I never really blog about television, which is odd considering the astonishing amount of it that I watch. TV is the perfect reward at the end of a long day’s writing as far as I’m concerned: it’s always there (and thanks to the wonder that is Sky+, so are your favorite shows and at any time), it doesn’t take much effort (so you can splay yourself on the sofa, stretching out your curved spine), it doesn’t require travel, changing out of your pyjamas or making yourself resemble a homo sapien (all time-consuming activities that either eat into your writing time or your post-writing relaxing time) and it’s a way to get a story fix (without opening a novel, which I try to avoid while trying to write my own). All in all, the perfect post-writing, pre-bedtime activity.
I love TV and always have, and have no time for people who talk about it rotting your brain and corrupting your children. I’m at a loss as to why it gets such a hard time. Yes, you sit and passively watch TV – but you also sit and passively read books, don’t you? Last time I checked turning pages wasn’t exactly an aerobic exercise, you know.
There’s one aspect of TV that gets more hate mail than any other, and that’s reality TV. (Tip: if you don’t like it, don’t watch it. Simples.) And while I don’t agree that all reality TV is bad – some of it, in fact, is pretty darn entertaining – there is one reality TV show I’ll actively encourage a deep-rooted hatred of.
Let’s address the “reality” thing for a second. We all know that no reality TV is truly reality – by it’s very nature, it can’t be. Even on something like the very first Big Brother where they merely sat people in a house and filmed them, without getting involved with tasks and tricks, there was still someone somewhere deciding which bits to show and which bits to leave on the editing room floor. Once you accept this and don’t take what you see on screen too seriously, some reality TV can be quite enjoyable, especially those glossy soap operas produced by MTV: Laguna Beach, The Hills, The City – yes, even Jersey Shore. (It’s not quite as bad as people make it out to be, and drunken violence and bad fake tans aside, it can be quite funny. Pauly D is especially quite endearing.) Moreover, MTV is a privately owned network that we have to pay to receive; they can do what they like with their money, and if we don’t like it, we can stop subscribing.
The cast of Fade Street. L-R: The One Who Isn’t in it As Much as The Others, Vogue (yes – that’s her actual name), The One Who Spends Most of Her Time Fully Made Up on the Sofa and Frowning at her iPhone, The One Who isn’t from Dublin. (P.S. I stole this picture from the RTÉ website. They stole my money to help make this show, so now we’re even.)
RTÉ, the television network owned by the Irish state and funded by our TV license fees, recently decided to get in on the action and produced a reality show called Fade Street, named after the street in Dublin where the main characters live.
It is, quite simply, horrendous.
But what’s really horrendous is that they won’t admit it’s horrendous, and are blaming the Fade Street backlash on the fact that we don’t want to watch vapid spoiled brats go off to Marbella on holiday (even though they work as unpaid interns – go figure!) while the rest of us are facing a bleak future of budget cuts at the hands of the IMF. And that’s true, we don’t – but that’s not what’s wrong with this show.
Trouble is, it’s too late to do anything about it now. They’ve already spent our money and since we don’t have much of these days, all we can do is try to make the most of it. To help, I present 6 reasons to watch Fade Street:
1. The fridge/freezer
In the shows Fade Street is deludes itself into thinking it emulates, the characters live in swanky apartments with sweeping views of New York City and beautiful LA ranch homes with jewels of swimming pools and professionally designed interiors. Alas RTÉ seemed to be keeping the majority of their budget for stocks of dark brown eyeshadow, and so stuck the two main girls in a small, featureless flat in Dublin city centre. In between the living room (a sofa) and the kitchenette (a sink and some cupboards), an enormous free-standing fridge/freezer sits in the middle of the floor and dwarfs everything else around it.
I have so many questions: why is the fridge there? Why didn’t they put it in the kitchen? Why do two girls who are never seen eating, let alone cooking, need all that refrigerated space? The mind boggles, and the fridge/freezer dominates every scene it’s in. It’s surely the show’s most talked about character.
