PA­TRICK FREYNE

ITV’s spin-off re­al­ity show cap­tures the essence of Es­sex. Or should that be the es­sen­tial­ness of Es­sex?

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - TICKET STUBS -

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.

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