Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford reunite for BBC’s The Town that Never Retired: Episode 1 Review – Ruth and John stand out!

by Matt D

For fans of The Apprentice like myself the news that Lord Sugar’s former cohorts Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford were reuniting was greatly received as the latter has all but disappeared from our screens following her departure from the show that made her name, in order to focus on an Egyptology Phd.

Nick and Margaret’s new programme The Town That Never Retired is airing as part of the ‘When I’m 65’ season and sees the pair travel to Preston to put OAPs back to work. The Town That Never Retired starts off with the duo interviewing Head of Pensions Raj Moody and discovering that as people are living longer the pension age is increasing so our grandchildren could be working well into their eighties. A group of Preston residents, who are all in their seventies, go out to work to see if they can still survive a whole working week despite being considered too old to function while Nick and Margaret do what they do best, stand in the corner and make puzzled faces.

All in all five businesses open up their doors to the elderly, the majority of whom want to work either to get more money or just to fill up their days with something productive. As this is one of the shows which sees the contestants go on the metaphorical journey all of them struggle with some aspect of their new positions. Take 73 year old retired nurse Sheila who is logically picked to work at the local health centre. From the off we see that she is struggling as she is not computer literate in the least bit and has issues with everything down to even using the mouse. Sheila was also out-of-step with modern guidelines, being very nice to a mock patient who supposedly smoked like a chimney and drunk like a fish simply advising her to ‘try and cut down’ while her work with a syringe was shoddy due to her recent carpel tunnel surgery. All in all it was a tough ride for Sheila and I thought out of all of the oldies she was given the roughest ride and essentially presented as someone who couldn’t function at all in the modern workplace with even Nick sticking the boot in.

Faring better were a trio of handymen who were drafted into to help complete work on a block of flats where the foreman was way behind schedule. Plumber Ray, electrician Alan and plasterer George all seemed game to muck in however they’re big stumbling block was the new tools they were asked to use, especially George who looked dejected when he found out he could not use the tools he made himself. It was Alan who ended up getting frustrated the most, threatening to quit after having trouble operating a drill that would supposedly make his job a little easier. This was because he was used to being the boss and was unaccustomed to others taking the lead. Thankfully he was talked around and decided to stay although soon all three had to work in minus zero conditions as the wintry weather set in, which was when Nick and Margaret came for a visit. As you would expect they were impressed that these three older gentlemen were working in a situation that Nick likened to that of a Russian Gulag. Unlike with Sheila the trio all improved throughout the week and all completed their individual tasks to contribute to finishing the project on time.

Of all the employers featured the one that was most hesitant about letting seniors work in his establishment was Carlo co-owner of Preston’s classiest eatery San Marco. Despite his concerns he still took on 76 year old Ruth to work as a waitress and 73 year old John slogging his guts out in the kitchens as a porter. Ruth’s main issues came firstly with using the silver spoons to lift out the veg from their container and also keeping up her energy levels during busy shifts. John meanwhile seemed in his element using the big hose to wipe down the dishes although when tasked with some heavy lifting his back almost gave way while he also occasionally couldn’t keep up with the busy pace of the restaurant. On the whole though both shone in their roles and Ruth in particular was commended with her work during the busy evening shift on which the customers said she coped marvellously with the only criticism being that she looked slightly out of place next to all the younger servers.

The final two businesses to hire the oldies were Preston’s local chocolate factory as well as the Estate Agents. To me at least the factory work came off as the most boring of all the jobs on offer however for a lot of the older ladies who were placed it was a welcome distraction from having little to do. I feel though the speed in which they had to work was too much for the majority of them and between them they ended up contributing to a week in which their frustrated boss didn’t hit his all-important targets. At the Estate Agents new recruits Marie and Jim were tasked with selling houses with the former’s dilemma being that she didn’t know where she was going, eventually getting flustered then trying to let her perspective buyers into the wrong house. In what was possibly the scene most reminiscent of The Apprentice, Nick and Margaret paid Marie a visit as she was showing a young couple around what would be their first house. I found Marie to be totally personable here and while Nick criticised her for not going for the hard sell approach it was Margaret who thought that she’d done an admirable job. At the end of the first episode, which marked the end of the experiment’s first week, some of the old folks were asked to stay on these included Ruth, John, Marie, Ray and George but unsurprisingly not Sheila.

Though I found certain sections of it fairly clichéd on the whole I enjoyed The Town That Never Retired which kept me hooked from beginning to end, thanks mostly to the endearing nature of the old folks who were selected to take part in the programme. Of them my favourite was probably Ruth who had been looking for something to do following the death of her husband and really seemed to thrive in the fast-paced environment of the restaurant as did pot-washer John. The highlights of the show though were the visits from Nick and Margaret who thankfully haven’t lost any of the chemistry that they shared back in the early days of The Apprentice. Nick was constantly worrying about the lack of ability that the group had pin-pointing where he felt they were struggling while Margaret was more encouraging looking for the good points in each of the pensioners. The pair also occasionally bicker like an old married couple with the best example being Nick trying to help Margaret on with her safety shoes and her trying to fight him off reminding him that she was the younger of the pair. It’s a shame then that Margaret isn’t on TV as much anymore while Nick seems to be taking on more work, despite here claiming that he could never work full time I’m sure Countdown takes up a lot of his week, I’m hoping that this is the first of many programmes that they will work on together.

My issue with the programme was that most of those featured struggled because they’d been out of work rather than because of the age that they were. If Sheila for example had stayed on in her job at a nurse without retiring she’d have been trained in how to use the computers as well as learning the latest guidelines for treating patients so she wouldn’t then have been given a failing grade when Nick Hewer came to call. If the point of the show was to demonstrate what life would be like if everybody was forced to work till their 80th birthday then I think it fell down slightly due to the fact that if you kept working then you’d be able to keep up with what was going on around you. The main points being made about the elderly were that they can’t do as much as they could physically, they couldn’t handle the new technology or they couldn’t keep up with the pace but I don’t think the same could be said for the next generation who may have to work well into their seventies. Overall with two wonderful hosts and a bunch of colourful subjects The Town That Never Retired did paint the older generation in a positive light so personally I can’t wait to see how they get on tomorrow when they have to compete for their jobs with a bunch of out-of-work youngsters.

What did you think to the first episode of The Town That Never Retired? Do you think Nick and Margaret have still got the chemistry they shared on The Apprentice? Leave Your Comments Below.


  1. Elizabeth Moss on July 13, 2012 at 12:56 pm

    I would just like to point out that in her prime Shelia Townsend was a kind,very hard working person who was well liked,respected and admired not only as a person but as a dedicated Nurse whom worked a long side my mother Barbara Moss .Sacrificing family time and there own health due to long hours,lack of sleep.
    Well done Shelia for making a successful career out of nursing.
    You where one of the best and still are.

  2. Ann Brebner on July 15, 2012 at 9:13 pm

    I thought the programme was great I couldnt believe what the guys achieved on the building site unbelievable!

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