Desperate Scousewives – it’s TOWIE meets Chelsea meets, erm, Liverpool

We take a closer look at the E4 series, which breaks the fourth wall of structured reality for the first time

Welcome to Liverpool, “the pool of life – the centre of the universe”, welcome to structured reality 2.0, welcome to Desperate Scousewives.

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Firstly, if you’re one of those people who complains about reality television in general and someone who believes that the schedules should begin and end with The South Bank Show (God rest its soul) and dry documentaries on the history of Bolivian agricultural irrigation methods, please stop reading now – this preview has nothing to offer you. 

Right, now let’s get stuck into E4’s latest foray into structured reality television. 

This is essentially an almost perfect hybrid of The Only Way Is Essex and Made in Chelsea.  “Chop us in half and we’ve got Scouser written right through us,” says our sassy narrator, Jodie.  Yep, this is another programme about reinforcing stereotypes, the ludicrous notion that everyone knows everyone else within certain postcode areas and a good deal of partial nudity.

However, there is one notable difference – the characters break the fourth wall, a structured reality first.  Now for those of us accustomed to TOWIE and Chelsea using forced conversations to explain a character’s inner thoughts, this may at first be unsettling, but the sparing use of the device does eventually become not only tolerable, but almost endearing. 

It does, though, open a separate debate as to whether direct communication with the crew takes DSW into a new genre that transcends its most revered forebears… but that’s for another day. 

Did you say nudity?  Yes, let’s get back to matters at hand.  Scousewives has everything you’d expect from a reality romp… women in lingerie discussing matters of the heart while practising modelling pouts, men with toned torsos parading around in nothing but their pants while being vaguely moronic… oh, and lots of fake tan – the 21st century opium of the people.

There’s too many Scousers in the first episode to introduce them all here – but suffice to say there is a couple with a lot of history who are more than happy to air their dirty laundry in public, numerous “creatives” eager to boast about their successes (or lack of it) and enough scripted misunderstandings to make a Liver Bird blush. 

In these people’s world, bleach is sometimes used to remove fake tan, and although it might be dangerous, “it’s better to smell like a toilet than look like a tangerine”. Too true.

Indeed, there’s enough one liners in E4’s opening hour to keep the most ardent of reality fans enthralled: “Discount’s my second favourite word, free is my favourite” and “What comes first, mate: birds or football?” are among the thought-provoking dialogue delivered deadpan direct to your telly box. 

Of course, like any good “struc-real” everything in the episode is building up to one showpiece event at the end – on this occasion, the prestigious Juice FM Style Awards. 

I won’t spoil your fun by telling you what happens – but an argument involving whether it is better to be a Z-list blogger or an unknown outside Liverpool may or may not culminate in a drink being thrown in a face.  Expect “Who are you?”, “No, who are you?” for at least five minutes before the final splash. 

Yes, this is classic fodder for those looking to switch their head off – and Twitter on – for an hour of mindless silliness and online bitching. 

Whether DSW will be a hit the size of TOWIE is impossible to predict before we have more time to spend with our new Scouser friends.  But certainly – at least on initial inspection – this programme has another Made in Chelsea sized success in it for E4.

So, sit back, relax and enjoy another chapter in television’s constantly evolving world of constructa-reala-tainment. Remember, you can always tape the news…

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Desperate Scousewives is on E4 tonight at 10pm