Last Night’s TV – Famous, Rich and Jobless

Telly bosses are awfully fond of taking celebrities and plonking them among the proletariat to see how they get on being ‘real’ people for a while. Sometimes, it works well – Tower Block of Commons – and at other times, it fails miserably.

Famous, Rich and Jobless, judging by last night’s first episode, falls firmly into the latter category.

Aunty Beeb took Larry Lamb, Emma Parker Bowles – who frankly, I’d never heard of, and without the famous link her surname attracts, never would have done – Meg Matthews and Diarmiud Gavin and gave them the remit to live as the plebeians do.

So, did it offer valuable insight into the spectre of long-term unemployment? Were we left having greater knowledge of just how tough it all is? No, and here’s why…

Point one: only one of those people is actually a celebrity – Larry Lamb – though at a push, Diarmiud might get onto a C list. Meg and Emma I really don’t think one can class as celebrities at all. If they’re known by anyone at all, it’s only vicariously and by association.

Point two: the celebs were given the job of acting as if they didn’t have a job. They have a job, being in a let’s-pretend-we’re-jobless-poor-and-ordinary series, so that negated the whole point of the exercise anyway.

Point three: being in receipt of benefits and living the life of the jobless for a few days is a ludicrous concept from the get-go. Nobody can possibly appreciate what long-term joblessness and poverty is like in a few days, especially not when there’s a chauffeur driven car just waiting to take them back to their no doubt very comfortable homes.

To be honest, other than to be able to review this show, the only reason I tuned in was to see Larry Lamb, whose departure from EastEnders I am still in mourning over. I’ve had a crush on Larry since he starred in Buster and I’d watch the man sitting writing his shopping list. He was quite literally THE only good thing about this programme.

His honesty was refreshing too; while all around him, his three compatriots ran the gamut of compressed emotionality – in ‘character’ – while demonstrating how tough the big bad world is, Larry strolled on Hartlepool beach. His argument for doing so was that “I’ve got enough grub in my belly” therefore he had no immediate need of cash.

He also summed up the entire event by saying, “Patronising bullsh**!” and it was.

The millions of people who have to cow tow to the benefits agency and jump through hoops to get a few quid a week while searching for work cannot possibly be replicated by a few celebrities mimicking that way of life for a few days.

No amount of throwing up – Emma – or tears – almost everyone – could or would convince those people who are genuinely seeking work that the celebs or the viewers could empathise thanks to this show.

Perhaps it’ll improve as it goes on, but for me, the only reason to watch Famous, Rich and Jobless again is to see Larry.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.