The reality soap has been my longest-standing adult relationship (Picture: ITV/REX/Shutterstock)
In the past 13 years I’ve lived in nine different houses (thank you university and London rental market).
I’ve had one failed relationship, and two more almost-boyfriends (thank you modern dating).
I’ve learnt how to do laundry, and how to cook (kind of). I’ve worked for four different companies, and have even started paying into a pension.
Life comes at you fast, but one thing hasn’t changed – on Sunday nights at 9pm I’ll take a seat on the sofa with a cup of tea, perhaps a couple of biscuits, and I’ll tune into The Only Way Is Essex, which is currently in its 32nd series.
The reality soap has been my longest-standing adult relationship.
While I now have mounting responsibilities, and more grey hairs, I can still find comfort in watching Amy Childs drinking a glass of prosecco and telling people to ‘shut up’.
In those moments, it’s like nothing has changed.
I started watching during my first year at college. I was at the cusp of adulthood, and found it fascinating watching how the TOWIE gang fared during it just before I got my chance.
Tuning in once just wasn’t enough, so I got myself the DVD box sets too and spent evenings re-watching Lucy Mecklenburgh and Mario Falcone having date night at an Italian restaurant, or James Argent smuggle in pizza to a bootcamp. Being a grown-up looked so much fun.
My friend, who was the first person to get an iPhone in my friendship group, even downloaded the TOWIE app for £1.49, which did little more than allow us to listen to their catchphrases while sitting in the canteen on lunch breaks.
I’ve had some other reality TV flings, of course – Made In Chelsea and I were pretty close for some time, but seemed to drift apart when Louise Thompson departed.
I dabbled in Geordie Shore – they always made me feel less hangxiety as it was great to see other people behave ridiculously after a couple of double vodkas. Sadly, it gave me the ick after university.
But TOWIE has consistently kept me hooked, and I think that’s for a happy combination of reasons.
I enjoy that they still have some of the same faces – the aforementioned OG Amy, her cousin Harry Derbridge, and funnyman James ‘Diags’ Bennewith. Even Brentwood High Street, which still looks pretty similar to when it began over a decade ago.
Josie and a friend watching TOWIE as teens (Picture: Josie Copson)
Then there is the relatability, which has ensured my loyalty. Although the cast members have certainly done well for themselves, they haven’t experienced the same intense lifestyle change that the Love Island cast have often had to navigate (of course there are some exceptions to the rules such as Mark Wright and the Faiers sisters, but they moved on a long time ago).
They still feel like ordinary people, who I understand. A few still even have 9-5 jobs including Diags, who runs a plumbing company, and eyelash technician Elma Pazar.
Like me, they’re also trying to find the fun in an ordinary life. The mundane is celebrated, and it weirdly reminds me that my life is important.
Most episodes involve them going round each other’s houses for a chat on the sofa, heading out to have coffee at Brentwood Kitchen, or having pornstar martinis at Slug and Lettuce.
While they’re doing it with fresh blow dries and tailored two-pieces, and I’m in leggings with a messy bun that could have done with being washed two days ago, it still feels like it somewhat reflects me.
Their lives aren’t linear, and they’re pretty much always messing up, which makes me feel less bad for not having my life sorted out at all.
In the current series, Elma and Diags are constantly flirting but trying to stay just friends, and Junaid Ahmed is talking about his problems with Harry to Harry’s family.
The arguments are a little more dramatic compared to mine though, I’ll give them that – while they are swilling each other, I’m sending passive aggressive texts. But to me, the similarities are still there.
A major theme has always been trying to keep friendships intact throughout adulthood, too. I’ve always appreciated that they devote just as much airtime to platonic relationships as romantic ones because we all know they can be just as complicated, rewarding and entertaining.
When I’m wanting a little pick-me-up, I’ll seek out the clip of Cara Kilbey gifting Billi Mucklow a bracelet the night before they were taking part in the London Marathon, which gets me in the feels.
There’s a clip for every mood, too. When I’m wanting some drama I’ll watch Gemma Collins asking James Locke: ‘What’s up, you ill?’
I might even dip into an awkward date, like Lauren Goodger and Tom Pearce’s painful trip to the cinema after a bad Hinge match.
I have found myself watching Lydia Bright and James Argent dancing to a Westlife song when I want to reminisce about young love, or Sam and Billie Faiers having an argument in their store, Minnie’s Boutique, when my sister is annoying me.
I don’t think the position of TOWIE in my life can be underestimated.
A therapist once told me that, when I’m feeling anxious, I should have a TV show I can put on where I know exactly what is going to happen. Her theory was it would distract me, and also knowing where the story was going would mean I could, hopefully, start to relax.
Even if it’s a brand new episode, and I’m not just burying myself in the archive, I kind of feel like I know what’s going to happen in each 40 minute offering.
With TOWIE, I feel like I can switch off, and catch up with friends without the pressure of having to bring anything to the conversation.
In 13 years of my love affair with the show, I have never missed an episode and I’m not about to start now. So, this Sunday – and every Sunday (and previously Wednesdays, before it was devastatingly cut down) for the next six weeks – it’s going to be me, my sofa, and TOWIE for the 385th time.
The TOWIE cast may not be changing the world with their spray tans, vajazzles, and ‘reem’ catchphrases, but they make my world a little bit better.