People Like Us Episode Five: Market Trader Jamie returns with Drag Queen Belinda in tow while Kelly dreams of being a dance teacher and there’s a break-in at the Wishy Washy.

by Matt D

People Like Us BBC Three

Though I’ve been enjoying People Like Us over the past few weeks my issue is that, apart from the Wakefield Family, all of the characters have only featured once. Thankfully this week’s episode saw the return of market trader Jamie who we previously saw proposing to his long-suffering girlfriend before cheating on her. Jamie takes centre stage this week as we see his quest to become a singer with help from a very unusual mentor.

As with a lot of the young characters in People Like Us, Jamie has aspirations outside of Harpurhey and doesn’t want to spend all of his life flogging knocked-off goods to gullible pensioners. Jamie’s one problem is that he has no motivation however, after a night out in Manchester’s famous gay village; he meets Drag Queen Belinda Scandal who agrees to be his mentor. Their first meeting is at Belinda’s house come studio where Jamie warbles a couple of George Michael songs into a microphone while Belinda gives him occasional supportive comments. Donna, Jamie’s battleaxe of a mother, is rightfully a little worried that her young son is spending a lot of time with a Drag Queen. However Donna’s method of getting information from her son involves her barking questions at him before attempting to shout louder than he does. Eventually Donna agrees to meet Belinda to find out what her intentions are as regards to her son and finds out that Belinda is actually OK. This isn’t the impression Belinda has of Donna however as she thinks Jamie has been smothered by his mother and believes this contributes to his nervous nature. With Belinda and Donna’s collective belief in him Jamie finds it in himself to perform on stage at Belinda’s cabaret club and begins living the high life by getting changed in the club’s grubby kitchens. Though Belinda’s regulars don’t seem convinced by Jamie’s Robbie Williams medley it is a proud day for Donna as she finally gets to see her son live out his dream. I have to say I wasn’t really looking forward to seeing Jamie again as I found him to be fairly annoying in his first appearance however I have since changed my mind. This is mainly because he wore his heart on his sleeve while talking about his love of performing and his need to get out of the market. I also found Belinda Strange to be an incredible force of nature and I’d love to see more from her and Donna as they try to further Jamie’s singing career.

Someone else who is aspiring to do more with their life is Kelly Smart who is really passionate about becoming a dance teacher. Despite being 25 Kelly has never had a full time job and, due to her love of dancing, had recently been contacted by old friend Jodie who needed help at her dance school. Currently Jodie is employing Kelly on a trial basis and may offer her a job after the next big dance show. Throughout the episode we learn that things haven’t always been good for Kelly after she lost her mother to cervical cancer when she was aged just twelve. After her mother’s death she became a bit of a tearaway and got in with a bad crowd who liked to drink and go joyriding. Working with the kids at Jodie’s school has given Kelly the chance to act as a responsible adult for the first time in her life however it appears as if she’s not up to the challenge. As Kelly’s day gets tougher and the kids begin to wind her up she decides to leave rather than sticking around and explaining how she feels to Jodie. Despite Kelly’s actions Jodie decides to give her one more chance to prove herself and, after a pep talk from dad Sam, she returns to help out with the show. It seems as if Kelly finally buts her nerves at bay and is able to just about cope with her duties during the show. As the curtain comes down we see that Kelly has really enjoyed her time helping the kids however Jodie doesn’t offer her full time job believing that her friend just isn’t ready. I’d have to agree with Jodie’s assertion here as Kelly’s decision to just disappear was an irresponsible one that made no sense at all. Having said that I did really like Kelly’s enthusiasm for the job and believe that if she matures a bit more then she will make fine dance teacher.

This episode also introduced us to 24 year old Anthony who lives in Harpurhey with his wife and three children. Anthony has had a tough life after being burnt by an electric fire when he was baby and since this time has had to have over 20 operations. Though the scars didn’t bother him at first he soon became angry and ended up stabbing a man who insulted him, an action which resulted in him receiving a three month prison term. However since having a family of his own Anthony has got more responsible and has tried to get a job as a tradesman. But this is easier said than done as he has been turned down at many interviews due to the fact he only has one arm. As Anthony gets less than £100 a week in benefits he has decided to try and make more money by attempting to get his kids on the books of a local modelling agency. Anthony’s amateur photos do enough to attract the attention of the agency who get the kids to participate in a mini-shoot at their headquarters. Eventually Anthony gets the news that his children’s pictures are now up on the agency’s website and when he finally views the shots he ends up feeling all emotional. While I found Anthony to be a compelling character I wasn’t entirely sure about him enrolling his kids into a modelling agency. Some of the scenes involving Anthony also felt extremely set-up such as Anthony’s mum Maria telling Anthony’s wife about his accident for the first time. Though this was a poignant moment between the pair it felt a little contrived as it conveniently happened just when the cameras were rolling. One of the elements I’ve always enjoyed about People Like Us is that most of the scenes feel organic and not orchestrated for the cameras like scenes on other reality shows always seem to be. Though I think that Anthony was an inspiring character his story felt a little bit emotionally manipulative and I didn’t enjoy it as much as some of the other parts of this episode.

Thankfully the one constant of People Like Us is The Wakefield Family who this week experience a lot of hardships when the Wishy Washy is robbed. As we see on the CCTV from the shop, burglars actually broke in through the ceiling panels of the store and took whatever they could. The robbery seems to have visibly shaken poor old Karen who turns vigilante attempting to confront the youths who continue to urinate opposite the laundrette. After studying the CCTV footage from the robbery Karen and Paul finally recognise one of the burglars who is later arrested by the police. As the Wakefields get their day in court, Karen and Paul believe that the burglar will get a short sentence due to a lenient judge. Thankfully this is not the case as the judge sentences the burglar to two years in prison something Karen and Paul celebrate saying how proud of the judge they are. However we don’t get to see their reactions to the news that the sentence was later reduced as the judge felt he’d been a little too harsh on the thief. I personally didn’t think there was enough from the Wakefields this week and that’s a shame as they’re the life and soul of People Like Us even if they are just debating the merits of ’50 Shades of Grey’.

Overall I wasn’t a fan of everything in this episode namely the Anthony storyline which I felt was a little bit too manipulative for a down-to-Earth show such as People Like Us. However there was much to like in the form of Jamie being mentored by Belinda Scandal and Kelly’s infectious personality. It’s just a shame that there wasn’t more from the Wakefields in this episode and my one hope is that they are centre stage once again in next week’s final instalment.

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