To borrow a popular phrase from another hit British reality TV programme: “When I’m wrong, Lord Sugar, I’ll hold my hands up.” And in the wake of last night’s Made in Chelsea episode, this is how I feel.
This week’s episode, along with much other media speculation, made me question my initial thoughts on the programme. I never thought it was an actual reflection of their day-to-day lives, but I did feel that the scenarios they were put in were weighted in more reality than most shows of this ilk. How wrong I was.
I feel like I was the teacher standing up for the naughty child that no one liked at school and they have proved me wrong and let me down. And now the whole staffroom will sneer at me.
The opening dinner party scene was the first of a number of incidents that were completely painful to watch. Everything – from the soulless rented venue (the fire escape sign on the door added much-needed ambience) to Spencer, Caggie and Funda’s showdown – screamed of fakery.
And while we’re on the subject of this showdown, let’s get one thing straight. These people are British. When will producers of these shows realise that we know people never march into dinner parties, start talking to the girlfriend of the boy they love and declare it “uncomfortable”. Show me someone who, put in that same scenario, wouldn’t have swallowed all emotion and made polite conversation. Do you know how much time and alcohol it would take for these people to behave like this in reality? We don’t just burst into rooms and tell people it’s awkward, or that we’re in love with them, or that they treated our friend badly. Not sober, anyway. WE’RE BRITISH.
In terms of the award for best producer set-up in last night’s episode, Millie and Fredrik’s bizarre first date was a strong contender. I know what they’re doing – trying to show he is a ladies man. The Nordic playboy. But there are less heavy-handed ways of doing this than having him enter the restaurant and tinkle the ivories of a fold-out Yamaha keyboard in the most abruptly-ended serenade of all time. Another contender for this would have to be Binky bumping into her ex-boyfriend – who many of you will recognise as the sort of fit bloke at the door of Embargos, who you have to act sober in front of – on top of a mountain in France. Although, I must hand it to the MIC team, the inclusion of this holiday was not only authentic, but inspired. A programme about young Sloanes would have been incomplete without a neon ski suit.
But these scenes pale into insignificance in comparison to the arrival of Francis’s “new intern”. Francis as a businessman is a challenging thought at the best of times. As he paces around his empty office in a suit, I often feel I’m watching a 12-year-old in an Eton production of Bugsy Malone. But as a Scandinavian blonde clanked up the steps in heels to then stand in front of him and announce, “I’M AGNE, YOUR NEW INTERN”, the reality of Francis’s “job” felt like it was drifting the furthest it had yet over to planet Cuckoo. Not only that, any scene that now takes place between them in the office feels like the beginning of a soft-porn film shown late on Channel Five on a Friday night.
But despite saying this, it’s not all doom and despair. As the show progresses, so do a few particular characters. Spencer continues to amble through the series doing his best young David Brent impression, mumbling and muttering and calling his girlfriend “honey” in the most reluctant fashion imaginable. Meanwhile Millie is securing her role of the SW1 bad girl. Smutty remarks to Fredrik, the glimpse of a wild-week-in-Corfu souvenir tattoo under her dress and an alleged pre-MIC reputation that paints her as quite the goer, she’s fast becoming the most interesting female character. Rumoured to be her now-boyfriend, Hugo has taken on the role of Gandhi in the group, the moral compass that scorns the ways of his best friend and just tries to “help” Caggie (what exactly she needs “help” with is yet to be revealed). And the more we see Ollie Locke with his girlfriend, the more his brow furrows and the more ferocious his eyelash curling becomes.
These are the bits I would like to see more of. They’re so desperate to propel the plot and pack in as many stories into this series as possible that they’re forgetting to fill in the other stuff. I know things have to be hurried along a bit for the sake of good television, but it’s like they’re drawing a picture and forgetting to colour it in. I want fewer boring set-up conversations about how they all feel about each other and more about the people themselves.
But as the preview for next week’s episode rolled, with Spencer and Caggie arguing dramatically (why always by the riverside, don’t these people have houses?) I feared there would be a lot more of this to come.
Come on, producers. Sort it out. I’m on your side. I’m fighting your corner. But at the moment, you’re letting me down. You’re letting the school down. And most importantly, you’re letting yourselves down.
Dolly Alderton is reviewing Made in Chelsea which is on Mondays, E4 at 10pm.