Sex, drugs and snobs: ITV piles on the clichés

September 24, 2009

Evil professors, outrageous initiation rites and stupendously snobbish students: these are not the images Oxbridge wants to cultivate, but such stereotypes abound in Trinity, a new ITV2 drama set at the fictional Bridgeford University.

In an over-the-top take on widening participation, the programme notes say: "For more than 900 years, Trinity has been an elite playground solely for the uber-rich and powerful. However, for the first time, it is about to throw open its doors to hoi polloi."

The story centres on Theo Mackenzie (Reggie Yates), a black student from Lewisham, who discovers a world of sex, drugs and secret societies "ruled by the mysterious Dandelion Club: a select group of over-privileged students used to getting their own way".

The society, reminiscent of the Bullingdon Club, which David Cameron, Conservative Party leader, joined during his Oxford days, is "devoted to the pursuit of pleasure", the preserve of students who wear top-hats and tailcoats and were born into money.

At the start of term, they pick two students from working-class families to be their jesters, and when Mackenzie arrives, the club's president, Dorian Gaudain (Christian Cooke), remarks: "This is the finest academic institution in the country. I go away for one summer and you've turned it into a basketball team."

Other lines from the upper-class twit include such bon mots as: "Girls like a bit of rough, but in my experience they prefer a nicely laundered waistcoat"; and "I assumed you were of good breeding. After all, you're so frightfully pretty."

The status quo is threatened by the arrival of a new warden, who attempts to drag the college into the 21st century. But Oxbridge reformers take note: it's not long before the bodies start to pile up ...

Ash Atalla, the show's executive producer, said Trinity, which also stars Charles Dance, was "full of casual sex, casual drugs and casual murder. What more could you ask for?"

It seems a dose of reality would be a request too far.

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