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Unconventional and disruptive, Nick Grimshaw and Vicky Pattison discuss the reality series breaking traditional norms, and providing a glimmer of optimism.
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Unconventional and disruptive, Nick Grimshaw and Vicky Pattison discuss the reality series breaking traditional norms, and providing a glimmer of optimism.


A new perspective is about to shake up the reality TV world. In a clever twist, The Underdog: Josh Must Win challenges the typical format by placing an average individual among the usual cast of tanned, tattooed, and toned contestants in a house. Despite the group’s belief that they are part of a popularity competition on E4 called The Favourite, unknown to them, the real underdog is a mild-mannered 23-year-old named Josh from Bournemouth who lives with his parents and four chocolate labradors. A panel of four celebrities secretly resides in the neighboring house, manipulating the events and attempting to secure Josh’s victory.

The host of the series, Nick Grimshaw, expresses his appreciation for its subversive nature. He voices his disapproval of the current state of reality TV, where it has become overly artificial and lacking in diversity. In contrast, this show promotes a more positive message, showcasing how those who are often underestimated can come out on top and emphasizing the importance of not judging based on appearances. Grimshaw further explains that the series delves into the inner workings of reality TV, examining its overall framework. He also mentions that it provides a comedic element.

Celebrities, including Grimshaw, Amber Rose Gill, Pete Wicks, and Vicky Pattison, are watching from a control room 10 meters away and controlling the events of the show. Their goal is to manipulate the outcome of the “Most Popular” vote to favor Josh, who comes across as a trustworthy and likable protagonist.

From left: Sophia, Jack, Maddy, Louie, Josh, Andre, Jeanette, Myles and Gabby in The Underdog: Josh Must Win.View image in fullscreen

In order to maintain the anonymity of the celebrity judges, the setup of the show is designed to mimic a typical reality show. The show takes place in a luxurious mansion in Southend, equipped with shared bedrooms and numerous cameras. The contestants, including Josh, believe they are competing for a cash prize of £10,000. Little do they know, if Josh wins, the prize money will increase to £100,000 and be divided among all of the housemates. However, if the players become aware of the judges’ identities, the entire game will come to an end. Pattison confesses, “I am not naturally inclined to be secretive, so I felt quite nervous throughout the experience.”

Grimshaw holds two roles. In addition to serving as the head panellist, he also acts as the decoy presenter of The Favourite. He admits, “This was particularly nerve-wracking because I had to enter the house.” He was afraid of ruining our disguise. What if I accidentally reveal something or give away a hint? Despite the anxiety, it was also an enjoyable experience. Using the intercom to communicate and gathering them as they were evicted gave off a Davina-like vibe.

Once a player is eliminated, they are informed of the truth about The Favourite. Grimshaw reveals, “Different players react differently, with some taking the news in stride.” As the days passed, the show became their own reality, so when eliminated, many were surprised, upset, or angry. Then, the entire truth was exposed, which can be overwhelming for some.

In the debut episode, Josh is the initial person to enter the luxurious home. We see him anxiously welcome the others as they slowly trickle in. They fit into typical categories: social media influencers, pageant winners, players, and pretenders. These are the ambitious attention-seekers who proudly label themselves as “alpha” and brag about being willing to betray their competition. As Pattison puts it, “I’ve been in that situation, done that, and contracted a sexually transmitted infection.” She likens one of the strong males to “every guy I slept with in my 20s”.

Grimshaw was amazed by their bold and outgoing personalities. He admits, “I was so suspicious that they were actors hired by E4 to fool us because they were so self-assured. The things they said aloud seemed too outlandish to be genuine – ‘I’m a perfect 10 in terms of looks,’ ‘I’m the most attractive person in my town.’ But after talking to Vicky, I understood that they represent a new breed of reality TV stars. They’ve grown up watching these types of shows and have been making content on their phones for a long time, so being on camera comes naturally to them.”

Pattison observes that they have undergone changes and improvements, comparing it to sharks learning to swim backwards. When he first met Josh, he was taken aback by how different he was from the others. The others could easily fit in on reality TV shows like Love Island or Married at First Sight, with their tattoos, curves, and polished teeth. It seemed like an overwhelming challenge ahead of them. However, Pattison has also seen himself as an underdog at times and has managed to succeed nonetheless.

