of the reality soap phenomenon as the average overnight rating of 1.3million (including ITV2 +1) illustrates.
Every scene with Gemma Collins is TV gold; the bubbly blonde eats up the screen.
Chloe Sims getting her newly cosmetically fat-filled (yet still curiously flat) bum out; J-Lo she ain't. If I was her, I'd demand a refund.
So where were we when series four ended? Well, Lydia Bright and James 'Arg' Argent's parted ways, and Gemma's run of bad luck with men seemingly came to an end with the arrival of Charlie King.
Series five opened with Arg revealing his new look; a dramatic weight loss of around two stones and veneers so bright, he blinded anyone within smiling distance.
"veneers so bright, he blinded anyone within smiling distance"
If self-improvement was the theme, it also extended to Lauren Goodger and Chloe Sims. In the case of the latter, the 30-year-old's latest procedure was a Brazilian butt lift. Basically, fat was taken from one part of her body (where? She's as skinny as a rake), and syringed into her bottom.
Being the shy, retiring type, Chloe couldn't resist showing off the result, but her latest bum is nothing to brag about in my opinion. Believe me, J-Lo doesn't have to look over her shoulder.
Meanwhile, in a pretty affecting moment revealing her unhappiness, Lauren discussed her body issues with Lydia (and by extension, with us). She aims to lose two-stone via a healthy diet.
So far, so body-beautiful.
Hooray then for Gemma, Bobby and Joey Essex; the court jesters in the kingdom of TOWIE injected some much-needed comic relief. All the hilarity came via their segments, but in very different ways.
In Joey's case, another chapter in the Joey Essex book of obtuseness as demonstrated in this chat about Arg: "How much d'ya reckon he's lost? Two stone?" Diags asked. Joey Essex replied: "A couple of stone." Don't call Mensa Joey, they'll call you.
As for Bobby, the very Essex Gok Wan look-alike, how could he not be funny? In truth, he's probably nearer to freaky. Bobby had less than five minutes of airtime, but he made more of an impact than some of the others.
The only way is Gemma
However, the episode belonged firmly to Gemma Collins. From the moment she flounced into shot to talk about Charlie with her mum, it was game over. For a start, Gemma's mum's name is Joan Collins; it's all the more amusing as she's blonde and distinctly unglamorous, everything the legendary Joan Collins is not.
"Their conversation centred around Gemma's sexual frustration"
Their conversation centred around Gemma's sexual frustration: "Six weeks into the relationship, he's not gone to me, 'oh, come 'ere baby, jiggy-jiggy!' d'ya know what I mean?"
"It's just the passion that's lacking; I don't want to live my life like a frickin' nun!" If we're in for more Gemma/Joan Collins tête-à-têtes, we're in for a treat. But while speculation about Charlie's sexual preferences continued, the man himself had Gemma pose for a drawing in a scene inspired by Kate Winslet in Titanic.
As she lounged naked on a chaise longue, dressed in a pink wrap to cover her modesty, sometime-boyfriend Charlie said: "You look amazing... you look like a trifle." How romantic! Who needs Shelley, Byron or Keats?
I wish I could do justice to the resulting scribble, but I can't. "My tits look saggy. They look like tribal tits," Gemma cried. Honestly, a two-year old could've done better. How Gemma kept a straight face is beyond me because I was in hysterics.
As the episode ended, like any decent soap, questions remain: will Charlie and Gemma get "jiggy-jiggy"? Will Arg and Lydia get back together (they are so going to be the new Mark Wright and Lauren Goodger)? And will any of the residents realise that the easiest way to find out if their other half's been cheating is to tune into an episode?
In spite of the cast's hilarious self-obsession, there is an unfathomable somethingness about TOWIE that makes it extremely watchable, even as we've reached the fifth series. Some of the new cast have settled in well, others are superfluous. Whether there's enough here for a couple more series (that's two, Joey Essex) is debatable.
- Rating: Enjoy the fake tans, the simplistic chatter, the aspirations to become A-list and all the rest. Definition of guilty pleasure TV.
TV quotes of the week - TOWIE
"We're the smooth gang" says Lil Chris - In your dreams!
"This bromance needs a new name... I was thinking two and half men" laughs Mario - Poor Lil Chris! That was actually pretty witty for TOWIE.
"Where's your love handles?" Debbie asked a newly-slim Arg - How tactful.
"How about we go on a date and see what happens?" Ricky says to Jessica - He sure knows how to charm a girl.
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