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Poor Little Rich Girls (ITV)

From: Dave Death
Category: Art
Date: 07 April 2006


I've seen most of this ITV series which ended last night. The premise is a familiar one - a rich though not necessarily posh girl and a poor girl swap places for a week, and live each other's lives. Episodes include:

Rich Liverpudlian glamour model and property heiress Katie Downes (google her) who'll think nothing of paying 1000 for a t-shirt swaps places with a toilet cleaner from Western Super Mare. Rich rather than posh - her accent thicker than Cilla's - and her only front being her 30D chest, she is adaptable and friendly enough to charm everyone and makes a success of her swap. The toilet cleaner girl enjoys herself too, scrubs up nicely when she gets to take part in a photoshoot, and regrets not having made more of herself.

In another episode Sheridan, a male-monickered energetic Cambridge undergrad whose voice moves beyond well-spoken into Sewellesque realsm of comic over-refinement, finds herself in a Burnely council estate, swapping places with a large girl who works bingo-caller. She gets on well, and is liked by her host family who are rather charming in their own way. Amusing moments include seeing her react to the first meal they give her - baked beans, tinned meatloaf and packet mashed potato mixed together - and watching her try to haggle at a Burnley car-boot-sale, greeted quite rightly by the stallholders as an alien southern intruder. For the reverse swap, her parents - whose Kingston house is enormous, father probably in the City - show themselves to be overly pushy, attempting a Pygmalion on the bingo girl, constantly chiding her for her rude manners and ill-formed manner of speech. But on the whole, they all seem like nice people.

Last night's episode saw an archetypal Chelsea "society" girl - we've all met the type, going from party to premiere to pedicurist on Daddy's money - was sent to Bridgeport, Somerset to work on the fish counter and live with a very overweight family who run a city-centre pub. She hated it; they hated her. She was constantly criticising the ugliness of the people and the dullness of their world; fair comments, but it made her look a little unpleasant. She had to look after the baby of the 18-year-old fish girl, and after initial apprehensions found this to be the only enjoyable part of the swap. Meanwhile the fish counter girl lacked the vision to make anything of her time in London, sitting alone in her room in the evenings or pointlessly trying to get a date with rich girl's male model friend who had the decency to spend one evening with her for the cameras, but of course would not be available for another. Fat, dumpy, stupid as she was she didn't have the intelligence to understand this, and stormed off home to Bridgeport when he wouldn't meet her again. Neither girl was especially likeable, but at least one of them had money and beauty.

This series has been nowhere near as good as Faking It, since the swaps last only for a week and although the girls have to try the activities of those they swap with, they try many different things rather than working towards achieving competency in one of them; drama is lost as a consequence. Instead it's more like Wife Swap, with the viewer hoping for conflict between people with drastically different lives; or, instead, a warm-hearted affirmation that deep down we're all human beings, can't we just get along, etc, etc.

Still, it would seem that what we learn from this series is that people can be stereotyped thus:

Poor people: boring, ugly, risk-averse, don't try new things; lead small lives circumscribed by their lack of money and education and the small circles they move in.

Rich people: exciting, beautiful, risk-takers, open to new things, their money, education and social networks offering many opportunities to them. However can sometimes still be nasty pieces of work.

Does having money make you a nice person? No, but you can be nasty in comfort...

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