Airdate: Sunday 29th January 2012
Series 4 of The Only Way Is Essex has arrived only a couple of months after the third one came to a close, but so much has changed already.
The most noticeable difference is of course that Mr TOWIE himself is absent. Mark Wright (sorry, Kirk), after having been the main focus of the show’s first three runs, is no longer in the line-up, and whether or not the show can survive without him is down to the characters we have left.
So far, so recycled. I’m not suggesting Lydia and Arg have split up again purely for drama’s sake, but after being uncharacteristically happy in the Christmas special they’ve gone back into war mode, and have broken up yet again. The thing that makes this particular separation stand out though (and I use the word “thing” intentionally) is Lydia’s mum Debbie. An irritating waste of airtime in Series 2 (the last time L’Arg properly split), this time she’s really sad to let her would-be son-in-law go, and though she has her daughter’s best interests at heart, she clearly is hoping for some kind of reunion. For the first time ever, I found myself firmly on Team Debbie when Arg inevitably gatecrashed Lydia’s 21st birthday celebrations.
Elsewhere with our familiar faces, Lauren Pope’s scraping together a storyline out of her dodgy PIP breast implants, Lucy and Mario seem to be moving on from their drama in Season 3, and Nanny Pat continues to embody the only reason Jess Wright should stay in the show. After all, if she quits, what use would we have for her grandmother? She’s pure comedy gold, and it’ll be great to see more between her and Arg’s Nanny Brighton over the coming weeks.
Of the newbies, Diags is the best so far – by a country mile. His bromance with Joey Essex will keep both characters firmly in the limelight this year, and they have far more chemistry than Joey did with Kirk in their forced friendship last year. Georgina Dorsett, for all her “alpha female” potential, is so far incredibly dry. Let’s not write her off just yet, but at the moment she’s just another Cara/Billi/Maria/Lauren Pope. So she doesn’t wear a dress when she hits a club, big deal!
Can we feel Mark’s absence? Not yet, no. That may be something that rears its head as the series progresses. Honestly I found myself missing the under-used Gemma Collins more than anyone. But if Mark is going to be missed, the person who’ll highlight that more than anything else will be Lauren Goodger. Without her former fiancé she doesn’t really have much to do. She’s part of the wallpaper. She’s unpopular with viewers and she has very little to offer in terms of entertainment value. She ain’t enjoyable to watch. She was good value in the early days, but more than the axed Harry Derbidge, her time is up.
Not a classic episode tonight but, as ever, the thought of missing the next one seems unfathomable.