The Only Way Is Essex

TV review by
Melissa Camacho, Common Sense Media
The Only Way Is Essex TV Poster Image
British reality with sexy talk, hard language, and drinking.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

Some discussions about friendships and loyalty, but mostly the themes are superficial and centered around romantic and sexual relationships.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Cast members work at a variety of jobs, mostly centered on modeling or partying. Some are better friends to each other than others.


Occasionally arguments break out between cast members.


Endless conversations about relationships. Lots of flirtatious behavior and discussions about sexual activity. Women are shown in their underwear, covering their naked breasts, and getting rhinestones glued below their bikini line (but no actual private parts are visible). Infidelity is discussed.


Language isn't always easy to distinguish, but words like "f--k" and the British curse "bugger" are still understandable.


Logos for flashy cars like Mercedes-Benz, Canon cameras, Apple iPhones, and other items also visible.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Lots of drinking (wine, champagne, hard liquor) at bars, parties, and social events.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Only Way Is Essex is a sexy British reality series with lots of references to having sex, plus scenes with women and men partially dressed (but no nudity). Expect some strong language ("f--k"), and lots of drinking, too. Characters seem mostly concerned with dating and relationships, beyond all else.

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What's the story?

THE ONLY WAY IS ESSEX is a British reality series about a group of adults living it up in the county of Essex. Among the folks the show follows is club promoter Mark Wright, his sister Jessica, Nick Norcross, the son a local nightclub owner, aspiring model Amy Childs, and boutique shop owner Lauren Goodger. Joining them is DJ and model Lauren Pope, and bar workers Michael Woods and Candy Jacobs. From parties and outings to relationship drama, these folks show the world why Essex is the place to be.

Is it any good?

The soap opera-ish series, which is characterized as a a "structured" reality series due to its preplanning of events for entertainment purposes, offers a voyeuristic look into the lives of 20- and 30-year-olds in the Southeastern British county. But most of the show's focus is on the casts' romantic relationships, which range from finding someone to date to complicated love triangles. It's also hard to follow some of the shorelines, thanks to the show's large cast.  

It's not as wild as the American reality shows like Jersey Shore, and many of the conversations about Essex and the people who live there will be lost on those who are not familiar with the community or culture. Some reality fans might find the endless parade of fake eyelashes, fake tans, and fake boobs entertaining, but ultimately, there's not a lot going on here.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the difference between TV shows in the United States and those produced in the United Kingdom. What kinds of things are permissible to show in Great Britain that aren't acceptable here? Are there things that can be shown on US television that can't be shown there?

  • What is the difference between an unscripted show and a reality series? How can a reality show be considered "reality" when events are preplanned?

TV details

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