CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: A happy family is heartening, but boozy brawls are much more fun!
Rich House, Poor House
Million Dollar Wedding Planner
Nobody keeps their housekeeping money in a tin on the kitchen shelf any more. Surely that habit ended about the time people stopped putting their false teeth into a bedside glass of water and thwacking carpets with a wicker beater in the park.
But every episode of Rich House, Poor House (C5) begins with the home-swap families rushing to the breakfast table, where they prise open the tin and eagerly count the cash that has to last them for the week.
Sian and Jason White had a pleasant surprise as they discovered a roll of £20 notes — more than £1,300 in total, which is not so much a household budget as a decent win on the Lottery. ‘Mental!’ said their six-year-old Oscar as he surveyed the heap of wealth with satisfaction.
He wasn’t smiling the next day after his parents allowed him and his big brother Jack, 13, to fill a shopping trolley with all the sweets and cakes they wanted. The over-excited lad chose a chocolate milkshake, and nobody remembered that dairy made him sick till it was too late.
A valuable lesson learned, young man: money can’t buy happiness.
But it does, as Spike Milligan pointed out, allow you to enjoy a better class of misery. You couldn’t blame the Whites, who usually get by on the minimum wage and have just £185 a week to spend after paying the rent on their terrace cottage in Dorset.
Million Dollar Wedding Planner was one of the year’s most pointless documentaries
While they spent seven nights in a £3 million farmhouse with its indoor swimming pool, their counterparts Matt and Claire Donovan were getting used to life without space even to dry their clothes. They had to cadge a go on their neighbour’s rotary washing line.
The idea of Rich House, Poor House is to highlight the gap between the haves and have-nots, but the show works best when both families are overwhelmed by the extreme change of circumstances.
We want to see envious paupers throwing drunken free-for-all parties in their borrowed mansion and setting fire to the four-poster beds, while the clueless aristos empty all their coffers for truffles from Waitrose on the first day, and end the week scavenging from dustbins.
Horticulturist of the night:
‘War, war, war!’ complained the rouge-cheeked Helen Mirren in Catherine The Great (Sky Atlantic), ‘all I want to do is talk about sex. Or gardening.’ Well, there does come an age when begonias are more diverting.
That didn’t happen here because the Donovans were hard-working people who knew the value of a pound, and the Whites were faultlessly dignified and respectful. Instead of gloating about how the other half live, we were reminded that a loving family is worth all the riches of Croesus — a noble sentiment, to be sure, but noble sentiments are not the lifeblood of reality TV.
The riches of Croesus were on obscene display in Million Dollar Wedding Planner (BBC2) as the children of Asian billionaires staged the most vulgar, ostentatious, wasteful, hackneyed and tasteless ceremonies imaginable.
Doesn’t every girl dream of making 12 costume changes on her special day and pledging her vows under a 20ft cheese-wheel woven from pink roses while a Balinese gamelan orchestra plays the Wedding March out of tune? One bride-to-be splurged $1 million on bling in one trip to the diamond counter, buying anything the saleswoman claimed was identical to Meghan Markle’s wedding jewellery. (Even I could see it wasn’t remotely similar.)
This was one of the year’s more pointless documentaries. If you aren’t interested in salivating over tacky tat sported by the blandly anonymous super-rich, there was nothing else to see here.
We followed three couples but got to witness only one wedding. What happened to the bride who wanted a magical illusion, so that she appeared to be walking to the altar across water?
Perhaps she sank.