There's a double-page feature in today's Guardian on my old home town of Brentwood, to mark the start of the 16th series of Towie. The tourists are still packing out Sugar Hut and the Brentwood Holiday Inn, while coach trips are still driving round the shops of Sam and Billie Faiers, Amy Childs and Lydia Bright. It seems incredible that Towie has lasted so long, since nothing much happens bar a bit of dressing up and gossip about who's dating who.
But writer Tim Burrows makes an interesting point that the Towie tribes are basically performers of an Essex stereotype that perhaps shouldn't be taken seriously at all: "Through years of representation in Mike Leigh films, Birds of a Feather, newspaper editorials and the rest, the idea of Essex has manifested into a kind of performance. The vulgar Essex person was in part invented by the media, but in lampooning self-made men and women for luxuriating in their sudden wealth, it created a myth, and gave the children of the original Essex men and women a lucrative commodity for our age of communications: themselves." Click on the link to read.