THE makers of a new reality show based on life in South Wales have defended its portrayal of the area.

MTV's The Valleys follows nine young people as they move in together in Cardiff - and has been described as Wales's answer to The Only Way Is Essex (Towie).

Online trailers ahead of tonight's network premiere feature sheep in the title, and cast members have promoted the show by talking about their sex, drinking and partying lifestyles.

Programme bosses have insisted the show is "absolutely not about stereotyping’’, but community leaders have claimed the show paints a negative picture of people in South Wales, with singer Charlotte Church calling the series "horrific’’.

The Cardiff-born star and TV presenter said: "I think it will be exploitative and a horrific representation of the country that I love.’’ The Valleys is the newest addition to the reality show genre, which has risen in popularity thanks to the likes of shows such as Towie and Geordie Shore.

As well as proving cheap to make compared with drama series like Coronation Street or EastEnders, docu-soaps have attracted large viewing figures and become a talking point in several glossy magazines.

Like its predecessors, The Valleys focuses on cast members' sex lives and love of partying, as well as their relationships and careers.

Those featured in the show include a law graduate with a boob job who hopes to become the next Katie Price, and a self-styled ladies man and kickboxing champ whose party tricks include kicking cans off people's heads.

The show has prompted criticism from people in the South Wales valleys, fearing it will portray Welsh people as unintelligent and obsessed with going out and getting drunk or having sex.

Also expressing her concern was Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, who was born and raised in the Valleys.

She said: "It looks to me as if it's going to be a cheap, tacky and over-promoted television programme that is going to fit to the usual stereotypes.

"The Valleys have got so much more to offer than what is going to be presented. I have no intention of watching it.’’ The show's launch has prompted a counter-offensive by a campaign group called The Valleys Are Here, which hopes to promote "a more positive image’’ of the area.

A statement on its website reads: "We want to make sure MTV doesn't give millions of people another bad image of the area.

"Life here isn't all rosy, nobody would say that, but we're proud of where we come from - and want everyone to know why. We need to set the record straight.’’ TV critics who watched a preview of the first episode gave it mixed reviews.

Heat magazine called it "the rudest, brashest and most jaw-droppingly funny reality show on TV’’, while the Western Mail labelled it "outrageous and crass’’.

However, a number of celebrities from South Wales say they are looking forward to the show.

Former Wales rugby captain Gareth Thomas, from Bridgend, tweeted that he will be watching The Valleys.

Steps singer Ian "H’’ Watkins from Cwmparc, Rhondda, told his Twitter followers they will be "addicted’’ to the programme.

MTV's director of television, Kerry Taylor, insisted the show is different to its rivals.

She told BBC Wales: "It's absolutely not about stereotyping.

"I feel whenever you make a successful reality show, there are always some accusations. But the show is absolutely celebrating these nine young people and their mentors. It's very much about their individual stories.’’ Cast members have also said in recent interviews that The Valleys was not just about "bedroom antics’’ and was more about them trying to fulfil their career aspirations.

The Valleys begins tonight at 10pm on MTV.

The Valleys starts tonight - so join in our live blog using hashtag #argusthevalleys and tell us what you think!