Meet the not-so-Desperate Scousewives

Will the stars of a new reality show make us love or laugh at Liverpool?

Amanda Harrington is in a flap over her false eyelashes. She overslept this morning and only had half an hour to get ready for our interview. For the record Amanda’s lashes, like the rest of her, look perfect. Her make-up is immaculate, her fur coat snug and stylish, her jeans are tucked into a fierce pair of boots and her blonde extensions are pulled into a sleek ponytail.

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“I think there are mixed emotions in Liverpool at the moment,” the 30-year-old local model says of her forthcoming appearance in Desperate Scousewives the latest in an assault of constructed reality shows to be based around the party capitals of England. 

Indeed, Liverpool has an unhappy relationship with the national media: the 1985 Heysel Stadium disaster involving the football club’s fans; Boris Johnson’s 2004 criticism of Liverpudlians; the ridiculing of the city’s designationas European culture capital in 2008.

So will the new series celebrate Liverpool for its down-toearth people, or make a laughing stock of them? After all, MTV’s reality show Geordie Shore into incensed the tourist board and an MP in Newcastle.

Amanda, for one, is optimistic: “Half the people in Liverpool are saying they can’t wait for it and half are saying it’s going to embarrass the city, but I think once they see it they’ll be all right.”

“People don’t want to say that they are excited about it,” adds her 24-year-old co-star, make-up artist Jodie, “but a couple of weeks in, it’s going to be like The Only Way Is Essex. It will be everyone’s guilty pleasure.”

“After Essex and Chelsea they had to do a show in Liverpool,” chimes in Amanda. “It would have been rude not to!” “We want to show that Liverpool people have a lot more to them than all the misconceptions and stereotypes,” explains Jodie. “We’re not all air-heads [Jodie has a degree in applied psychology]. We can laugh at ourselves and love a joke, but we have a caring side, too.”

It’s doubtful the famous scouse sense of humour and ability to empathise was a crucial factor in E4’s decision to bring scripted reality to Liverpool. The key to the series is surely typified by the city’s Wags – Coleen Rooney, Abbey Crouch, Alex Gerrard – in their Lanvin dresses and Louboutin heels.

The city is known for its love of fashion and it can be a case of more is more when it comes to cosmetics. Here no one bats an eyelid at girls out shopping in their rollers on a Saturday afternoon, but this showiness can make us local girls easy targets. 

As deputy features editor of the Liverpool Echo, I know this all too well. The show is all everyone in the city seems to be talking about. We’ve already had letters from readers irked that cameras are to be trained on Liverpool and there are people convinced we will be the butt of some joke, that it will be car-crash television. I’m praying that it won’t be, and there are a lot of people who hope it will mean boom time for the area.

The fact that Mal Young is an executive producer goes some way to allaying fears that Scousewives will humiliate Liverpool. Young, famed for his work on Brookside, Casualty and Doctor Who, is a scouser born and bred and insists the series will be a positive and affectionate celebration of the “new Liverpool”. But a paparazzi pic of Jodie arriving at Liverpool’s Lime Street Station in a bright pink ensemble provoked a flood of online vitriol. 

“I think that comes from people who don’t live here, who get up every day and just are not really that bothered about their appearance,” says Amanda. “There’s a bit of jealousy. In this city everyone likes to look nice. I’m not going to go to the corner shop without my make-up on, but does that make me a bad person?” 

Although Desperate Scousewives is a catchy title, it’s misleading. None of the girls in the show are married, they’re certainly not desperate and some of them, like Layla – another star of the show – aren’t even scousers (the 28-year-old part-time model and psychology student is from Galway in Ireland).

So what about the suggestion the show focuses on them trying to find rich, footballer husbands? “I’m too young to be getting married,” says Jodie. “The title sells. If I was flicking through the channels and that came up I’d think, ‘Ooh what’s this?’”

Amanda, who is a single mum to ten-year-old Savannah, wasn’t keen on the show’s name at first (she also won’ t allow her daughter to appear after taking advice from The Only Way Is Essex star Chloe Sims). “Savannah said in school they are all saying to her, ‘Is your mum desperate?’ I said just wait, let them watch it first and they won’t be saying that. I don’t even want to go on a date, never mind find a husband.” 

Layla already has a man… sort of. Scousewives will chronicle her on-off relationship with club promoter Joe McMahon. Doesn’t she feel uncomfortable laying her relationship bare for the cameras? 

“I feel like having the cameras there is my opportunity to get things off my chest,” she says. “If you are going to hold back then people are never going to see the real you.” 

So, if they’re not looking for husbands, what are the women hoping to get from the show? “If Liverpool is going to be sold – and that’s what the show is trying to do – then we want to be part of it because I feel we represent the new age Liverpool woman,” replies Jodie. And the petite blonde is certainly typical of most of the 20-somethings I meet in the city’s clubs.

“It’s not really about fame but I want to be successful and make money out of it,” Amanda adds, displaying the sort of scouse honesty I hope will endear her to viewers. “Some people will say, ‘She’s 30, she has a child, she shouldn’t be doing this,’ but at this age it’s either do something like this or go and get a normal job.”

That looks unlikely. Following our interview Amanda is due to be filmed working out with her trainer in the park, despite the freezing temperature. “I might wear my fur coat,” she jokes as she leaves. “For a laugh.” And she does.

Meet the Desperate Scousewives tonight at 10:00pm on E4

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This is an edited version of an article from the issue of Radio Times magazine that went on sale 22 November 2011.