Geordie Shore was put under the microscope at an RTS North East and the Borders event, “Anatomy of a hit”, in mid-October.
The tales of boozy, sexed-up Geordies – “I'm fit, I’m flirty and I’ve got double Fs,” as one of the cast memorably declared – have now filled 18 series on MTV.
Former NETB Chair Graeme Thompson discussed the DNA of the reality show, which is made by Lime Pictures, with the execs who make and commission it.
Geordie Shore, like The Only Way is Essex and Made in Chelsea, is a constructed reality show that blends fact and drama. “It’s a model that’s proved hugely popular,” said the show’s executive producer,Rebecca McLaughlin.
“We let our cast members tell their stories their own way and in their own time,” added Craig Orr, VP of commissioning & development, MTV. “We never judge our cast members or force them to do anything they wouldn’t want to do.”
Television has a duty of care to the people in its shows. “We have processes, policies and protocols,” explained Claire Poyser, managing director of Lime Pictures. “With Geordie Shore, where we have a [returning] cast, we keep in contact with that cast throughout the periods between filming. We also have a whole series of people professionals outside of Lime who we use, [such as] psychiatrists, psychologists and medical advisers.”
Cast members may have the odd problem on air – turbulent relationships and drunken rows are scarcely unknown – but Geordie Shore offers exposure and money-making opportunities through brand endorsements. “The cast members make their money from their commercial ventures, not necessarily from the talent fees on the reality show,” said Orr.
The cast are paid but the MTV commissioner wouldn’t be drawn on how much: “They get paid decently and fairly. We’ve been cautious not to go wild with [their pay] because we’ve had situations with MTV US reality shows where the talent fees are so much that we can no longer afford to make the show.”
Geordie Shore is shot in a purpose-built house on the quayside at Wallsend, where ITV cop show Verais also made, and on location in Newcastle. “Ultimately, the success of the show comes down to the cast over the actual location, but the cast being Geordies, predominately, is key,” said Orr. “Shore in a different town wouldn’t have as much appeal.”
Poyser argued that programmes such as Geordie Shore contribute hugely to a region’s economy: “For every series we make, there is over £300,000 of direct spend into the region on accommodation, locally employed people and travel.
“There is a very simple metric you use in television,” Poyser continued. “For every television programme made in the region you [multiply] the spend by five. So, for every series we make, we reckon we inwardly invest £1.5m into the region.
Geordie Shore shares features with other shows in the Lime Pictures stable such as TOWIE, argued Poyser, adding: “We don’t make snipey television, we make warm, aspirational, engaging television. Of course, I would say that, but we do.
“With the more successful reality shows, while [viewers] will remember moments of aggravation, most of the viewers don’t want to see too much of that. Whether it’s in Geordie or TOWIE, [viewers don’t like] too much shouty, in-your-face [footage].
Geordie Shore, Poyser continued, owes its longevity to generating a feel of “community, a sense of family and [people] looking out for each other – there is a genuine warmth there.”
The RTS event was held as part of Digital Cities North East, a festival of events for the creative industries in the region. A longer report will appear in the November issue of Television.