Most of what I know about England I learned from reading books about spies and watching Downton Abbey, so my knowledge is admittedly limited. But from what I understand, the United Kingdom does smashingly when it comes to snooty clubs with particular membership requirements. Their whole country is lousy with them. Yes, we have them, too, but if anything, America is the joint-smoking teenager here, in that we learned it from watching them. But one “elite society” the U.K. lacks is the Greek system, so some enterprising television producer decided to import one from America. Why not import one from Greece? Go right to the source, I say. Alas, England will have to make due with Sigma Gamma, a sorority invented entirely for Sorority Girls UK.
Sorority Girls UK, which originated in England but now airs on TLC, is a reality competition show wherein five American sorority sisters start the first British chapter of Sigma Gamma in Leeds, challenging a bunch of British college students to test their sister-mettle with competitions like “find a date for this evening in 20 minutes” and “try to look a little bit less like a prostitute working for ecstasy.” The American sisters, from colleges across the country, are named Amelia, Devan, Hannah, Arianna, and Dominique, and their names tell you most of what you need to know about them. (Their teeth are their whitest feature, but not by much.) Presumably, these girls have never met before, and they are all members of different sororities in the States, but they all already act like true sisters. We see them having a house meeting: “Today we’ll be voting on the new colors of the bathroom. All in favor of pink say ‘aye.’” The ayes have it.
Being a member of any sorority must focus on the traditions and the history that run through that particular house, so the fact that Sigma Gamma is fabricated, in a rented house in Leeds, makes this show hard to swallow. “We need to find girls that have that special Sigma Gamma spunk.” What is that special Sigma Gamma spunk? The only thing you girls have in common is the ability to not move your head too much on camera and the fact that poor people out of context make you uncomfortable. There are no traditions, because this house in Leeds was rented two weeks before filming started, and it will go away when the show is over. My criticisms with this show are not criticisms of Greek life in general. I wasn’t in a frat and I don’t care about them, but I think we can all be confident that Sorority Girls UK bears as much resemblance to real sorority life as Cupcake Wars does to when people really go to war over cupcakes
The sorority girls do not come off well, but the British college students really do not come off well. Hey, the UK, is everything cool? Between the phone hacking and what these 50 college students personalities’ seemed like, you don’t seem to be headed in a good place. Maybe you should take back some of the countries you gave away? There’s something in the water and it’s making me nervous. Just please don’t stop making Colman’s Mustard or the BBC Sherlock. Everything else I can make do without.
TLC premiered the show last week, and despite it being an eight-episode series, the second episode was inexplicably nowhere to be found this Tuesday. Why? Was it too good? TLC doesn’t seem like a network that gets embarrassed by its programming after the fact. When you’ve got shows called “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant” and “I’m Pretty Sure What I Just Ate Was a Tumor” you don’t get squeamish about an online petition by real sorority sisters to cancel your show. Either way, the lack of a second episode was disappointing. But for posterity's sake, I’ve written up my favorite things about the premiere episode, a plotless monstrosity that does not deserve a narrative retelling:
- The American sisters arrive to find the Sigma Gamma house completely decorated, but they put their own “finish touches” on the house, namely a mailbox. They put a mailbox outside. Do they not have mailboxes in England? Do they call them “letterposts” or something ridiculous?
- Their mascots are a bear and a ferret, really. The bear represents strength, and the ferret represents the greasy kid in your eighth-grade class who has unscrambled cable pornography at his house.
- The Americans’ ideal sorority girl would be Kate Middleton. I’m sure, in this 50-person cattle call, that they will find lots of Kate Middletons. Maybe too many.
- When the 50 British girls show up, the five sisters open the door, form a pyramid, and perform a synchronized door chant to “break the ice.” What a classic icebreaker. Everybody at this television show filming was very tense, but now they are relaxed. Later, the five sisters will cold open their Pref Night (don’t ask) with an a cappella performance of the Sigma Gamma theme song, which includes the lyrics, “We are the girls you want to be,” and, “Clever as clogs, friendly to dogs.” They say this too is an “icebreaker.”
- LYLAS stands for “love you like a sister.” PLC stands for “poor life choices.” SNSG is “so not Sigma Gamma.”
- The sisters recommend the potential pledges “dress like you’re going to meet your boyfriend’s parents for the first time, or going to a luncheon with your girlfriends.” If I found out the lunch with friends I was going to was a luncheon, I’d cancel.
- A question posed to the potential pledges: “In a centralist government, how many checks and balances are too many?” There’s no right answer! Another question asked: “Can you show us your best dance move?” There is a right answer in this case.
- The absolute best girl is one whose nickname is either Scab or Scabbies. Scab! “It’s because I get a lot of scabs.” Girl, I could marry you.
- One sister informs us that calling someone a slut is rude, and you shouldn’t judge, so in those cases where they look like a slut you should call them a “slooter cahooter.” That is much better and I wouldn’t mind being called that.
- Of all the gross things on this show, the grossest is one girl who says her ideal date is Simon Cowell, because he’s so good looking. Sort it out, England.
- When it’s time to pick out which girls they want to let rush, or pledge, or whatever, the sisters devise a system of judging how appropriate the girl is. It is a scale from one to five, one being Lindsay Lohan (sure) and five being Jennifer Aniston (what). I can’t even handle it.
- I also can’t handle how often they all say “are we in agreeance” while deciding. They say “agreeance” so many times.
That is, of course, a small sample. Will it be America’s only sample? I certainly hope not. Though sadly, Scabbies was not sent along to the next round, so there is almost no point in watching. Why wouldn’t Sigma Gamma want someone named Scabbies in their house? They were most offended when her special talent was licking her own elbow, which they found very sexual and most inappropriate. It’s neither.
Max Silvestri is a comedian and a writer based in New York. Follow him on Twitter, where he mostly talks about food.