Scripted television vs unscripted reality

Tanyel Gumushan /
Mar 21, 2017 / Film & TV

With a Koko Kanu cocktail in each hand, and my purse – one of those silly ones, much too big for a handbag – wedged under my armpit, I slid onto the sofa bench, into the side of my date.

Clinking cheers to a victory at the bowling alley and Wednesday daytime drinking with a dissertation deadline in the back of my mind, Nottingham’s Turtle Bay was the setting.

This anecdote, I realise, is not exactly what you had in mind when you clicked on the headline. Also nope, this isn’t the start of one of those pink covered books that mums read around the pools on their summer holiday. It’s the start of demonstrating the daily romanticism we make on our own – dare I say it – boring lives.

It’s easy to insult Made In Chelsea. The tales of the narcissistic, the ego-maniacs, the posh kids with a trust fund and sex lives teetering on incestuous; but, today, we all too often live for the dramatisations of the everyday. I’m not afraid to say I thrive from all that unravels before me on the box on a Monday night. I admit that I’d quite like to splash some paint around on a canvas on a Kensington roof top with the MiC girls, dashing off quickly when Alex texts that he’s landed back from the Bahamas and is waiting for me. I’d pick up Fluffles, the dog embodying its name and pop him in my bag. I have daydreamed about putting on designer attire to go to a private gig and make sultry eyes at the guy who told that guy who told her who told him who told Louise that he thinks I’m fit. And guys, you’ve no doubt thought about downing pints on the ski slopes and catching the eye of the chalet girl.

Whoever you are, at some point you’ve lost yourself in your own thoughts and carefully crafted a script that you long to be played out. Shows like Made in Chelsea have encouraged this, a scripted reality paradise where it’s cast (or characters, whatever) live out what we all dream, scandal and all. They’ve helped to shape our generation – who are constantly under attack as ‘couch potatoes’ – into a bunch of (maybe over-)imaginative dream chasers and in my opinion, it isn’t necessarily a bad thing. We think and we feel and we act, unafraid of the display. So, when this guy takes my hand when I’m mid-joke, and he tells me that things have “moved too fast” and that he’s just “not feeling a relationship”, I almost laugh. More so with the end comment: “I think we should just get lunch every month or so?’” Mentally having to flip to page five of the script to know how to deal with this situation. ‘WEEK FOUR: DISCOVER HE’S A COMMITMENT-PHOBE.’

I weigh up my options: Do I A) toss the Koko Kanu into his lap for leading me on? Do I B) stage the epic walk out? Or do I C) crawl inside myself, think of Marley and Me to get some tears flowing? I thought you liked me!?

The realisation washed over me that every part of our lives is so manufactured that we’re living them secondary. Hilariously, the first take was better. Reality TV, or un-reality TV is just part of the steady flow of sources adding extra layers of thickness to our tinted glasses which we used to gaze on our own lives. This episode? I’d seen too many variations and had too much choice.

But the thing is, we simply cannot hate it. Perhaps it’s taken away our natural human instinct to react to shoddy one night stands, bitchy mates, and adulterous partners. Perhaps it’s normalised them, and the heir to McVitie’s has prepared us that people in general, are pretty hopeless so we might as well laugh about it. Or perhaps we love that comfort when our lives meet theirs, a gentle satisfying reminder that the seagull could take aim and poop on any of our heads.

I take option D: walk this guy to a train station as he’s never been to the city before and has no mobile data left to map it, to miss the train by the skin of our teeth and have to awkwardly wait in a cold, stale room for thirty three minutes. This is no Chelsea bridge, and there’s no guy already hitting up my phone as a rebound.

So sometimes there’s an air of bitter jealousy as we watch socialites live out our tragic realities with more style, but ultimately they’re our guidance coaches. We love to hate them, and we definitely have more in common with them than we’d probably care to realise. Shame it isn’t our bank balances.

Get Volume #17 here.

Words by Tanyel Gumushan

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