In October, 2010, a little known reality show burst onto our TV sets. The first scene was the very easy on the eye Mark Wright sorting his hair out to a soundtrack from ‘The Streets’, and going to meet his less glamorous, but none the less lovable friend Arg.
Since then, many reality shows have sprung up along the way, maybe some will have the staying power that TOWIE does, and maybe some won’t. What’s for certain though, is that TOWIE has stood the test of time. Five years down the line, the cast and many fellow Essex residents have exhibited their entrepreneurial spirit by opening boutiques, running ‘TOWIE Tours’ and starting up other ventures linked to the show.
So why has TOWIE lasted so long?
As television has evolved, so have our tastes. Audiences used to enjoy an escape from reality in the form of soaps and serial dramas, but when ‘Big Brother’ started in 2000, our tastes were turned on their heads and we started to want more ‘real’ entertainment.
The origins of TOWIE are still murky. Brian Belo, former Big Brother star came up with a concept and made a very cringey trailer, and Lime pictures claimed they were already working on a similar concept, talking to the same people. Within a few episodes, we had fallen in love with Amy Childs innocence, Sam Faiers somewhat mischievous sense of humour and Mark and Laurens relationships drama’s.
On average, the cast were about 20/21 at the start of the show. Now most of them are around 26, it gives an indication of why we all love watching the show. We have grown up with these cast members. We’ve laughed when Lucy threw a drink on Mario. We’ve cried when Danni and Lockie finally called it a day. We’ve worried for Arg. What sets TOWIE aside from the many other glitzy reality shows, is the attainable reality. Yes, Essex is glamourous, but no, it is not so out there we cannot all have a piece of the action. Watching the Hills is like escapism, and we dream of visiting L.A one day, TOWIE actually lets us do it.
For a lot of fans, Essex is in their backyard, and for fans from anywhere else in the UK, it only takes a short train ride and a room booked at the Brentwood Premier Inn and they can go down to Sugar Hut and rub shoulders with their favourite stars. It’s this aspect that sets TOWIE aside from other reality shows. Yes, some of what they do is set up for entertainment, and they do not hide this, but when it comes REALLY getting involved with the show, fans can easily either by applying to become extras or just showing up at the club all of their favourites are going to.
Rather than shy away from quenching the thirst of reality hungry audiences, TOWIE is full on embracing a generation that can find entertainment on TV, Youtube or Netflix. With so many options available, striving to keep the cast down to earth is their unique selling point.
What does the future hold for the show?
Recent news indicates that TOWIE has been commissioned until at LEAST 2017, so there’s no danger of it leaving our screens soon. Eventually, the reality market will become saturated. People’s appetites for the real life drama will far from diminish, but reality is becoming even more real. Rather than watch a partially scripted, set up show, people can log on to Youtube and watch their favourite vloggers going about their daily life.
As unfortunate as it is that we will one day have to say goodbye to TOWIE, it is not a shock to the cast. With many of the cast members opening boutiques and beauty salons, it’s clear they don’t hold high hopes themselves that the show will last well into the 2050’s with Chloe and Popey knocking about on mobility scooter like Nanny Pat’s.
Sam Faiers is a prime example of the ‘good’ stereotype of an ‘Essex Girl’. To me, the stereotype of an ‘Essex Girl’ is someone who yes, may use their looks to get a bit ahead of the competition, but then when they get there, use their intelligence and business acumen to continue to progress. She has a shop, an online store and has been making her way into the fitness world. The former glamour model, who has appeared in the likes of ‘Nuts’ and ‘Zoo’, outlines how she set up the business in her book ‘Living life the Essex way’. One of the first to set up a clothing boutique, she obviously very quickly learned how her fame could help her sustain a viable business.
Not only have we seen businesses pop up off of the back of TOWIE, but former stars have carved our TV careers with staying power. Mark Wright, who went on to do ‘I’m a Celebrity’ has made it as a successful presenter, and Joey Essex has travelled the world filming for ‘Educating Joey Essex’. Despite the gripes on social media about the pairs talents and abilities, they have managed to progress from TOWIE and take centre stage.
Who else is making money from TOWIE?
Loads of people! And this is where the real, entrepreneurial side of Essex comes into play. I must admit, when I was having my hair done at The Vanilla Room I did have a good old giggle at the ‘TOWIE tours’. Then I realised. They should be the ones laughing. Charging £20 a time to walk down Brentwood high street with people willing to pay is nothing but clear profit. The Brentwood hotels have probably never seen so much business, and the clubs and bars around Essex are thriving, especially the ones that TOWIE stars put up a bit of funding and their name to.
Is TOWIE actually helping the economy? I don’t know. But with the links to London and the rest of the country only set to widen in the next ten years, it looks like the ‘cult of Essex’ is only set to spread.
I asked my friend Little Em to give me an insight into why people love the show so much. Not only is she probably the most dedicated fan, she’s also been an extra on the show.
Why do you love TOWIE?
I love TOWIE because I have watched it from episode 1, and I live in the area. I love the dramas and know about everything on the show. Plus, Pete is a bit amazing isn’t he? He is one beautiful gentleman.
Do you think the cast knew how well received it would be from the beginning?
No, because everyone see’s Essex as cheap and tacky when it’s actually not. Everyone wants to come to Essex now. There are 14 series of TOWIe and one just started, Arg hasn’t flopped on us just yet.
What do you think TOWIE has done for local Essex business?
Brentwood is now a tourist town and it’s great for the area. I used to work in Brentwood and it was so quiet before TOWIE started, and now all the boutiques have opened, it’s really busy. Sugar Hut even has it’s own souvenier shop now, so instead of cheesy chips or a greasy kebab you can spend your money on a teddy to remember your night.
Has TOWIE got long left or will it run it’s course soon? Does it need to change with the times?
To be honest, I think they need to get rid of Jake. No one likes him and he has no personality, but aside from small changes like that, I think it will keep going until the cast have had enough. There’s a queue of new, reem people looking for the opportunities that TOWIE brings.