Loose Women portrays itself as feisty television fun, argues Dawn Kofie, but it patronises the female viewing public
Daytime TV has never been renowned as a hotbed of televisual innovation, but ITV's Loose Women enthusiastically scrapes the bottom of an extremely deep barrel.
This programme can only be described as the small-screen equivalent of a cross between the cheesiest of hen-nights, and a weekly women's magazine of questionable quality. For the uninitiated, it's a frothy, female-fronted lunchtime chat show with a set that borrows heavily from the show-home school of interior design. Its rolling panel of five (predominantly middle-aged, white and overly-made-up) presenters generally hail from the world of soap, light entertainment and made-for-TV drama.
Those involved in making the show probably like to think of it as feisty, daring and outspoken (hence the feeble play on words in the title), but unfortunately, it's just an hour-long cliche-fest. You can almost hear its joints creaking as it bends over backwards in an attempt to be saucy and sassy.
Loose Women usually adheres to the following structure: some anodyne chat (perhaps with a light sprinkling of innuendo), the obligatory multiple choice phone-in competition, a spot of group fawning with a couple of guests and then another helping of lame chat. The panel members kick off by taking turns to air their views on a vaguely topical issue - usually something mind-numbingly inconsequential, such as 'how do you deal with cold callers?'
The show perpetuates the idea that women are a bunch of two-dimensional, inherently shallow, gossip-mongers
More often than not, it is lowest-common-denominator guff like, 'do you require a man to have a nice bum?' or 'which style icon do you most prefer Kate Moss or Posh?'. The latter item was thought important enough to merit discussion during the week of the local elections in England and parliamentary elections in Scotland and Wales.
Guests always consist of soap stars, pop stars, actors or comedians, all of whom are shamelessly plugging their latest storyline/album/show. These ever-so-minor celebrities are asked a small selection of tedious, back-of-a-fag-packet kind of questions. "So how long did it take to write your new album?" "Are you anything like your character when you're off-screen?" This gives them ample opportunity to flog their latest wares and demonstrate just how normal and "down to earth" they are. Consequently, the so-called interviews are dire. Nothing searching, controversial or even remotely interesting is ever touched upon. It's this uninspiring combination of bitty format and insubstantial content that makes Loose Women so annoying and unsatisfying to watch.
It's unclear exactly who the programme is aimed at. When the camera pans the studio audience, it seems to be entirely made up of women between the ages of about 40 and 60. Yet both the sexagenarian comedy duo Canon and Ball and the singer Sophie Ellis Bextor were among the star turns recently.
And, although the media would have us believe that 40 is the new 30, it's unlikely that Bextor's current collection of poptastic tunes is going to appeal to those who appreciate the finer points of British end-of-pier comedy from the 1980s. Nevertheless, whoever or whatever is presented, the clapping, whooping audience cheerfully laps it up.
Just to quickly return to the depths of inanity to which this show can plunge, here's a some questions that have been posed on the Loose Women website: do you get jealous when a friend loses weight? Is complaining good? Do men tell better jokes than women? Is goose the new turkey? Personally I'd have to answer: no, yes, depends on the man/woman in question and I don't really give two shits. Honestly! It's 2007. Is this really the best that ITV can do? Are there really no other issues in which its commissioners can conceive that women might be interested? Would it really hurt to mix things up a bit by getting a greater variety of guests and inviting a wider range of women onto the panel?
Loose Women is heterosexist, Euro-centric and makes overconfident assumptions about women's homogeneity which are offensive, outdated and dull, dull,
And while we're on the subject of the panel, it seems as if these particular women have been chosen because, as well as being gregarious and having showbiz credentials, they've, "been around the block a bit". And, although they're attractive, they aren't so jaw-droppingly stunning that your average female viewer could find them threatening - those watching from their sofas can comfortably relate to them instead. The level of superficiality that the show's presenters and contributors exhibit is odd, because they appear to be savvy, articulate and pretty successful in their chosen fields (they must have been extremely determined, talented and tenacious to make it in the notoriously sexist world of show-business in the first place). But the crux of the matter is that the material they're working with is extremely poor and, when it comes down to it, maybe paying the bills takes precedence over intelligent debate and debunking sexist myths.
This overexcited rant is not fuelled by TV snobbery (believe me, I relished the outlandish campness of Footballers' Wives every bit as much as I enjoy the conflicting opinions that are presented on Newsnight Review). It's just that, in addition to its lack of style and substance, Loose Women is heterosexist, Euro-centric and makes overconfident assumptions about women's homogeneity which are offensive, outdated and dull, dull, dull. On top of all this, the show simultaneously adopts the message that the working class are the salt of the Earth, while pillorying 'chavs'. All this vacuous piece of programming succeeds in doing is providing a forum for the championing of negative gender-stereotypes, and the perpetuating the idea that women are a bunch of two-dimensional, inherently shallow, gossip-mongers (and that when more than two of them get together they love nothing more than to discuss men, sex, kids, shopping and watching telly at great length). And yes, thousands, if not millions, of women probably do so every day, but they just might touch upon subjects like music, politics, film and international affairs too.