As others scream, celebrate and exchange kisses in the air, Josh faces challenges in establishing himself. As Pete Wicks eloquently states: “I don’t mean to be pessimistic, but we’re in a difficult situation.” However, gradually, the outsider begins to find his place. In a particular episode, Josh is chosen as the least popular contestant. While his housemates offer support and comfort, he responds with a casual shrug, stating: “I’m not dying.” It’s no surprise that the panel recognizes him as the “least expected reality star ever”.

Pattison believes that the inclusion of Josh, both in his presence and as a star, makes a strong statement against the homogenization of reality television. This is a common pattern in which the same faces and storylines are repeated year after year, as she points out. Having had a tumultuous experience on Geordie Shore, Pattison has a personal connection to this issue. She views the opportunity to create a feel-good show as a refreshing change of pace. Pattison also believes that this show is providing a much-needed update to the world of reality TV. She praises Josh’s character, noting his kindness and loveliness, and expresses the need for more individuals like him to be featured not just on reality shows, but on TV in general.

From left: Panellists Pete Wicks, Amber Rose Gill, Vicky Pattison and Nick Grimshaw in The Underdog: Josh Must Win.

You can view the image in fullscreen mode.

“I enjoy watching reality TV, but it can become tiring,” Grimshaw acknowledges. “You often see the same stereotypical characters and can easily predict the outcomes. This show, however, feels more original and less formulaic. It’s refreshing to see real people on TV who don’t have perfect bodies and teeth. That’s what real humans look like! That’s why I really liked the casting on old seasons of Big Brother and more recent shows like First Dates and The Traitors. They feature a diverse range of people, which is also why weddings are always the most entertaining parties. Having interesting plus-ones interact with your family members, that’s what makes reality TV engaging.”

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I was captivated by the social interactions happening: “It explores the nature of humanity. Everyone has experienced feeling like an outsider – at school, work, or in large groups. We all saw parts of ourselves in Josh. I certainly acted that way in school and even at the beginning of university. Observing those loud groups at parties, unsure of myself and feeling insecure, was intriguing. It’s interesting to watch them form alliances, change sides, and strategize. I admit, I am curious, but everyone enjoys observing others.”

As the eight episodes progress, the well-known group of four individuals utilize their skills to try to impact the outcome of events. They use their knowledge of reality television to aid Josh’s performance and, in turn, hopefully lead him to success. According to Grimshaw, some of the challenges and missions are reminiscent of early seasons of popular shows such as Big Brother, I’m a Celebrity, and The Challenge.

Pattison was fiercely protective of Josh, jokingly noting that her age and lack of children made her easily take on a maternal role. Josh’s youth reminded her of her own at the start of her reality TV career, where she struggled to find her true identity and often conformed to the expectations of producers. However, Josh stayed true to himself and his strong character, which was rare and admirable. Pattison didn’t want him to lose that or change for the sake of pleasing others, and even tough-minded Pete Wicks became a strong supporter of him.

Grimshaw was taken aback by how much the experience affected him. He shares, “We were monitoring them for 12 hours a day and became completely consumed by it.” He admits to feeling somewhat ashamed when reflecting on how emotionally invested they were. “We would cry and shout, which may seem crazy, but it’s also a key reason why the show is so compelling. Our genuine concern and passion shines through. I hope the audience will feel the same way.”

Both the panelists agree that the experience could have a significant impact on the main participant. Pattison stated that reality TV has the ability to completely transform one’s life, citing her own experience as proof. She hopes that participating in this show will boost Josh’s self-confidence. Grimshaw adds that Josh, as well as every other participant, will go through a journey during the show.

She thinks the show teaches an important message. “Reality TV and social media have created the illusion that perfection is attainable,” she explains. “Everyone wants to stand out these days, but being ordinary is actually wonderful. Josh is living proof of that. I hope this signals a shift in society’s values. The world can be a tough place. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to turn on the TV and see a charming young man challenging the idea of success? Showing that being genuine and compassionate is more than sufficient?”

The idea of ordinary individuals defeating arrogant show-offs is highly enticing. You will be fully engaged in the outcome. As Grimshaw states, “I expected it to be enjoyable, but I didn’t anticipate it would also be so heartfelt. Josh becomes a symbol of hope.” Let the competition commence.

The show “The Underdog: Josh Must Win” will premiere on March 25th at 9pm on the E4 channel.

Source: theguardian.com