Last Night’s TV – How The Other Half Live

how the other half live episode 2
This week’s episode was nowhere near the warm fuzzy episode from last week. In that first show, I really felt that the Gumbo family were entirely worthy of the help from another family and they were all people with a great deal of pride and dignity. However, this week, possibly because I took a pretty much instant dislike to the mother of the recipient family, Michaela O’Dwyer, I just felt sorry for her kids and her partner Shaun. But I didn’t feel that the parents were particularly in need of anything – though the children were – other than lessons in how to budget.

Clearly they were living in poverty, but I don’t get how or why they were when they had an income of around £400 a week? I brought up three children on a lot less than that. However, the Mullins family – who were sponsoring the O’Dwyers – watched the DVD that primarily featured one of the O’Dwyer children, Brandon, who is a lovely boy.

He didn’t have a bedroom of his own because apparently, when he had to share with his brother Marcus – and because they are both “light sleepers” – they’d wake each other up. So, Brandon would go to sleep in his mum and stepdad’s room and they would then carry him, fast asleep, to the living room where he then slept on a sofabed. Another incongruity there then, because if he’s a light sleeper, how come physically picking him up and moving him didn’t wake him?

But, the O’Dwyer family’s plight touched the hearts of the Mullins’, especially the Mullins children, Ashley and Daisy, who again, were lovely children. So, the Mullins parents, Scott and Sam, fired off a cheque for £2,000 to the O’Dwyers. There was something rather base in how Michaela especially received the news of the cheque. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly how it came across but there was a definite feeling of ‘graspyness’ about her.

Anyway, Michaela and Shaun worked out a list of things they had to pay, the top of which was council tax arrears because the bailiffs had been round and were threatening to remove goods to the value of the bill. Other bills were then paid too, but Michaela insisted on buying herself a brand new laptop and accessories that came to £500.

Brandon meanwhile was walking around in shoes that let water in, but instead of getting him new shoes or clothes, Michaela bought him a PC game – that didn’t work on their old PC and she clearly wasn’t going to let him play on her new laptop – and a remote control car for her other son, Marcus.

That did not go down well with Shaun or the Mullins’, and rightly so. Even though the principle of gift giving should be that once given, it’s up to the recipient what to do with it, I think Michaela’s partner and Scott and Sam were right to flag up the fact that Michaela had used a quarter of the money on herself while spending very little on the boys.

So the next £2,000 cheque came with the caveat that it should be spent in its entirety on the children, and it was. When the families eventually met up at the Mullins’ holiday home in Spain, the contentious laptop purchase was brought up and Michaela apologised and said buying it was a moment of “madness”, but she didn’t take it back and get a refund. Or if she did, it wasn’t mentioned on the programme. I suspect that she didn’t.

Sam Mullins hasn’t always been wealthy and she was brought up in circumstances similar to those in which the O’Dwyers live, so she wanted her kids to know what poverty looks like and what it’s like to live with it, and I was very impressed with how her children acted around Brandon and Marcus. Despite being very privileged, they didn’t show off or demonstrate any offensive superiority; they just felt bad for Brandon especially and wanted him to have the things they have and to have a good time.

In the end, the Mullins’ invited the O’Dwyer family out to Spain again, and Scott arranged for his company to build a bedroom for Brandon by putting up partition walls. They also set up a trust fund that was to be used solely for the boys, for uniforms, shoes etc.

Overall, the impression I came away with was that the Mullins’ didn’t trust Michaela to spend any money they might give on her children rather than herself, and I suspect they were right to think so.

The entire programme felt a bit ‘icky’ this week, for want of a better word. Last week, the innate grace and dignity of Sharon Gumbo – the mother of the recipient family – gave the show a very different feel, but in this episode, I felt rather like I do when I pass someone in the street who asks if I can spare any change. Sort of uncomfortable with someone else’s desperation.

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.