It’s definitely fair to say that The Only Way Is Essex lost its way a little bit when a whole stream of the original cast from the reality show’s glory days called it quits.
And one person who has noticed that it’s no longer up to scratch is former cast member Mario Falcone, who reckons a majority of the new characters could not be more boring.
Speaking exclusively to the 28-year-old at his sister Giovanna Fletcher’s book launch, Mario told me: “The new characters are terrible, the last new characters that they brought in that were good are Pete and Megan McKenna.
“The others, to me, are just dead wood. I don’t really understand what they’re doing on it… People that aren’t even from Essex are on the show.
“You have people on the show trying to be the new Mario, trying to be the new Joey – you can’t have new, you either have to have your own niche that people find fascinating or you’re not fascinating and shouldn’t be on the TV.
“The problem with the show at the moment is that you can’t lose the originals, people want to see them grow. If I eventually settle down and have kids people want to see that more than a 21 year old trying to do what Mario was doing four years ago. They want to see evolution.
“I watch it now and think ‘I don’t actually give a sh*t’, people used to watch it before and care, you’d watch it and be into it but now you can watch it and read a book at the same time – it’s a background show.”
Still, Mario wouldn’t rule out returning to the show, admitting that the return of an old producer is “tempting” him to go back.
He told me: “I used to rule out going back to TOWIE only because I’d been on it for four years and I went through so much on that show. So, so much. But now it’s been a year in July since I left so I would probably go back.
“And there’s finally stuff going on in my life again so it’ll be interesting. Before I wasn’t single, I had Emma, and you can’t have a relationship and be on that show. It doesn’t work, especially when my bravado was to be a womanizer.
“It’s hard to live up to the role [I was given] but I just saw it as acting. There were aspects of it that were true, I do love women and TOWIE just hammed it up.”
Still, Mario does admit that he found it difficult to appease producers and his girlfriend at the same time, adding: “It was really hard because the show wanted me to be a certain way so I had to do things in a way that would appease them but not upset Emma.
“Then the show would be angry because I wouldn’t give them what they wanted, or they’d make me say something in a scene that I didn’t think sounded bad but Emma would lose her rag. It got too much.
“One had to go and obviously I was going to choose the girl I loved at the time over a TV show. I’d love to go back, it just has to be the right timing.”
But if he did go back how would he feel being with the ‘dead wood’ and unfamiliar faces that make up the cast at the moment?
“The unfamiliar thing is what makes it easier for me,” Mario reasoned, “Because there are new girls, new rivalries with guys and I’m going back to my realm.
“They haven’t met somebody like me on the show so they wouldn’t know what to do with themselves. I know the game inside out and of course viewers are going to be on my side: I’m Mario.”
I’d certainly love to have him back.
Giovanna Fletcher’s novel ‘Always With Love’ is available to buy now.