Dare to mention the term ‘structured reality’ in a crowded room and you’ll hear some dismissive snorts. Lots of people reckon that it’s brain-melting TV for idiots, by idiots.
But E4’s new programme Taking New York shows perfectly how clever, sleek and ridiculously entertaining the format can be when it’s done as well as this. Watching the first two episodes only reinforced my suspicion that those who dismiss structured reality as rubbish might be a teeny bit snobbish…
The new show is about a bunch of Brits working, partying and having relationship drama in New York City. We all have fleeting thoughts about chasing the Big Apple dreams of Hollywood films but few of us actually do it, so this does nicely to indulge a bit of vicarious living.
It’s got a distinctly Made in Chelsea feel to it but unlike E4’s hit show, Taking New York isn’t only about poshos (although there are quite a few) but has a mix of people from all over Britain who are all working or looking for jobs because they need visas to stay in the city.
We meet Manchester-born Gagan who’s been in NYC for four years and is opening a bar where guests can dock their yachts (because why not?), new arrival Megan who’s just finished a degree in Business and Mandarin in England, and ex-journalist Sophie is in her third year in the city as an events organiser.
But work definitely takes a back seat, and that’s why it’s so much fun to watch. “I’ve forgotten that I even came here for a job” says the beautiful Megan as she discusses her latest romantic turmoil. In between underwear shoots, models Jamie and Ben chat up girls on rooftop bars while gallery-assistant Amy meets said male models and get into hot water. “Models, they break your heart” she jokes, not really joking at all.
Alongside the drama there’s lots of comedy provided by the brilliantly bolshie Georgina who gets sacked for looking bored at a job she’s been in for six weeks- “they made me work until five o’clock!” she wails before realising that she’s got four weeks to find work before her visa expires.
TNY (because all structured reality shows must be shortened) has the glossiness and drama of MIC (Made in Chelsea) with the likeability and comedy of TOWIE (The Only Way is Essex)- and it’s silly, fun and completely addictive.
So all hail structured reality TV because judging from this latest glorious offering, it’s here to stay.