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
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
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?
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.
Dawn Kofie is 31 and lives in Edinburgh. She very much enjoys baking, pop
music and growing things that she can eat. She has an aversion to peas,
horror movies and Jim Davidson.