I recall the first series of 'Big Brother' back in 2000 with a certain nostalgia. From setting foot into the house, none of the participants could have anticipated the unprecedented effect their antics would have on the audience. Their astonished reactions upon leaving the house were both endearing and fun to watch, not least because they were entirely unprepared for just how many people had seen the show and were now privvy to their most intimate secrets.
That was just fifteen years ago. The blink of an eye before social media was quite the all-encompassing beast it is today. Anna, Nick, Craig and Melanie and the others (those four were my favourites and I've never forgotten their names) were thrust into the national consciousness for their oh-so-recognisable traits of human behaviour: Anna and her haphazard way of making the worst situation seem like a hiccup (which, owing to her fondess for getting drunk, it usually was), Nick's two-facedness and smooth conniving, Craig the chirpy builder, the kind of guy we all want on our side when the world ends and we need someone handy to knock us up a shelter and get the lights back on, and Melanie: introverted, guarded, she was definitely the melancholic of the bunch, and the one with whom I most closely identified.
Throughout it all ran a warm current of gentleness, a feeling that were really were viewing the innate banality of human existence. Of course the participants knew the cameras were there, but they seemed genuinely to have forgotten. There was very little posturing, and even less posturing over others, in order to gratify one's own public image, for no-one actually knew they even had a public image to play up to.
My, how times have changed! In fifteen years, reality TV has become a feeding ground for vanity, spite and the kind of public posturing that would make Motley Crue think they weren't trying hard enough.
I pause, here, to make an admission: I don't actually watch any reality TV programmes. The last of its kind I viewed was the first series of 'The Only Way Is Essex'. This particular programme served to extinguish any last reserves of fondness I'd once had for a genre that has subsequently pumped out so much effluent since Craig emerged triumphant and donated his winnings to charity, that I'd been left cowering in disgust from the splatters.
Celebrity. In years gone by, the word would conjure images of tea-time gameshows, the Royal Variety performances and the type of light entertainer who would, but for the BBC and the old guard at ITV, otherwise be relegated to relying on panto season alone in order to feed and clothe themselves. Not any more. The gathering momentum of a decade and a half's worth of reality TV, coupled with the explosion in social media, has created a very specific kind of 'super celebrity' which, despite the apparent grandness of the moniker, is a snappier way of saying: 'talentless nonentity with monstrous ego and a shelf life of around eighteen months - two years, tops'.
'TOWIE', just one in a long line of monster ego-spawning franchises, thusly spewed forth the most loathsome monster of them all: Mark Wright.
Mr. Wright is a man too stupid to have become an estate agent: the kind of swaggering, tight-trousered moron who keeps his knuckles off the ground only to protect his manicure. His tweets are legendarily badly spelled, displaying grammar that would shame most nine year olds. His TOWIE appearances presented a person entirely devoid of wit and charm - and in his home town of Brentwood, where steroid use has rendered a portion of the male inhabitants dumbed down to the point of complete intellectual inertia, that's no mean feat.
I recall him as a man so entirely absorbed by himself, without capacity for sentient thought as to the feelings of anyone else. The mean, controlling and misogynistic treatment of his then-girlfriend/short-lived fiancee on the show was illustrative of someone so completely bereft of empathy for other human beings, that he appeared as some kind of orange-hued, stiffly veneered automaton.
That said, there wasn't a single member of the TOWIE 'cast' (for 'cast' is what they were, and remain: a group of people so entrenched in their narrow frame of reference as to be immeasurable by any reliable ethnographic standard) whom one could fairly describe as 'nice'.
Were we to believe Brentwood inhabited only by 'TOWIE types', a label which has now become shorthand, we would never venture within five miles of the place, and install an exclusion zone around this once-pretty north Essex town lest we lose double figures from our own IQs merely by driving through.
I had to give up TOWIE, and all other forms of programming of its ilk before my blood pressure got the better of me. My barely-adequate capacity for suffering cunts, already reduced to dust by Amanda Holden and her wax-like portrayal of a Stepford wife to Simon Cowell's equally stretched and burnished presence on Britain's Got Talent, atomised entirely at the end of season one, largely thanks to the antics of Wright.
I wonder what Warhol would have made of it all? Though his life and legacy have ensured him icon status in the art world proper, he was never a man to claim celebrity for himself. In the best tradition of Hollywood, where the studios created, controlled and manipulated their stars to best effect, Warhol was no different - although I prefer the term 'personalities' for his glittering cavalcade of factory characters.
He never wanted celebrity for himself, even if he did thoroughly enjoy basking in the reflected light of his creations. I like to imagine him, a heavenly voyeur on a silver foil cloud, absorbing the sum total of modern reality programming. Would he gently place an index finger to his lips and murmur a quiet, lisping 'Oh, I love it'? Or, like me, would he frisbee a dinner plate at the TV and vow never to watch another second?