Walking and holding a hand bag in the crook of your arm at the same time took a lot of concentration, but Louise knew it’d be worth it in the end.
2. “Act” “natural”
Overly-groomed American twenty-somethings have an innate ability to act natural despite being surrounded by a camera crew and producers, and there being a guy holding a large furry microphone over their heads. And we Irish are good at a great many things, but we are no good whatsoever at that.
Fade Street is a bit like The Hills: The Pantomime. Being angry is conveyed by deeply furrowing your brow; contemplating something is conveyed by deeply furrowing your brow and looking upwards; being annoyed by someone or something is conveyed by deeply furrowing your brow, looking upwards and frowning. (For maximum dramatic effect scroll through your iPhone at the same time, or look down so we can admire your dark brown eyeshadow.) All speech is over-pronounced and stilted, but I guess it’s hard to sound natural when you’ve already rehearsed it so many times, isn’t it?
In one of my favorite Fade Street scenes in the three episodes I’ve watched so far, the One Who Isn’t From Dublin walks into the kitchen of her family home and informs her mother and sister that she’s moving to the bright lights of the big city. Mother and Sister are sitting side by side at the island with cups of tea in front of them (which is of course the way you sit when you’re talking to someone – right next to them, facing the same way) and mother is wearing a sparkly top, too much fake tan and a full face of make-up (as you do, for afternoon tea drinking). Her objections to her daughter’s decision make Keanu Reeves look like Robert DiNiro.
Bonus: people in the background wearing tracksuits and carrying Tescos bag, waving shamelessly at the camera. BRILLIANT.
3. The phrase, “Oh mee GAWD, like!”
If you dream of a world in which you hear this phrase seventy-three times in a twenty-five minute period, stop looking – you’ve found it!
Fade Street wondered what it could have possibly done to deserve being associated with a TV show that bad.
4. The Underpants Gnomes
In the fabulous How Not To Write a Novel, one of the mistakes is called The Underpants Gnomes, a reference to a South Park episode where characters had a not very thought out business plan. (Step 1: Collect underpants. Step 2: ??? Step 3: Profit!!!) In novels it means omitting crucial information or events, leaving you with a series of unrelated happenings with no cause and effect, instead of what is commonly called a plot.
Another prime example of this is the editing of Fade Street. In last week’s episode, Sofa Girl goes to Marbella. Sofa Girl can only go because she told the place she pretends to work at that she has “family issues.” In Marbella, Sofa Girl runs into Vogue – how surprising and random! – who also pretends to work at the same place Sofa Girl pretends to work at. CUT TO: the following day, when Sofa Girl and Vogue are both back at work. Fashion director comes over to say hello. She hugs Vogue, the implication is she knows her. Sofa Girl is called into the office of the Boss (the only person, incidentally, who I think comes across as a non-robot on this show) who reveals she knows Sofa Girl didn’t have family issues but was in Marbella. Sofa Girl admits this is true and puts on a suitably regretful face. Sofa Girl returns to office with a slapped wrist and is short with Vogue. She seems angry with her. ROLL END CREDITS.
Presumably, we are supposed to come to the conclusion that Sofa Girl believes that Vogue ratted her out due to her pre-existing relationship with the fashion editor one, and is therefore angry with her. But is that actually in the show? Not even a little bit. Thus watching Fade Street is like playing a game of join the dots against your will.
5. The Fade Street Game
Speaking of playing games, here’s a good one:
Watch each episode with a friend, and then in the ad break and at the end, challenge each other to recount what events have taken place thus far. It is only when you try to recall what you’ve been watching that the true extent of this program’s problems will reveal themselves to you, because all that ever happens is SWEET F–K ALL.
Seriously. If you think nothing ever happens in shows like The Hills, watch Fade Street. It makes The Hills look like Inception.
6. Um… did I already say the fridge?
I did, didn’t I?