Sunday, 11 February 2018
TV Series: Celebs Go Dating
Over the last few months I've frequently mentioned reality shows in my reviews, in particular when it has to do with parodies of television reality shows like "Slashers". The last time I watched a complete season of a reality show was in 2004, so I think it's fair that I should watch a new show to find out what they're like today. I picked "Celebs Go Dating", because the new season started last week, so I can start watching at the beginning.
The premise of the series is that normal members of the public can go on dates and potentially enter a long term relationship with celebrities. This gives the series the element of a game show, where the jackpot isn't a big cash prize but a marriage and happiness for life. That's the theory. A fictional dating agency in London handles the celebrities and introduces them to members of the public.
So I sat down to watch the first episode, in which the celebrities were introduced. Who on Earth are these people? I'd never heard of them. I thought celebrities were supposed to be famous. This is an area where I apparently don't know much. In recent years a fake celebrity culture has arisen in which people who have no achievements to their name are propelled into fame by appearing as contestants on reality shows. Their "fame" is limited to those who watch reality shows, not to the general public.
Let's define the terms I'll use in this review, because some terms are used vaguely in magazines, and it's possible my definition might disagree with yours.
A celebrity is an entertainer who has achieved fame by success in his field. He/she might be an actor, a singer or a writer. A sportsman might also be a celebrity if he excels in a sport frequently shown on television, such as football or tennis. I divide celebrities into four classes:
A-List Celebrity: someone with big achievements that everyone knows.
B-List Celebrity: someone with big achievements that most people know, but isn't always in the public eye.
C-List Celebrity: someone with smaller achievements who's only known to a specialised group of fans.
Z-List (Zero-List) Celebrity: someone without achievements who is only known through having famous parents or having a lucky break.
Now to the celebrities themselves, in the order they were introduced:
Gemma Collins: a Z-List celebrity who has appeared on several reality shows over the last few years.
Muggy Mike Thallasitis: a Z-List celebrity who has played football for obscure non-league football teams. He's gained celebrity status by appearing in the reality show Love Island.
Ollie Locke: a Z-List celebrity who has appeared on several reality shows over the last few years.
Sam Thompson: a Z-List celebrity who appeared in the reality show Made in Chelsea.
Tallia Storm: a C-List celebrity who became famous when she performed with Elton John at the age of 13. Since then her career has stalled, and all her songs are offered free online. She is better known for dating Brooklyn Beckham (David Beckham's son) than for her music.
London Hughes: a C-List celebrity who is possibly the most talented celebrity on the show, currently working as a TV presenter and comedienne.
Jade Jones: a C-List celebrity who has won Olympic gold medals for Taekwando. She's the only one of the eight celebrities that I already knew. She's a highly talented sportswoman, but is she really a celebrity? Does she even want to be a celebrity?
Jonathan Lipnicki: a C-List celebrity who was a successful as child actor, but is now struggling to find good film roles.
After watching the first five episodes I'm stunned by the shallowness and stupidity of the show. It's worse than I could have imagined. What sort of people could find this show entertaining? It's embarrassing. I'd be more entertained burning ants with a magnifying glass.
I could see even after the first episode how the celebrities were picked. Mike is the bad guy who's supposed to make the audience boo and hiss. Gemma is the poor little girl who's been flung into a world where she doesn't belong; she thinks she's special, but she can't be happy until she realises she isn't. Ollie is the token gay guy so that Channel 4 can say, "Look, we're not homophobic". Jade is an innocent non-celebrity who's out of place in the company of the other seven, so she can win sympathy votes from the public. Sam is a likeable guy who, unlike Gemma, has managed to retain a natural attitude despite rising to fame thorough reality shows; he's the one the public is supposed to like, as emphasised by the clashes with Mike in the first episode. Tallia is a conceited little girl who doesn't realise that her singing career is a failure. London is the funny girl who can win the public's hearts with her charisma. I think that Jonathan has been added merely to boost the show's credibility; he's presented in every episode as "Hollywood's Jonathan Lipnicki", making him sound like a big star, although he himself would admit that he isn't.
The fourth season kicked off with a "mixer" in which the eight celebrities had a private party with members of the public, about 20 to 30 of them. The off-screen narrator proclaimed to the audience that the celebrities were "meeting people just like you". That's an insult. None of the hand-picked members of the audience at the party were anything like me. They were all trying to impress with their fancy clothing and chic hair-dos rather than their intelligence and humour. Maybe that's just what they were forced into, because by the fifth episode Jonathan's date Becca turned out to be a very natural young woman, wearing ripped jeans and eating a kebab. That's the sort of woman I like.
With the exception of Jonathan and Becca, the dates between the celebrities and the "normal people" were more tragic than amusing. Sometimes the dates failed because of the awkwardness of the normal people, sometimes because of the awkwardness or arrogance of the celebrities. Gemma especially sabotaged her dates by demanding to be put on a pedestal. Then there was pure strangeness, like the dental assistant who said she likes to collect teeth that have been pulled out. Everyone needs a hobby.
But let's be fair. Is this the right atmosphere to be dating? How can two young people have a relaxed conversation when they're surrounded by a camera crew? Judging by the camera angles, at least two cameramen accompany them on each date. That would be enough to make anyone freeze and be unable to talk. Only Jonathan seemed natural in front of the camera, which is probably the result of his acting career in early years.
One thing that was painfully missing from the first episode was a list of the successful relationships which have resulted from the previous three seasons. It's doubtful that any relationships that develop in this season will last until the beginning of the fifth season.
London Hughes is the sort of woman who I could sit and have a laugh with. She's fun to be around. Never mind the pressure of "dating", I'd just like to be her friend. That's probably the problem with the whole series. When I meet a girl I can sit and have fun with her, and who cares if there's no romantic spark? We can still meet again.
Jade is so natural that it's difficult not to like her. She's not the sort of person you would expect to find among celebrities. Her naive innocence will probably endear her to the audience, making them want to see her in other reality shows, but I fear that if she takes part in too many she could be corrupted and lose her charm.
After seeing Gemma's social awkwardness in the first episode I felt sorry for her, but in the following episodes I lost any sympathy I had. She claims to be classy, but she's vulgar. One of her utterances was so primitive that I had to replay it, I couldn't believe she really said it. "There's nothing wrong with my vagina. It's designer. Everyone loves it". Disgusting.
It takes an American to show how it's done. A kiss and a kebab under a statue on the street. That's what a date should be like, not elegant clothing and an over-priced meal in a city centre restaurant. Maybe Jonathan's film career isn't going too well, but he's a great guy, and I like Becca even more.
Eden Blackman impresses me as the cool, suave head of the fictional "Celebrity Dating Agency". I'm sure it's all an act, but he carries it well. I don't know what percentage of the dialogue of the celebrities is scripted, but Eden's lines are obviously 100% scripted. His businesslike calm brings some dignity to an otherwise chaotic show.
I originally intended to watch the whole fourth season of "Celebs Go Dating", but I can't carry on. It's too painful to watch. Some of the so-called celebrities are better than the others, but they're all presented in bad situations. Something as precious as searching for love and life-long relationships shouldn't be dragged through the dirt like this. It's an indictment of modern society that the public wants to watch dating in reality shows. Is it a voyeuristic pleasure in watching the rich and famous fail in their quest for love? Does the housewife sitting at home gloat and say, "Just look at those rich people, they're no happier than me"?
If you're a fan of this series, please leave me comments telling me what you like about it.