Reality TV Destroys Everything It Touches

Why ‘Best in Cambridge’ could demonstrate the worst in Reality Television.

cambridge stereotype Cambridge University channel 4 Cindies Essex fake tan kieran corcoran made in chelsea Reality Television snobbery stereotypes The Only Way is Essex towie

READ the latest on Cambridge’s Reality TV project.

Best in Cambridge. I really hope that’s a working title. But even if the final version hits the acronymous nirvana of TOWIE or cringefest punning of Desperate Scousewives – Cambridge, we have a problem.

If this programme comes to light, and if – even worse – it’s popular, it will only damage us. For a while it might be fun to turn on the telly and say “Look! They’re in Cindies! I was in Cindies previously! Wowza!” But letting our city get Channel 4’d (or worse) will establish a caricature we’ll all come to hate – even the people who fit it quite well.

It’s happening already in the other provinces colonised by Reality: Newcastle, Liverpool, and, well actually Chelsea probably gets everything it deserves. But one strikes close to home.

Looking reem: fake-tan, stilettos and stereotypes

I mention that I’m from Essex and uncomfortably often the response is “Oh! Like The Only Way Is Essex then?” At this point I don’t thump anybody, so perhaps TOWIE deserves congratulation for making it obvious how tolerant I am. But in any case, an orangey spectre stumbles straight out of Sugar Hut to haunt the conversation. Orangey is perhaps accurate in a roundabout sort of way – but as for the rest, it’s a step backwards.

The stony, rural majesty of Castle Hedingham, the calm of the River Stour, Chelmsford’s muted bustle. All forgot, all quite forgot. A diverse, busy totality compressed into vacuous nothing – are we happy to let this spread?

Here we live lives notoriously susceptible to the kind of misrepresentation we’re pretty familiar with already. Do something normal with King’s Chapel in the background and that’s enough to run the risk of being branded a posh twat. Student existence is likely to get pretty short shrift from whatever ratings-hungry producer gets given it – we’ll see the most simplistic Cambridge possible put on a glitzy pedestal.

If Best in Cambridge ever makes it as a proper tv show, we’ll all experience first-hand the awful gap been reality and Reality.