ITV’s spin-off reality show captures the essence of Essex. Or should that be the essentialness of Essex?
An Englishman stares at some penguins. “What are their beaks made out of?” he asks. “It’s like wood, isn’t it?” “What?” says a confused guide. “It’s wood,” he says confidently. “Their beaks.”
There’s a pause as the guide digests this.
“Caaaaw!” says Joey Essex, for it is he. “I’m trying to communicate with them,” he explains.
The guide looks perplexed, as she often does during her time with Essex. Essex asks if penguins are birds. Essex asserts his belief that they put eggs “up their bum”. Essex eventually decides that, cute as they are, he can’t be doing with penguins. “They confuse me with what they do,” he says firmly, as though being a penguin is a lifestyle choice, one he has considered thoroughly and is sadly rejecting. Joey Essex is a former star of The
Only Way Is Essex. He is handsome, beige and smiley. He has his own vocabulary (“ream” means “good” in the Joey dialect) and his address is built into his name in case he gets lost. The alternative was putting a collar on him like a cat.
Essex is a sanctified man-child untouched by worldly knowledge, and everything fills him with wonder: nature’s magnificence, phone apps, the magic of fire, the anger of Crom the worm god, Twitter.
Because we live in end times, Essex’s lack of knowledge is taken, not as a damning indictment of the education system and the dubious powers of the internet (with which he’s obsessed), but as a reason to give him David Attenborough’s job. So in this week’s Educating Joey
Essex (ITV2, Wednesdays) Essex is sent to Patagonia, where he learns about nature and “the local way of life”.
A load of sheeps
Essex had never heard of Patagonia before. “Patagonia,” he says repeatedly, before arriving in shorts and taking a selfie with “sheeps”. “I thought they were going to attack us. Imagine being attacked by a load of sheeps,” he says brightly.
I can imagine Essex being attacked by a load of sheeps. “Not ream!” I picture him yelling as he drowns in a woolly sea. I assume such things happen to him all the time: Joey Essex being attacked by sheep; Joey Essex being carried off by a seagull; Joey Essex besieged by squirrels; Joey Essex living among the squirrels, ultimately becoming their leader.
Luckily, people are always looking after Essex, as though he turned up on their doorstep in a basket wearing a bonnet
Essex has never heard the word ‘glacier’ before. ‘Is it a woman, a glacier? Is it a dog? Is it a cartoon? Is it a tunnel? . . .
(something I can also imagine). He has dinner with a family called Garcia with whom he breaks biscuits (or “bee-skits” as he calls them in “Spanish”).
“Joey is a nice person,” says Mr Garcia, “but his way of dressing is weird and his behaviour is even stranger”.
Lola, the guide, takes Essex, dressed like a toddler in padded onesie and fluffy-hat, to see a glacier. Essex has never heard the word “glacier” before. “Is it a woman, a glacier?” he asks. “Is it a dog? Is it a cartoon? Is it a tunnel? . . . Is it a magazine?” Then Essex laughs. “That’s Grazia isn’t it?”
I have to say, I could listen to him guessing what a glacier is all day.
Essex visits the glacier and is amazed to find it is not a woman, cartoon, dog, tunnel or magazine. Then he’s taken on a fishing expedition and goes swimming with sea lions.
“I don’t really want to swim with a load of lions in the sea,” says Essex. He lasts about a minute before being fished out. “I think if I left Joey out here,” says a guide called Dani. “In less than hour he’d be dead, eaten by a penguin or something.”
Dani won’t let that happen, of course, because she likes Essex. He’s a nice person. In a previous World Cup-themed show, when Essex discovered a guide didn’t have tickets to the opening ceremony, he gave him his own. Whenever the Dave Lamb-like narrator makes jokes at his expense, I find myself shouting “leave him alone!” at the telly.
In fact, when I write jokes at his expense I find myself shouting “leave him alone!” at my computer screen.
The thing about Joey Essex is that he is completely without malice and, probably, entirely without sin. He is reality television boiled down to its purest, sweetest essence, and when he eventually returns to his planet/heaven/ penguin-colony, I believe we will all have learned something. Or we will all have learned nothing.
Either way, who cares? We have the internet now. We can just look stuff up.