TOWIE series 24: still flaky after all these years, thank goodness

Reality TV: The cast are whisked to Thailand, but they’re as inane and immature as ever

It's the 24th season of TOWIE! Nine whole years of giant eyebrows, Bisto tans, "No Carbs Before Marbs", dubious waxing practices, the travails of Ms Gemma Collins and neck tattoos. In the Toytown world of TOWIE nothing much has changed within these years. The club scenes still look like they're filmed in a draughty school hall, with extras awkwardly dancing in the background in the style of the cardboard cutouts from Home Alone whilst the stars mangle their dialogue.

Newcomer Jayden Beales (ex-footballer/Chesney Hawkes lookalike) struggles through his lines as the lads sit around trying to swallow down pints of Guinness on their St Patrick's Day "knees-up". "They grow Guinness on vines in Ireland," he blankly stutters as if he's auditioning to be their very own Gareth Keenan. The cheap, rickety set with its harsh lighting and grubby decor, decorated to look like a disappointing wine bar, makes the magic of the Hills and their nights at Le Deux seem like a dreamy Sofia Coppola film.

Flammable outfits

The girls, dressed in a variety of flammable green and orange satin outfits, stand at the bar pretending to knock back tequila whilst staring despondently into the middle distance. It’s tough to make lunchtime on a Wednesday look like a boozy Saturday night, but none of the new batch appears to be up for the challenge. In fact, they barely seem bothered.

Thankfully, the stellar cast of familiar faces have been gifted the lion's share of the budget, whisked off to the grown-up glamour of Thailand. No more Nikki Beach champagne-showering antics – this time it's all yoga retreats and chats about "catching feelings" in the infinity pool. While the rest of the crew are soaking up the sun or trying to launch themselves into their complicated dominatrix-style bikinis, lovely Bobby Norris is on a more spiritual journey. Hobbling around on a crutch due to his mysterious torn ligaments, he brings Saffron on a trip to see a Buddha statue, saying how much he's changed and that he's ready to finally be himself. He leaves his Nyx concealer as an offering to the deity, and Saffron nods sagely at this metaphorical gesture. "Bobby, you've been concealing yourself for far too long," she adds, sledgehammering the point home.

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This culminates in a beach bar showdown where the groups of girls and lads circle each other, West Side Story-style

The more things change, the more they remain the same, and you can depend on TOWIE to provide questionable storylines straight from the toxic masculinity handbook. Apparently, there’s no room for subtlety, nuance or any sensitivity in Essex. The show may be getting older but the boys certainly aren’t maturing in a mental capacity. It’s blokey business as usual, typified by a scene where Harry and Jayden chat in an actual locker room about shaving their behinds and what it says about you as a man.

Typical TOWIE lad

In Thailand, Sam adheres to the strict mould of the typical TOWIE lad, offering up his opinion on all the girls he’s been chasing on the holiday (including his supposed friend Shelby), concluding that he’ll go for Chloe Sim’s little sister Demi because “bisexuals are more of a challenge, innit?”

This all culminates in a standard beach bar showdown where the groups of girls and lads circle each other, West Side Story-style, until Shelby confronts Sam, screeching about “respect”, and chucks a drink in his face. The first of the new season.

It may be all smoke and mirrors, its illusion peeling away and becoming brassy, but TOWIE can still garner the odd surprise. The show ends with former lothario "Pirate" Pete Wicks counselling his ex Shelby, transforming into a beachside sensei, the voice of reason in the face of all these brash newcomers. Hopefully it won't take them nine more years to learn how to become human.