04/12/2012 08:13 | By Hilary Wardle, contributor, MSN TV

TV review: TOWIE Live - the only way is dire

Reviewed: The Only Way Is Essex and a live episode? Unfortunately, TOWIE live was a complete disaster.

Cast of The Only Way Is Essex (© Cast of The Only Way Is Essex. Image. ITV)


TOWIE's perma-tanned, Essex girls and boys (Kirk Norcross, Lauren Pope, Joey Essex, James 'Arg' Argent, Nanny Pat, Chloe Simms, Bobby Norris, Gemma Collins, Sam Faiers, Mario Falcone and Debbie Bright) jumped on the live episode bandwagon, but the results definitely weren't reem.


Kirk's performance was excellent. He's the finest bright orange singing sensation to hit our screens since X Factor's Chris Maloney.


The terrible, terrible editing. The cast tried their best, but the abrupt scene changes constantly cut people off mid sente...

Full review

Gimmicky live episodes of established series are so common these days, I half expect to see Sarah Lund giggling uncontrollably while examining a breathing corpse in The Killing.

The soap genre has jumped on the 'live' bandwagon with gusto in recent years. And in every case, the ratings have soared. The reason they're so popular with viewers? We're all horrible people who want to see things go wrong.

"Will probably go down as one of the most disastrous programmes in television history."

Unfortunately for us, soap actors take live episodes in their stride (EastEnders' Scott Maslen excepted, of course).

They're seasoned, five-episode a week professionals, which means mistakes rarely happen and viewers are reduced to picking over the odd fluffed line for evidence things didn't go entirely to plan.

The Only Way Is Essex Live finally provided us with what we've all been waiting for: an utter car crash that will probably go down as one of the most disastrous programmes in television history.

As it's a semi-scripted show starring 'real people', TOWIE is hammy and daft at the best of times.

Add in the pressure of live TV and the whole thing exploded like a giant orange balloon filled with glitter (which, coincidentally, is what most of the cast look like).

It didn't help that the episode was based around a charity talent show format that made it seem like a bad pantomime put on by drunk holiday reps at a third rate holiday camp.

In terms of overall quality, it made your average primary school nativity play look like an all star production of Les Misérables.

The worst 'talent' performance of the night was also (in some ways) the best; an off-key version of Aqua's Barbie Girl belted out with gusto and an utter lack of self consciousness by Chloe.

She wore an outfit that made her look like she was being eaten alive by a pink fondant fancy. You couldn't help but applaud her bravery... while simultaneously plugging your ears with whatever came to hand, like cats or small children.

TOWIE Live: it's all gone Pete Tong

The talent show was intercut with bizarre backstage conversations that often went wrong in some indefinable way.

One particular chat between Jedward-haired Joey and bouffant-blonde Sam went on for a cringe-inducing six minutes.

It seemed that he was either supposed to propose or dump her but he didn't do either. Instead he rubbed his tear-filled eyes like a confused child then asked to go outside. It was genuinely pitiful.

Another scene showed a panicky Arg in the middle of what appeared to be a real argument with Debbie and Lydia, while an off-screen Nanny Pat shouted: "Well maybe if you lost some weight you wouldn't be out of breath".

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There's a good chance he hadn't realised the cameras were on him. However, the whole thing was so chaotic and stressful, it was hard to tell whether it was a mistake or if the acting had suddenly got much better.

Arg did look like he was completely losing the plot though, so maybe it's the former.

You could hardly blame him if he did have an on-screen meltdown, as all of the performers had effectively been set up to fail.

Plus points? Very few. Maybe TOWIE viewers, and reality soap fans in general, have lower expectations than normal audiences and will forgive this mess.

But besides the damage to the puppets on the strings (aka, the TOWIE cast), I can't help wondering what this will do the show itself.

TOWIE Live clearly exposed The Only Way Is Essex as faker than Chloe's boobs.

Someone should set up a new charity called RSPCTOWIE (Royal Society for the prevention of cruelty to TOWIE), then have the cast run a live charity benefit to raise money for themselves. Maybe if they make enough, they'll be able to buy what little credibility they still have back from ITV.

Regular TOWIE isn't exactly highbrow TV, but it's camp, silly, fun and fills a gap in the market. TOWIE Live felt exploitative; it's hard enough for veteran soap actors to do a live episode, these amateurs had no chance.

  • Verdict: TOWIE Live was a classic case of a TV own goal. Just awful.

    Star grade

What other reviewers said

‏Huffington Post - "The blame really lies on the show's producers for creating possibly the worst TV show ever to grace digital TV screens."

Digital Spy - "I wouldn't wish TOWIE Live on my worst enemy."

What people on Twitter said

‏@jamiesont - "#towielive is now playing on a loop in the foyer at Dignitas just in case anyone's having second thoughts."

‏@TVKev (The Mirror's TV critic Kevin O'Sullivan) - "At the moment I'm lost for words. The full horror of it has yet to hit me. #towielive"

‏@AngryBritain - "You know #TOWIELive was bad when you're watching tonight's #MadeInChelsea and feeling relieved."

The views in this article are those of the author alone and not of MSN or Microsoft

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