Famous and homeless

Annabel Croft in Famous, Rich and Homeless. BBC

So I’ve been working in an office again recently, which is something I’ve done only twice, briefly in the last seven years. And today the nice ladies I’m working with were chatting about BBC 1’s Famous, Rich and Homeless. Which is on right about now, as I type this.

So I thought I’d tune in to see what the crack is, as it were. It’s all a bit depressing, from what I can gather. Famous people in tears at the horrid reality of life as a down and out. The architect of the TV experiment, himself an alcoholic (presumably recovering) and former homeless person, screaming blue murder at the good intentions of the few celebs who tried to help their homeless “buddies” to change their lives.

So, hmmm. Now our celebs have been sent off to live in hostels where the homeless make the transition from sleeping rough on the streets to life under a roof. It’s certainly well intentioned as a programme. So far we haven’t had a repeat of the Marquess of Blandford‘s major hissy fit last night, when he refused to continue sleeping rough and stormed off to a pre-booked hotel.

I must say of all the (semi-)famous faces involved in this, Bruce the former Coronation Street star looks most at home. But after an uncomfortable rant about killing off murderers rather than imprisoning them so there’s more money to help the homeless, Jones is coming up with the best lines to summarise the tragic, awful situations he sees. “This is a suicide hotel,” he says of a wet (drinking-allowed) hostel in Glasgow. “They’re here to die.”

And the final word goes, not to Rosie Boycott who ended the programme saying: “It’s our hidden shame.” But to Annabel Croft (above) who said it’s not about losing your home, it’s about losing your family.

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Media reality check part 0707

Digital Britain graphic

While most of the TV industry got itself into a light lather over the Digital Britain report which was published today, Tuesday, I was having a much more amusing time thinking about how we actually consume media in our house.

For about two years now, since my older daughter started school, we’ve had to use an alarm again. That’s right, parents of tiny babies, the time does come when you’re not woken by the plaintive cries of a defenceless bag of flesh at 5am never to sleep again for the next 26 hours.

My alarm is a clock radio, tuned to Radio 4 which at 7am is broadcasting the Today programme and, specifically, the news. My partner doesn’t (these days) read a newspaper, because he drives to work, and he doesn’t seem to read news websites preferring instead to look up trivia about The Move or similarly obscure 1960s pop groups. Although some say The Move isn’t obscure at all; it’s quite famous. (Shame on you.)

The point is this. The alarm is on my side of the bed and my first instinct when anything goes off at 7am is to hit it. Thus, for two years (my partner told me this morning) his daily grasp of what’s happening in world affairs has been limited to sentences such as “Gordon Brown has today said [bang! Radio snoozed.]” “Scientists have expressed concern over [whump. Snooze.] “The world of pop has been [thump. Snooze]” “World leaders are paying tribute to [wham. Snooze.]” “The World Bank will this week [ow. Etc.]”

For some reason this makes me roar with laughter. Put that in your fibre-optic cable where the sun don’t shine, Mr Carter, Sir.

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Mary Queen of Charity Shops

Mary Portas, Queen of Charity Shops. BBC

No, no, no, I thought. Don’t mess with a good format. I avoided this, because I liked Mary whatshername so much in Mary Queen of Shops where she revamped and boosted ailing independent stores around country. I didn’t want to see a poorer imitation (or reinvention) of the same show.

But a friend of mine, who is an interiors designer, said I must watch if only to see the amounts of pure crap that the general public donates to charity. Trousers with the dirty pants still inside? Eeeuuch. I was deep in West Wing territory (see previous post) when MQOCS was on last Tuesday night and it ends tonight so I have missed most of this short series. But I did catch the last 20 minutes or so last week and I can see that Portas had worked the same magic with an outlet of Save the Children as she had with some unspeakable mens’ and ladies’ outfitters in the first series.

The stuff looked good. She was trying to get them to sell it for a more sensible fraction of its market value (£700 dresses for £40 second-hand rather than a couple of quid).

But once again I have to agree with the Guardian Guide‘s previewer who felt sorry for the elderly, presumably volunteer workers in the charity shop who, even Mary said, did not dig the new look she’d created.

It’s all very well making a charidee shop look all groovy with lots of orange and clashing pink everywhere. But if it’s staffed by octogenarians and frequented by those with only a few shillings in their pockets it’s all just a little bit pointless. Unless you count the fact that it’s being done for TV and not for the actual good of the shop or the charity.

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If it were now to die,

The West Wing cast, series 1. NBC/Warner Bros/Channel 4

‘Twere now to be most happy.

Oh god, I don’t really mean that. It’s just that it’s been a good day, what with it being my birthday ‘n all and getting some lovely presents, some of which I bought for myself.

Including, finally, a box set of the complete series of The West Wing! One of my fave all time US series of ALL TIME! It’s something I’ve coveted for years, since whenever the rubbish scheduling got too complicated on Channel 4/E4/More4 and I literally lost the plot before the last and seventh series. So tonight I’m starting again from scratch. Just 112 hours to go and I still don’t know whether the Hispanic guy gets elected to succeed Josiah Bartlett.

And speaking of top US drama, I must note in passing the last ever episode of ER which aired on More4 last Thursday. What an anti-climax, as at least one other committed fan has also said to me. We both had the tissues all lined up and didn’t need a single one.

I’m not sure it’s admirable that the show’s executive producer John Wells resisted the urge to milk the schmaltz factor and avoided out-and-out sentimentality in the finale. The final scene saw the cast lining up outside the ER to admit yet another mass trauma, with the camera pulling away to leave them to just another night at the ER. But without us, the viewers, their committed fans, watching them. We will never see them do anything new again. (The re-runs will no doubt continue in daytime and elsewhere for years.) I felt slightly robbed.

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