The Town That Never Retired Episode Two Review: Nick Hewer and Margaret Mountford pit the Preston Pensioners against Young Jobseekers

by Matt D

After yesterday’s first instalment, we’re back once again in Preston with Nick and Margaret for the conclusion of The Town That Never Retired. After putting fifteen pensioners to work, only six were given the opportunity to carry out a second week of work, those being Ruth and John who were working as a waitress and porter respectively at restaurant San Marco.

Barbara was part of the production line at the chocolate factory, Marie continued to be employed at the estate agents, plus plasterer George and plumber Roy who were helping to complete a block of flats.

To make their experiment more interesting Nick and Margaret were taking some youngsters from the dole queue and putting them to work alongside the seventy year olds…

Firstly though these young people were put through their paces at a brief interview with Mountford and Hewer at the local town hall, which wasn’t nearly as intense as the interview round in The Apprentice as there was no eyeball rolling from Margaret, and Nick wasn’t even wearing a tie.

Though a couple of the youngsters impressed the pair, notably builder Ashley, on the whole they didn’t seem that enthusiastic and seventeen year old Jodie was chastised by Nick for not proof-reading her CV, though unlike The Apprentice candidates, she didn’t seem to have lied on there at all.

Personally I felt the chocolate factory wasn’t focused on enough last time however as two new recruits, 18 year old Lee and 19 year old Sam, joined Barbara it got an equal amount of focus this time. From his opening on-camera interview, personally I didn’t find Lee to be bursting with charisma, however he seemed to be fairly able, mastering the Sellotape machine with ease, but when asked by factory manager Ray what he thought of the work overall, he was completely bored.

At least though he was more punctual than co-trainee Sam who arrived 40 minutes late looking incredibly scruffy with an untucked shirt and a sideways baseball cap on, but he also seemed to fairly up for the work especially when compared to Barbara who still really wasn’t getting the hang of some of the more fiddly aspects of the job.

After lunch Sam disappeared and when the production crew finally caught up with him he was half asleep claiming that he’d had a dodgy fry-up from a food vendor causing him to ‘churl’ all over the wall. Sam was inevitably given the chop, but Lee was praised by the slightly sinister Ray as his productivity was through the roof, and as Nick Hewer demonstrated, the machine Lee was operating wasn’t as easy as it first appeared. Unfortunately then Lee gave up after a couple of days, possibly thinking the job was beneath him and giving the factory workers good reason to complain about the work ethics of today’s youth.

Over at San Marco, Carlo had given poor CV writer Jodie a trial run as a waitress alongside Ruth who was constantly improving though her Achilles’ heel was the corkscrew which she hadn’t mastered. Jodie and Ruth bonded quite well however the latter struggled with San Marco’s upper-class menu especially when it came to pronouncing the word tiramisu.

Carlo’s early problem with Jodie was that she had a lip ring which looked unprofessional in his classy establishment but she struggled to take it off so eventually he told her just to remove it for the next time she came. Like Sam, the second day of work for Jodie saw her disappear later ringing in claiming that she had a mystery illness, I’m guessing she went to that van for lunch as well, however Carlo decided to give her another chance and she returned the following day. When Nick and Margaret came calling, they both gave their evaluations of the two trainee waitresses with him picking Jodie, or as he referred to her, ‘the kid, claiming that given a year she could flourish in the waitressing industry however Margaret decided that Ruth had a better ethic as the job had really kept her going.

The building site saw two new recruits with trainee plumber Ashley working under Roy while would-be plasterer Michael teamed up with George. Team George Michael, as I’d dubbed them, seemed to have a good rhythm going with the older of the two being able to pass down some of his words of wisdom to his new apprentice. There was less harmony between Ashley and Roy as the trainee felt he was moving a lot faster than his older companion, seeming at some times like Roy was just in the way. To me, Ashley seemed like the only one of the young group who really wanted the job he was auditioning for while Michael was the third youngster to disappear on his second day of work this time for ‘personal reasons’.

Where young and old really clashed though was at the Estate Agents where Marie was paired with 21 year old Sam. As we learned in the first episode of The Town That Never Retired, old people are generally rubbish with technology, something I don’t think is true but was hammered home throughout this programme, so when both were tasked with using the computer system it was obviously Sam who mastered it before Marie.

Similarly, when they went out to measure up a property, Marie struggled to use the new-fangled measuring device, she’d probably have bought a tape measure if they’d let her, with Sam criticising her for not being able to admit when she was wrong. Though when it came to house viewings, it was Marie who was much more personable and approachable while Sam’s method seemed to be to let people look at the property themselves as he lurked in the corner, occasionally checking his mobile phone, so it was no surprise to me that out of the two of them only Marie got a sale.

It was crunch time at the end of the week with Nick and Margaret gathering together the employers from the four establishments to discover what they thought of the elderly overall. While those from the building site and chocolate factory thought that the elder workers had slowed productivity down, the restaurant brothers and the Estate Agent both said they’d definitely consider hiring pensioners after the experiment. Barbara was inevitably let go from her position at the factory, while the Estate Agent wasn’t hiring, he claimed he’d employ Marie over Sam if the choice was made.

At the building site, both Roy and George were offered part-time work, but as they found it too physically demanding, both politely refused though there was better news for Ashley as he was offered a full-time position. Finally at San Marco both of the older staff members were offered jobs with John turning his down but Ruth accepting a part-time position in the afternoon. Meanwhile, Jodie was also asked to stay in touch with the possible chance of a job at one of their many restaurants in the Preston area.

So what have we learnt over the two episodes of The Town That Never Retired? That old people are all charming if rubbish with technology and a little slow while on the whole youngsters don’t know a good opportunity when they see it neither of which I agreed with on the whole.

I think the experiment did have the greatest of intentions, though at the end of the day, as a doctor Nick and Margaret visited attested to, the next generation of older people will be a lot healthier than those featured in this programme plus I think they will all be more computer literate.

I felt the representation of young people was a little wrong as I struggled to believe that that many of the new recruits would no-show after one day on the job. While I felt the experiment was flawed all of the characters involved were very interesting, so I found myself invested in whether or not they’d be offered a job at the end of the process.

Obviously though the draw for me was Mountford and Hewer, who provided the highlight in a conversation in which Nick commented that if Margaret owned a chocolate factory she’d eat all the profits, and as I previously said, I’d watch anything that the two hosted, so maybe Channel 4 could arrange for her to replace Rachel Riley on Countdown.

While I can’t say that I agreed with everything that was said on The Town That Never Retired, I still really enjoyed the programme thanks to the pensioners and the hosts, who both made it a lot more up-lifting than the other entries into the BBC’s When I’m 65 Season.

Did you enjoy The Town That Never Retired? Would you like to see Nick and Margaret together on TV more often? Leave Your Comments Below.


  1. kurt on July 12, 2012 at 10:18 pm

    What a fantastic show from Margaret Mountford @ Nick Hewer,The Town that never retired, And what a great energy Ruth had in her position as a quality waitress to a well appointed and succesful Resturant in Preston Look forward to seeing her in your next programme what an amazing lady.GOOD ON HER XX

  2. Big Figure on July 19, 2012 at 10:41 am

    The young people featured in the show seemed to be under the misconception that work has to be enjoyable. It doesn’t – it’s just work. So what if you don’t like it? It’s a job and it brings in money. Just get on with it and look around for something else while you’re doing it.

    They had no work ethic at all. What a coincidence so many of them seemed to be ill on the second day.

    And as for their interpersonal skills ……..

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