6 Shows That Prove The UK Are The True Masters Of Trashy Reality TV
We have a lot to thank America for: Wal-Mart’s small Yodelling boy. The O.C. Literally every good Vine. Stupidly large portion sizes, for which I am particularly grateful.
But for all its contributions to pop culture, there’s one department in which the US is falling behind. Despite the Kardashians, despite Real Housewives, despite Lauren Conrad yelling “you know what you did!” at Heidi Montag across a crowded bar, the US is being beaten at its own game when it comes to reality TV.
One continent over, another nation is producing a steady stream of TV too trashy, too vulgar and too rude to have ever made it to air somewhere with all-American family values. I speak, of course, of the UK.
If The Crown is what’s possible with an incredible story, A-list actors and big budgets, the UK’s reality shows prove how good TV can be with no script, no censoring and absolutely no shame. Here are six shows that prove the Brits are the true masters of the genre.
1. Geordie Shore
Let me count the reasons the UK spin-off of Jersey Shore is better than the original. There’s the doomed romance between Charlotte and Gaz. The fact that two cast members were once arrested for throwing a stiletto at a model. The show’s many motivational quotes (picture “I”m gonna get on it ‘til I vomit” set against a sunset background, framed and hung on your wall). The pure, perfect scene where a guy pooped himself after a night out.
When you’re done with Geordie Shore, you might want to try out the Welsh spin-off The Valleys. I watched it once and the castmates all got stark naked on a bus and started rubbing their boobs and man bits up on the window, waving at passing motorists. It was 10 o’clock in the morning and they weren’t even drunk, just going to the mall?! This actually happened in the first five minutes of the episode.
2. Ex On The Beach
The premise here is simple: a bunch of hot people live on an island together and, one by one, their worst exes are shipped in to fuck things up. Despite this being literally in the title of the show, the contestants are still astounded every single time a former flame rocks up. Are the waters of Magaluf laced with amnesia serum?
It is the best reality show of all time.
3. Age Gap Love
I can’t fathom why the couples on Age Gap Love agreed to go on this show, but I’m glad they did. Everyone here is in an “age gap relationship” — a romance between two people born a few decades apart. They all met in totally normal ways, like the teenager who hooked up with her boyfriend’s stepdad and made it official with him… while she was in jail for stabbing someone.
But the true hero of this show is 68-year-old Joan, who is hellbent on shacking up with a man in his 20s. It was her late husband’s idea, apparently. “On his deathbed, he told me to get new boobs and a lovely toy boy,” Joan declares more than once. I see no reason to disbelieve her.
4. Snog Marry Avoid
The great thing about UK reality TV is that it’s not afraid to pluck people out of their previously happy lives and utterly humiliate them on the world stage.
Take, for instance, Snog Marry Avoid. It finds women with extreme style (fake tan addicts, the heavily-tattooed, aspiring glamour models and run-of-the-mill goths), then recruits members of the general public to tell them they’re unattractive. The women then get “makeunders” so they can better appeal to vanilla blokes on the street. I can’t defend the ethics of this show, but I also can’t deny that it’s very entertaining.
5. Embarrassing Bodies
Embarrassing Bodies finds people with “extreme warts”, third nipples and other ~taboo~ medical conditions and offers them medical treatment in exchange for very publicly waiving their right to doctor-patient confidentiality (weird, because I’m pretty sure the UK already has free healthcare).
This might be the only TV show unafraid to really zoom in on an anus, which is part of the appeal. “Embarrassing Bodies doesn’t believe in pixelation,” one of the show’s producers explained to The Guardian in 2010. “It implies shame.”
If you’ve ever been mesmerised by a pimple-popping video, this is the show for you.
6. Naked Attraction
People stand naked in a box as the camera pans up, gradually revealing their exposed body parts. You see everything. I love authentic English culture!