The Secret Millionaire Review: Predictably Good
THE SECRET MILLIONAIRE: Monday 8th March, Channel 4, 9pm ALERT ME
Spare a thought for the people in real documentaries about Good People. They are just as selfless; the pathos in their lives just as acute. And – after four series of The Secret Millionaire – they must be hoping the person asking all the questions is about to break out the cheque book, when unhappily he won’t.
On The Secret Millionaire the subjects of the documentary do get the benefits of the film maker’s largesse. And the money shot is literal, as 45-minutes in, he starts handing out cheques to help the lives of the people he has met during his three weeks of filming.
Cue scenes of grateful Good People talking about the massive difference the money will make to their family; earnest entreaties from wealthy pretend documentary makers about how they’ll stop taking their own families for granted; and men in living rooms around the country pretending to their girlfriends there is something in their eye.
It’s deeply manipulative, with its child carers, sick children and crying charity workers. And it is all a bit cheap because the semi-scripted nature of these programmes means they don’t take any proper documentary risks of duff shots and no compelling narrative. It is like shooting a police chase in bumper cars; exciting enough, but ultimately completely safe.
But isn’t it good! With four series and an episode under their belt the makers of the programme must be responsible for more tears than a French onion seller. For the record, Paul Ragan is a wealthy 42-year-old entrepreneur with a beautiful house, a wardrobe full of £1,000 jackets, and a sad past as a child carer of a schizophrenic mum. He has a stable full of race horses and a child’s wish-list of Ferraris and Porches in his driveway.
But, as any child carer knows, no kid with a sick parent ever wasted a wish on a car.
By the end of the show, he’s helped an 11-year old girl looking after her mum with Huntingdon’s disease, a woman whose own ill-health was threatening the future of the charity she founded, and a couple whose son needs to get to America for special treatment for his cancer.
Sure, they largely knew the reveal was coming, but even so, anyone who fails to shed a tear during this episode is colder than a Piers Morgan smile.