How The Other Half Live: It’s Nice To Be Nice

April 8, 2010 by  
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HOW THE OTHER HALF LIVE: Thursday 8th April, Channel 4, 9pm ALERT ME

Many TV shows these days are about taking pleasure in the misery of others. You only have to look at Jeremy Kyle Show if you want an example of a programme which practically wills you to gawp at those slightly less fortunate.

It’s great therefore to see a series like How The Other Half Live which shows how far the generosity of one wealthy family can go to improving the lives of another.

We’re first introduced to Rebecca and George, the children of the Abingdons, who live in a 38 room mansion in the Cotswolds. We’re shown round the estate: the huge grounds, the Aston Martin in the driveway and the pool tables (that’s tables plural) in the games room.

Initial impressions of the kids aren’t favourable. 13 year old George especially comes across as a pretentious, conceited arse, spitting out naïve statements like “if you’re poor, you can easily change it? which makes you want to give him a ding round the ear.

Thankfully his parents are much more on the ball – his dad David worked his way up from humble beginnings to be a successful businessman and is visibly concerned that his children are growing up in a bubble.

Meanwhile, Cal and eight year-old Iris have to watch every penny they spend because of Cal’s huge debts. But she’s not some kind of work-shy freeloader looking for handouts – she’s worked extremely hard to educate herself and has a first class degree and a masters in law.

Unfortunately for her to achieve her ambition of becoming a barrister, she has to secure and year’s apprenticeship and with 400 applicants for every position, she has no choice but to work in Ladbroke’s to support herself.

As the families visit each other, they gain an understanding about how they live. The Abingdon children come to see that people don’t always live in opulent splendour and Iris and Cal get to see what a ruddy great mansion looks like. And George has pause for thought when he realises that extricating yourself from poverty isn’t as easy as he first thought.

David Abingdon tries to secure a placement for Cal using his contacts and when that doesn’t work out, he creates a job for her in his company and organises childcare for Iris.

Such generosity will almost bring tears to your eyes – it’s not just a cash payment doled out to alleviate a rich man’s guilt but a conscious effort to help someone whose ambitions never got realised.

It’s a programme which really does restore your faith in humanity. Not exploitative or crass but genuinely heart-warming and it’s pleasing to see something that doesn’t revel in others’ misfortunes.