Famous, Rich and Patronising
Presumably for some grave sin in our previous collective lives, the BBC decided last night to punish us by showing the first episode in a new series, “Famous, Rich and Jobless” a follow-on from last year’s “Famous, Rich and Homeless”. I hear that “Famous, Rich and Gormless” is in production for 2011 but they are having trouble whittling down the cast……
The concept is that they take four “celebs” and, in this series, they give them four days worth of Job Seekers Allowance, house them in accommodation, “which a proper unemployed person would live in” in four of the areas of highest unemployment within the UK and then tell them to go and try to find work. Meanwhile, two smug “experts” Emma Harrison and Craig Last walk around saying such banalities as, “see this is what an unemployed person experiences day after day” and when the celebs do get a job they tell them they are “cheating the benefits system” as they had been given Jobseekers allowance.
As vacuous television goes this really takes the biscuit, but worse than that it completely belittles the plight of the unemployed rather than do anything to build understanding. For one, the unemployed are not a homogenous mass of people sat in deprived towns in far-flung corners of these isles, they are people like you and I. They are different, some are professionals, some are labourers, some are middle class, some are working class. Some have been unemployed for a long time, others for only a short while.
Finding work IS tough, but by putting celebs in towns where they know nobody, they speak with a different accent (one of them is Emma Parker-Bowles, does the name ring a bell? And actually, as a point of interest, when did she become “famous”?), limiting them to four days job seeking and having a TV camera following them. Is this really supposed to be in any way shape or form informative or “real”?
The only redeeming moment of the entire programme came in the saddest moment, when a real person, with real problems and real unemployment was interviewed. Through her tears she talked about the pressures and the impact on her mentally, “you feel like a beggar” she said, “all I want is a job”. Her few minutes alone pierced through the backdrop of banality and the undercooked sensationalism that Harrison and Last were trying to stir up.
Unemployment is a real issue that impacts millions and millions of people in this country and across the world both directly and indirectly. There are a whole host of reasons that people suffer joblessness and a whole host of impacts. The programme does nothing to reflect this and only shows the reactions of celebrities when deprived of their normal creature comforts, nothing more.
Unemployment is not a subject that should ever be sensationalised and celebritised to try to create an audience and certainly not using the tax payers’ money. This was the first episode, I can only pray that the next three go some way towards pulling the series out of the gutter and discussing the issues with the gravity and sincerity they deserve.