Whatever else Channel 4 was doing with Come On Down and Out it was certainly not skimping on the pastiche. As most viewers had probably discovered by the time the programme was broadcast, the whole thing was a spoof, designed to tweak our consciences. As spoofs go it went extremely well, presenting an impeccable dead-pan for the first half and then increasingly tugging at your credulity. Even a very trusting viewer would probably have been alerted by the Beadle-like practical jokes (taking the single-mother's child into care) after which the studio audience were asked to vote on who they felt most sorry for. By the time the finalist was fobbed off with a set of patio furniture ('at least they're weatherproof') it was pretty clear that this was Swiftian in spirit rather than Sadistic.
I would guess that homeless people have a lot to worry about before they begin agonising over the propriety of a television show which is attempting to increase awareness of their plight (though The Big Issue, the newspaper run by the homeless, did attack the programme). But the principal defence for all such exercises is whether they work and this way of delivering the grim facts (the homeless are 150 times more likely to be assaulted and suicide is the principle cause of death) seems likely to be as effective as a documentary. But I couldn't shake one nagging thought - if it had been real we would know that there was one less person on the streets and how many documentaries could boast that?Reuse content