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