Even the third national lockdown will not stop Made in Chelsea from making yet another series. As Series 21 is about to grace our screens, it is clear that Made in Chelsea’s popularity continues to be as strong as ever. Yet, ever since the first episode aired, critics and viewers alike have to wonder what the attraction of watching a handful of privileged twenty-year-olds flaunting around Chelsea is.
There is no doubt that Made in Chelsea is trash TV. The first episode aired in 2011 when reality TV was on the rise; but, despite claiming to be ‘scripted reality’ or ‘constructed reality,’ it now has to be accepted as some sort of posh soap opera.
The first series saw genuine friends such as Millie Mackintosh, Caggie Dunlop, Spencer Matthews and Hugo Taylor having pretty realistic arguments and cheating scandals. But twenty series later the new cast members are clearly new acquaintances still introduced as either ‘friends’ or ‘partners.’ It is clear these people come on for the sole purpose of fame and money, which is fine, but the quality of the TV has decreased. Hugo even noted that the new cast members are “characterless fops” claiming that the show is now “completely fabricated.” Harsh, but fitting with the way the current cast members talk to each other on the show.
Each series contains the same critical pieces to a dramatic storyline sure to engage anyone
If you have never experienced the wonder that is Made in Chelsea, you’re in for a real shock. In some of Chelsea’s poshest bars, restaurants and cafés, cast members complain about their middle-class problems while pouting at one another and never finishing a drink – part of the time because they throw it on their’ friend.’ In an interview, Caggie explained that the original cast members did not know that they would be the butt of the joke in the series, which does show some ignorance. There are potent close-ups of the extravagant drinks and cast members’ scowling faces and intense stares during awkward silences.
Why has this trash TV done so well? It has a formula. Each series contains the same critical pieces to a dramatic storyline sure to engage anyone. A dysfunctional couple who 100% should not be together but ‘work through their problems,’ a cheating scandal, a best friend betrayal and a new person introduced to stir the pot or ‘lead someone on.’ Despite the different series having new cast members and new locations, the storylines are much the same. It seems as though the producers have found a technique to draw viewers in and are sticking with it.
If you have never experienced the wonder that is Made in Chelsea, you’re in for a real shock
The cheating scandals demonstrate the horrible misogyny in the show, with lines like Spencer Matthew’s “it’s f**king hard to respect you when you allow me to cheat on you,” ringing in audience’s minds. It is terribly laughable when the cast talks about their various “businesses,” and the “random” run-ins on the King’s Road and fancy coffee shops provide much amusement. At least in the first series, the cast were actually friends even though producers still set up the situations.
After saying all of this, I have to admit that Made in Chelsea has done incredibly well. I say this rather biasedly, being a massive fan of the show. My tip for audiences hoping to enjoy the show without being tempted to turn it off and dismiss it as a waste of time is to accept it for what it is; a bit of mindless fun. It is an easy show to have on in the background, laugh at, and bring you out of the real world into one where ignorant privileged snobs whine about minor issues. Made in Chelsea is the epitome of trash TV, and indeed a guilty pleasure.
Illustration: Verity Laycock
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