Television Review

In Money Money Money (BBC1), the cameras followed Nick Clarke as he drove to the shops. Mr Clarke likes to borrow his father's car, because that way he doesn't have to pay for petrol, and also he can avoid wear and tear on his own car. To be fair, though, he is very careful of his father's car, too, cursing pedestrians and cars that come out of turnings because they create wear on the brake pads. His favourite part of the journey to the supermarket is a long downhill stretch, when he can switch off the engine and coast, thereby saving his father some petrol.

When he gets to the supermarket, he likes to buy own-brand goods, which he thinks are just as good as the big-name brands - and considerably cheaper. His wife, Diane, said this is not so - Heinz beans are far superior to supermarket beans. Mr Clarke says this is rubbish - he knows, because he has served up supermarket-brand beans to her without her noticing the difference (he had previously saved up Heinz cans to lend verisimilitude to his deception).

Mr Clarke's economies do not end at the shops. At weekends he works as a steward at football matches, where he likes to collect up the toilet rolls people have thrown at him, tear off the mucky bit and take them home for use. According to his train-driver colleagues, he regularly takes away a Thermos full of hot water at the end of the day to save boiling a kettle at home. On holiday, he sends his children off to dig in the sand for ice-cream money.

Mr Clarke does have a generous side, though: he once hired a bouncy castle for a children's party. He then charged other children on the street for having a go on it.

It may not surprise you to learn that Mr Clarke comes from Yorkshire.

The really odd thing about Mr Clarke was not the sheer extravagance of his tightfistedness, the Marianas Trench depth of his pockets: it was how little he was interested in having money. He didn't seem that interested in getting more of the stuff - he wasn't taking on extra jobs or investing the cash he had. The joy, for him, was all in the scrimping.

Likewise, Tracey Owen never thought too much about cash as she ran up pounds 30,000 of debts through shopping and cosmetic surgery. She borrowed pounds 2,900 to have breast implants a couple of years ago and couldn't repay it, but thought it was unlikely that anybody would try to repossess the goods. Discussing her financial situation, she said: "It doesn't worry me that much," which was fairly obvious. She grinned hazily as she talked of the irresponsibility of the people who lend money ("They shouldn't let you have that much really, should they?"), and blamed her habits on unhappy school days and on Jason, her boyfriend, who let her get away with it. A voiceover noted that the couple had since split up.

The first part of Money Money Money didn't have much in the way of philosophical pretension, but it did show that money is rarely the root of evil, but more often simply an excuse or an outlet for it. That's a lesson worth paying for.

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