Geordie Shore is a reality show for the average working class Brit, and the reality TV show all reality TV shows secretly want to be.
A dizzying montage sits at the front of the episode, of a rowdy group’s exploits drinking, fighting and shagging amidst sun-dappled locales. Bed sheets flutter atop some writhing chimera; a naked woman openly wanders the grounds of a sunny palace in broad daylight; a group of male alphas pile onto each other and rut in the confusion. The same young men and women are next seen hungrily imbibing from the nearest alcohol source in a flurry of giddy excess, and in other shots, they square up and fight in an attempt to prove their supremacy. One moment even sees some bronzed beefcake in a gimp mask attempt to fight a piano. No, this isn’t Tinto Brass’s Caligula; this is MTV’s Geordie Shore.
Now in its seventh season, Geordie Shore remains TV’s closest thing to a wildlife documentary with human beings as the subjects
I’ve been a fan of Geordie Shore since the beginning. Ever since since-departed tanned Megatron Jay Gardner uttered the immortal line “If you’re from Middlesbrough, you might as well be from fucking Mars,” I was hooked. This wasn’t some quasi-soap full of laminated, vaguely human aristo-bots like Made In Chelsea – this was the real deal. Real fights, real sex, real alcoholism: Geordie Shore had all that and more. Most importantly, it had Geordies, Geordies with accents so impenetrable that even the people responsible for the subtitles took to spelling out words phonetically. Now in its seventh season, Geordie Shore remains TV’s closest thing to a wildlife documentary with human beings as the subjects.
I don’t know if I’m a typical Geordie Shore fan. I think the stereotype is you have to be an airhead to enjoy any kind of reality TV, and a show where one of the subjects once whispered “Chlamydia…” to her sexual partner during intercourse must be near the top of the list (just behind The Valleys, honestly one of the most wretched things you’ll ever see). But I’ve watched The Wire, I’m up to date with Mad Men, and I’m making my way through Breaking Bad. I also despise most of what you’d call reality TV, with TOWIE representing for me a particular nadir for that format. But I try to watch as much buzz TV as I can, so, for the first time two years ago, I gave Geordie Shore a go. I haven’t stopped watching since.
The beauty of Geordie Shore isn’t just in its unflinching documentation of the lives of four men and four women (or five women and three men, as it now stands) floating in their own bubble of endless debauchery, like they’re living out some kind of end of the world-style fantasy scenario. Geordie Shore introduced its ‘characters’ as utterly reprehensible people, before gradually letting us peek at the humanity underneath. Originally, it was easy to hate James Tindale, a man who in episode one declared himself “one of the best looking lads in Newcastle, if not England,” before he proceeded to taunt fellow Geordie Shore-er Greg Lake for not having abs like the Incredible Hulk.
There are more real instances of emotion here in one episode than in the entirety of Essex’s bastardised soap opera
But little by little, James revealed himself to be deeply insecure. By the time series three – Chaos In Cancun – came around, James’s inability to seduce women led to speculation and teasing by the other cast members about whether or not he was a cocksman worthy of battling alongside resident shagger Gaz Beadle (who, by this point, was cleaning up, taking half of the female spring break contingent down with him). It was suggested all James’s comments on his own pulling-prowess were a facade, with his Herculean exterior disguising an awkward interior.
Gaz, too, perhaps once the least likeable member of the show, has showed his softer side since bowling into the house like a North-Eastern Marquis de Sade. When Jay left the show at the end of series three (a genuinely heartrending moment, as it meant we’d never again see Jay’s exaggerated hand movements accompanying a tale of how he once took a woman round the back of a local social club to bang her in the bushes), Gaz was the first to break down, shielding his face from the cameras by ducking under a table. Geordie Shore has been lumped with the likes of TOWIE, and it certainly has its set-up moments (what reality show or documentary doesn’t?), but there are more real instances of emotion here in one episode than in the entirety of Essex’s least-finest bastardised soap opera.
But let’s face it: the reason most viewers tune in to Geordie Shore is to witness the sheer hedonism. Oh, the hedonism; Geordie Shore is like one of Jay Gatsby’s parties on acid, and playing out forever. It’s the last days of Rome set against the backdrop of an old industrial town. Geordie Shore has always been fascinating because it’s regular, working class people with regular, working class lives, suddenly given the opportunity to live for the weekend ad infinitum. Amidst the remnants of an old coal mining town, in an area of the North recently declared desolate enough for fracking, the subjects of Geordie Shore live the average British working class lifestyle minus the work.
Enjoying the show is not an intelligence thing, but a class thing. This is living for the weekend ad infinitum
For me, enjoying the show is not an intelligence thing, but a class thing. Geordie Shore’s brand of partying has its basis in working class culture, something I, as someone from a working class background who’s spent his entire life living in Huddersfield, can relate to. This is spending your money at the weekend on trying tirelessly to chase the drudgery of working life away (only the weekend for the Geordie Shore crew is non-stop). There’s a fascination in seeing how far these people can go, yes, but there’s more obviously the sense of vicarious living, especially for those who can relate to making the most of a night on the cane, in a town they’ve come to know all too well, after a long week at work.
Geordie Shore is what all reality shows secretly want to be, but they’re too afraid to admit it. Ever since Big Brother stopped being an experiment, turned into a game show then morphed into an excuse to get mostly young contestants hammered before fighting or having sex with each other, reality shows have been looking for a way to boil the format down to its essentials and leave only the shagging, fighting and drinking. Geordie Shore is that show, a representation of everything that’s supposedly wrong with our culture, but that is really just the reality show that reality TV was made for. You can be horrified by Geordie Shore’s total lack of inhibitions, or compelled by its hubris and cast of fragile egos, but you can’t possibly ignore it.
All images: MTV