Famous, Rich and Homeless Review: Reality TV Can Spare The Change

June 24, 2009 by  
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FAMOUS, RICH AND HOMELESS: Wednesday 24th June, BBC1, 9pm Alert Me

I’ll admit I approached this review like a soldier in Iraq approaching an unattended car on the side of the road.

“Have we not plumbed the lowest depths of our cultural tourism yet?

Aren’t we tired of seeing ‘celebrities’ shed all sense of dignity in the name of reality TV?’ I wondered as I tentatively pushed the DVD into the machine.

But what started as reluctance soon gave way to curiosity as I found out that the experiment – to have five famous faces sleep rough on the streets of London for ten nights – was organised by Big Issue founder and former rough sleeper John Bird.

With this injection of credibility into proceedings, the fear that I would see a D-list ex-boyband member begging outside Sony House dressed like a Victorian chimneysweep evaporated.

Bird’s notoriously hard line on our society’s seeming indifference to homelessness reassured me that this programme wouldn’t descend into the voyeuristic freak show it clearly could have been.

But more surprisingly to me, the more I watched, the more fascinated I became.

The five famous names – tennis ace and MILF Annabel Croft, Scottish turban wearing presenter/journalist Hardeep Singh Kohli, rough around the edges former Corrie actor Bruce Jones, privileged journalist and broadcaster Rosie Boycott and the Marquess Lord James Blandford, the nephew of Winston Churchill – all looked suitably nervous as they are briefed about what they are expected to undertake.

Relieved of all of their possessions the volunteers get dropped off at various locations throughout the capital and must fend for themselves for the next three nights before making contact once again with the team. They can only buy what they raise enough money to be able to buy and must decide for themselves where they are going to bed down.

As the five are dropped one by one into their new habitats the reality of the situation kicks in. There are a few tears, some genuine fear and a smattering of upbeat optimism (it doesn’t last long). The genius of the show, which if you must know has reaffirmed my faith in so-called reality TV, lies in the choice of celeb.

Singh Koli, a big advocate of homeless charities, tries his best to keep his head above water mentally while Coronations Street’s Les Battersby clearly feels way out of his comfort zone. Former alcoholic Rosie Boycott seems appalled at the prospect of begging and as such has created a homeless alter ego, while Annabel Croft heads straight for the familiarity of Bond Street to fall asleep outside Prada.

All the different coping mechanisms are fascinating to watch, all the while giving some disturbing insights into the existence of the hundreds of people who sleep rough in London every night.

But for sheer bare-faced, loose-moralled, chinless, aristocratic petulance (not to mention cracking TV), watch the fearless Lord Blandford – from a long line of military heroes – turn tail at the first whiff of hardship and check into a hotel for the first two nights before dropping out of the show altogether.

This is reality TV as it was intended. Hard-hitting, entertaining and informative.

Big Brother who, now?

Jack McKay

Can’t get enough of reality TV but fancy something a little lighter? Check out our interview with X-Factor alumni JLS. Or if you’re still holding onto the rage, head on over to our review of Desperately Seeking Fame which got our reviewer so enraged she awarded the infamous ‘NIL POINT’.

adele haswell says:

I am really glad they made this programme to show life on the streets and our government should be ashamed more needs to be done, I understand where mr Bird is coming from when he was trying to tell them that there is no quick fix. Iwas a little annoyed at brue jones as he got in a strop with his buddie for not turning up to go to the city hall. He tried really hard that day but unfortunately with heroin addiction he needed to get his fix before he could continue and he had already went 2 hours over the time he was due to get his next fix and was prob feeling unwell. The programme was very hard hitting and upsetting in parts I hope that the gov and charities try to do more as a result of this and I’m sorry but Isort of agreed with bruce that we spendind an awful lot of money on prisoners who could never be released and he was right that they have more human rights than homeless do.

Jackie Carpenter says:

What I thought was both funny and revealing about Jamie was that he – like most of the other contestants – quickly fell into stereotypical behaviour. Bruce dived into alcohol straight away (made £16, bought 4 pints and a bag of peanuts, no food). Rosie doubted herself and withdrew into solitude in the hostel. Hardeep gor angry, grumpy, and argued with the people around him. Annabel was probably the most detached, and therefore most immune.

Jamie just did things his own way, refused to acknowledge let alone follow the rules (arbitrary ones, just like many of those in mainstream society and hostels). He survived, the best he knew how. He used his talents, knowledge and skills to acquire the best result for himself. Which dosen’t make him likeable, but does make him human. And inadvertantly very revealing. Like many people who happen to be homeless right now.

swansea says:

What a pathetic, useless, and wretched person that relation of churchill is.

Born with a silver spoon in his mouth, living off the repuatation of winston, only to piddle it all down the pan with drugs.

He finally get one change to show that he’s human, to fulfil his agreement of doing the show, even daring to talk about his family name being strong in times of war.

and he lies, whines, cheats and acts like selfish spoilt little kid.

He said he did not want to look a fool, I’m terribly sorry old boy but you’ve shown your true colours and everybody thinks you’re a pompus disgrace. Get back to you freeloading life and live ignorantly ever after.

Wretched person you. nice to see everyone else mucking in and being good sports.