Tag Archives: Documentary

BBC1…Pound Shops Wars

6 Feb

The most common question asked at a PoundWorld?…”How much is this?”

With this we are introduced to new documentary series looking into the world of Pound shops. Anyone who has paid even the most casual attention to the range of shops on the high street could not have helped notice the emergence of these brand of uber discounters.

Poundland, PoundWorld, PoundStretcher and even in this ultra-discounted sector there is is a sub sector for those who find £1 a bit of a stretch, the 99p stores

Today we introduced to the £1 bra (accompanied by a raft of the inevitable and incredibly dreary puns!). PoundWorld launched  these as a new product range and two questions immediately spring to mind, will anyone buy it or how did they make it so cheap.

To answer the first question we have to take a segway to the 1989 film Field of Dream, where the hero is inspired build a baseball park by his belief that build it and they shall come and in the film against all odds he built it and they came.

The world of pound shops is somewhat similar, price it cheap enough and they will come to buy it. In the case of the £1 bra, with the help of some publicity from the titillating tabloid press involving a trampoline, PoundWorld sold an incredible 100,000 in ten days and over the rest of the summer sold over 700,000.

So how do they do it? The answer is China. Cheap materials, cheap manufacturing costs and all that is left is to price them low and stack them high is the formula the propels this phenomenon.

It is a somewhat sad indictment of what our society has become, so resolutely consumerist, consuming because it is there and cheap not because we have to. If the consumerism is our new religion these shops may not be the cathedrals of the religion they are more like the missionaries pushing and spreading the consumerism deep into the furthest reaches of society.

 

BBC3…Tough Young Teachers

4 Feb

The teachers were definitely young but tough? I am not so sure.

Every documentary I have ever watched about teaching simply reaffirms my belief that one of the wisest things I could have done was to avoid teaching as a profession.

Teaching is often said to be a noble profession and the satisfaction of bringing the best out of you proteges can be richly rewarding of that there is no doubt.

However plant yourself in a a modern comprehensive in the middle of  one of Britain’s cities and often teaching can rapidly change into something not too dissimilar to being a warden at a young offenders correction centre.

In Tough Young Teachers on BBC three we saw some extremely fresh faced teachers taking up the challenge of teaching classes of secondary school pupils would in reality were only a few years younger than they were.  Young kids, and particularly young boys its goes with out saying have short attentions spans and are prone to long bouts of hyperactivity, and for the young inexperienced teachers this proved particular daunting for many of the teachers.

There was the case of Walid, who even when he was at his calmest seemed like he had overdosed on a family sized bottle of fizzy pop. He was boisterous, noisy and disruptive and was clearly demanding, and it seem taking, a lion share of the teachers attention to the detriment of his colleagues.

He however does come across a bright pupil, sometime in less than honourable ways, such as when he brought his mum who isn’t fluent in English along for the Parent Teacher meeting and obviously had no choice but to step in as an interpreter. Needless to say his Mum left the school none the wiser.

We did witness an impressive transformation when he was taken by his young teacher (himself only 22 years) on a school trip to Jamie’s Farm, away from school in the rural open spaces he seemed to thrive and engage in what he was doing. We have seen such transformations in many documentaries about young people, but the truth is such opportunities will always be an exception.

Most teachers will need to achieve that engagement in much less idyllic locations, namely the classroom and to do that is what makes teaching really tough.

Channel 4…Benefits Street. Was the law being broken?

8 Jan

Benefits Street… Benefit Voyeurism gone wrong.

When I watch programmes like Benefit Street I feel it is has a clear demographic in mind. The demographic is one of people who are convinced that being on benefits is simply a pathway to criminality, dysfunctional behaviour and a disdain for all civilised social norms.

The Channel 4 documentary which visited James Turner Street, Winlsow Green, Birmingham would have done little if anything to dispel that impression, and plenty to re-enforce it.

So rampant were the suggestions of criminal activity being undertaken, that you would be forgiven for thinking this was just one long re-enactment on CrimeWatch. From  scenes which depicted what seemed like the illegal cultivation of marijuana, through to scenes purporting to show the proceeds of shop lifting, the breaching of  Anti Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) and obtaining money under false pretences, the show wallowed in the criminal aura given off by people it followed in the documentary.

Setting aside the wider question of why the programme failed to show a balanced view of what living on benefits might be like, a more immediate question that came to mind was if the actions they were filming were actual criminal activities, or evidence that criminal activities had taken place, aren’t the producers or film crew legally bound to inform the police as to what they had witnessed and filmed, and did they?

 

 

 

 

Her Majesty’s Prison: Aylesbury….A documentary too far?(ITV)

25 Feb

This was quite a revealing in-depth documentary about Prisoners in HMP Aylesbury. What really caught my attention was the case of a young lad Ryan Buckley.

I didn’t catch what offence he had committed but his storyline was pretty harrowing and my first thoughts were how come these scenes were being shown on TV. Ryan clearly had serious psychological issues. We were shown scenes of him self harming and worse his body being taken down after an attempted suicide.

As a prisoner Ryan rightly has many rights taken away but does that include the right to decide if his struggles in prison is allowed to be used for our “edutainment“? He may have willingly agreed to take part in the programme but  is he really in a state to give informed consent.

I can imagine if he has people outside that care for him watching his unconscious body being cut down from a noose where he tried to hang himself must be heart breaking.

Prisons are for punishment and where possible rehabilitation. “Edutainment” which I am sure is what it is being sold as, is not within the  remit of the Prison Service and programmes like this take us down a road we may not want to travel on.

BBC2…How many people does it take to choose an Alarm Clock at Claridge’s?

10 Dec
English: Claridges Hotel This luxury 5-star ho...

Claridges Hotel  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

BBC2 took us on a trip into one of the last bastions of British Gentility as it once would have been. The Claridge’s Hotel in London. To call Claridge’s well-appointed is to understate its poshness. It is like a shop with no price tags, a club with comfortable well-preserved Chesterfield chairs, a church with wedding banns from the 1700′s.

I often find with these things it is the scale, or sometimes the detail of what goes behind the scenes that is impressive. With Claridge’s I was impressed the longevity of service of the staff, the fact that the hotel had their own tailors making made to measure uniforms for staff, and the scale of their laundry operation. Not sexy but very impressive.

In times where so much is outsourced and contracted out, retaining full ownership of the what makes you unique may not be the most profitable way to run a business but it almost certainly ensures that you can maintain the quality you are renowned for, and maybe also allow you to get away with charging £6,900 per night for your most expensive room. A move that is not going to make you popular on TripAdvisor.

The eye watering charges notwithstanding, it does come across as a great hotel, an institution that has stood the test of time.

We saw a sample of the guests attracted by its opulence, The Crown Prince of Yugoslavia, the actress Joan Collins and an East End Bookie made good, old money, celebrity and a geezer with lots of cash. I suspect in the old days the cockney geezer may have had a somewhat harder time getting the welcome he gets now.

Like the Hotel itself the programme was gently reassuring. The Manager Thomas, with his clipped  German accent, exuded an aura of Teutonic efficiency but still showed a clear appreciation of the importance of tradition.

If I had the cash to blow, I think a few nights at Claridge’s would definitely be on my list.

And Oh the answer to the question is 4. That’s how many members of staff it takes to choose an Alarm clock at Claridge’s.