Secret Millions [Secret Millionaire Rebooted]…Channel 4

19 Mar

So let’s say I work in a Charity, social housing or some other part of the voluntary sector. Let’s say also my job is located in a former mining or industrial town somewhere up north that has seen better times. If one day a stranger appears out of nowhere with a camera crew in tow and tells me he or she is looking for some work experience and the crew are filming a documentary. Am I going to think “Secret Millionaire“? You’re damn right I would.

Secret millionaire has probably exhausted every ruse going and you even get the feeling in some of the later episodes that the people they met where pretty much going through the motions till the cheque turned up.

So how do you reboot a franchise that relies on that sort of deception. Well there is always Celebrity Secret Millionaire or Secret Millions as channel 4 now calls it. The twist is the celebrity is not pretending to be someone else, but instead needs to get people involved in a project to an extent that will convince the Big Lottery Fund to give them further funding.

This weeks episode feature TV architect George Clarke aka The Restoration Man and project was to get a bunch of London youths involved in a building apprentice scheme that would see them restore one of London’s thousands of abandoned properties back to a livable condition.

The youth were an assortment of young offenders and troubled teenagers. Including one chap, who had never left London before and never seen a cow either. His delight when he saw one was heart warming. It was somewhat more worrying when he couldn’t tell a cow and horse apart, and probably explains some of the problem’s in the meat industry.

The youngsters were a bit reluctant as the project kicked off but certainly the ones they featured really seemed to get into the whole thing and their sense of pride when the building was completed renovated was a clear to see.  Along the way we saw some real bonds develop between the youths and their mentors, the sort of bonds they clearly missed in parts of the earlier life. We saw the youths realise that there were opportunities for them through apprenticeship schemes in the building industry with support like that demonstrated in the programme.

So how do you do a big reveal in a situation like this? Typically on the old school secret millionaire, the millionaire went back revealed who he was and started doling out cheques, that obviously would not work in the case as everyone knows who the celebrity is.

That’s where the Lottery steps in.  George Clarke took the whole team to a swanky conference centre supposedly for a lecture on London architecture but it was a ruse for an opportunity for the The Big Lottery Fund’s spokesman to step in and announce funding of £1.7 million.

George Clark who had been very emotional through out the the programme was pretty much a blubbering wreck by this point.

The programme sent out a strong positive message about tackling youth unemployment and training opportunities, but there are serious challenges even for a laudable project like this. The construction industry is in recession, and British workers face fierce competition from experienced and cheaper skilled labour from Eastern Europe. Let’s hope are youthful apprentices are given the support needed to get through these challenges.

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