How The Other Half Live Review: Friends With Benefits

July 30, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

HOW THE OTHER HALF LIFE: Thursday 30th July, Channel 4, 9pm Alert Me

After the Secret Millionaire, it’s not a shock anymore to see rich folks handing out cheques to the poor people of Britain.

But this time there’s no secret about the kindness of strangers as a rich family decide to sponsor a poorer family from London over two months.

The Brotherstons are a wealthy middle class family have chosen to send the Gumpos, a poor family from West London, financial support and special gifts to improve the quality of their lives.

The generous family are your typical middle class white people; socially aware and wealthy to point where they wouldn’t know a penny if it hit them in the face. They’ve decided to participate in this little social experiment because they can afford to. Alright for some, eh?

The Gumpos are a single parent family in which the mother, Sharon, doesn’t work and is on benefits. She struggles to support her family on her own and as a result has mounting debts. Her children keep a brave face as they miss out on the things most of us took for granted, like having a bed with a frame and being able to play outside.

When being shown around the Brotherstons home we see the excess that lots of money allows; tennis courts, piano lessons and a full set of riding gear for a girl who’s never even been on a horse. The little princess of the family, Grace, has a distorted view of reality due to her privileged upbringing. She thinks that with a state education you will probably only up working in a bar.

On the flipside, Yolanda, the eldest daughter of the Gumpos, thinks that public school kids hang out in a jacuzzi all day and play baseball.

The Brotherstons begin to send the Gumpos cheques for thousands of pounds, dining room sets, computers and a bedroom make over. It’s truly uplifting to see the children’s faces as they see new beds waiting for them when they get home from school.

The thinking behind the show is that people sponsor people from other countries, so why not sponsor British families? Or would pride stand in the way of us accepting a handout?

The voiceover is probably the worst thing about this show, it’s more like a channel 4 news report that a show and doesn’t relate to the emotions of the people involved.

The best moment is probably watching Yolanda and Grace talking about how they can be friends. I’m just gonna come out and say it, I cried. This is a show that’ll get you to the brink of tears because the outcome of it means that these people’s lives are genuinely changed for the better.

At first glance this show seems exploitative; a circus act where we can put poor people in a glass case and gawk at them. However the story runs deeper than that and there’s really something to this show.

And while the premise is a little weird in these harsh economic times: rich people handing out cash to a family of paupers who don’t work and receive benefits, it’s actually touching to see such generosity.


Emily Moulder

L. Nandu says:

Wish I could find someone to sponsor me out of my poverty. Desperate single mother. Luck Sharon Guumpos. Thank God you are relieved.

john s says:

how can Sharon Guumpos claim to be poor when she obviously has eaten all the benefit

emma grant says:

i watched this program and it really did bring me to tears. when one of the children in the gumpo family blew her candles out on her cake and wished for a bed it really did show what people take for granted.

i live in glasgow and i dont come from a rich family but i have never done without the basics and have always had nice clothes, toys and latest gadgets ect. i have never considered myself to be well off but watching that program made me realise how lucky i was.

really interesting, heart warming show!