Move over, Essex. It's Chelsea's turn: Reality TV spotlight goes west

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The Independent Online

At first glance, they couldn't be less alike. One is a permatanned nightclub promoter from Essex, the other a polo-playing son of a diamond mining dynasty. But look beyond the orange streaks and signet rings, and Mark Wright and Francis Boulle have something in common: they are the stars of a new breed of reality TV, the mocku-drama.

While Wright is already notorious as the "star" of The Only Way Is Essex, Boulle is likely to join him as one of TV's guilty pleasures. He is the 22-year old entrepreneur tipped to be the standout performer of Made in Chelsea, an eight-part series starting next week.

Boulle has already made headlines by being linked to the Harry Potter star Emma Watson, and regularly appears in Tatler's Little Black Book, a list of the most desirable singletons.

The question remains how audiences will respond to the antics of Boulle and his friends. Reactions to The Only Way Is Essex (or Towie, as it is also known) ranged from disbelief to criticism from other residents of Essex, who said it misrepresented their county.

A million viewers tuned in for the new series of Towie last month, and as many are expected to watch the debut episode of Made in Chelsea next week. Though they explore two very different worlds, the programmes share the same formula, following the lives of extraordinary young people. While previous reality TV shows have sought to be as "real" as possible, the makers of the latest wave do not pretend that many of the scenarios are not invented. But the dialogue and jaw-dropping scenes that ensue are real.

The makers of Made in Chelsea are promising a glimpse into the privileged lives of eight trustafarians centred on London's Sloane Square. They say it's an English version of the US drama The Hills, the hit MTV show set in Los Angeles. Yet viewers over here are more likely to be reminded of The Only Way Is Essex. This was the show that brought us the vajazzle and confirmed the prejudices of anyone who thought Essex was the home of slappers and footballers.

What is certain is that the stars of both series seem set to penetrate the public conscience with their outlandish lifestyles. Wright, 23, is notorious for his footballer-style philandering and beauty regime.

It remains unclear how sympathetic to the privileged lifestyle the makers of the E4 show will be. But friends of Boulle are confident he will emerge unscathed. "Francis is very savvy and knows what he is letting himself in for," said one. "People might find him extraordinary, and his life certainly is. But for whatever reason, people are certainly going to tune in for more."

Made in Chelsea begins on 9 May on E4

THE ONLY WAY IS ESSEX

Kirk Norcross, 'The Daddy's Boy'

Kirk, 22, runs his dad's nightclub and says his two main loves are his family and the gym. In his spare time he likes to go out and 'get drunk like a skunk'. He is a self-confessed ladies' man and flirt but insists he would not cheat on his girlfriend.

Harry Derbridge, 'The Student'

Harry, 16, is the baby of the show. Although a student, he has been learning to dance for 10 years and hopes one day to perform in the West End. Harry admitted he was gay to his cousin, Amy, when he was 14.

Amy Childs, 'The Diva'

Party girl Amy, 20, loves to dress up. She has her eyebrows tattooed, her nails are manicured weekly, and her hair is blow dried every other day. She says: "If a guy says I'm high maintenance then whatever... I don't think I am, personally."

Lauren Goodger, 'The Trendsetter'

Fashion events organiser Lauren has had an 'intense' on-off relationship with school sweetheart Mark for more than nine years. Despite his wandering eye, she always takes him back and they're now engaged.

Jessica Wright, 'The Entertainer'

Jessica, 25, is a member of girl band Lola but she is more than just a singer. She lists herself as a model, lab technician and a furniture dealer. Jessica is Mark's sister.

MADE IN CHELSEA

Amber Atherton, 'The Trendsetter'

Amber, 20, runs an online jewellery boutique and a brand consultancy business. Born and raised in Hong Kong, Amber is in her second year of a fashion degree.

Fredrik Ferrier, 'The Student'

Music student Fredrik is in his third year at Bristol University and is Francis's best friend. The 21-year-old once dated Czech model Eva Poloniova and lists teaching himself to play the piano among his achievements.

Alexandra 'Binky' Felstead, 'The Mummy's Girl'

Country girl Alexandra is never happier than when shopping with her mum at Harvey Nichols. When not working front of house for an investment company in London, she likes to go horse riding, skiing or to the beach.

Ollie Locke, 'The Diva'

VIP host Ollie is the guy who can get anyone in anywhere. The 24-year-old's main loves in life are fashion and fake tan. He refuses to go out without his secret weapon: eyelash curlers.

Gabriella Ellis, 'The Entertainer'

Gabriella, 23, topped the charts in Greece with 'Hit the Road Jack' and hopes to use that as a springboard for success in the UK. Unique in the cast as the only one who attended a state school.

Tom Wright

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