Forget about romcoms – we want shop docs

London's Liberty department store follows Claridge's in allowing television cameras in

They are the institutions that make up the fabric of British society, for the gilded few at least. And now their inner secrets are being exposed in a new genre of "posh docs" that have sent broadcasters scrambling to find the next victim.

The historic London department store Liberty will be the latest to star in its own three-part series, which starts tomorrow night on Channel 4. It follows the BBC2 hit Inside Claridge's, which aired last December.

Industry executives promise that more are on the way, with luxury hotels, other upmarket retailers and high-end restaurants all on the radar. Magnus Temple, chief executive of The Garden, the company behind Inside Claridge's, said there was a "proliferation of posh-world docs. Everyone inside the industry is talking about this trend".

Not that broadcasters are being exclusive. Nick Mistry, who oversees documentary output at Channel 4, said there was an "equal fascination" with the other side of the coin: poverty, citing its popular Skint strand. "We're an extremely divided nation, between wealth and affluence, and poverty and hardship," he said. "Both those extremes are drawing audiences in because we're all trying to work out what kind of society we are."

Sheldon Lazarus, creative director of Rize USA, which is making Liberty of London, called the Claridge's show a "game-changer" because it "showed there was an audience for real stories as opposed to stories that are helped along by reality TV". It also showed businesses that "if handled carefully, there's nothing necessarily to be scared of in terms of allowing the cameras in".

Technology has played a major part in all this. As cameras have shrunk, they have become less obtrusive, which helps those being filmed to forget their every move is being recorded. However, the series that changed observational documentaries for major institutions was BBC2's The House, which exposed the mismanagement of the Royal Opera House in 1996.

Liberty of London, which was rushed out to be among the first of the latest wave of documentaries, is likely to make stars out of some of the store's longer-serving members of staff, notably Shukla, 70, who has worked there for 40 years. Mr Lazarus scotched any suggestion that Liberty's executives would get to vet any of the footage first. "Absolutely not. It has to be impartial or you'd let the viewers down," he said.

Emma Willis, the BBC's head of commissioning documentaries, said that the appeal of shows such as Inside Claridge's, which peaked at 4.8 million viewers, lay in telling "compelling human stores while offering fresh perspectives, warts and all, on subjects that matter to contemporary Britain and open a window into a world we don't normally get to see".

Early next year, the BBC will "go inside" institutions as varied as the Salvation Army and Greater Manchester Police's new public protection division, which investigates sexual crimes. Mr Lazarus said production companies were not limiting their targets to the UK, adding that two famous American department store chains, Macy's and Neiman Marcus, were on his wish list. Elsewhere, India's Taj Hotel in Mumbai, scene of deadly terrorist attacks in 2008, is believed to have let the cameras in.

Liberty, meanwhile, is likely to see a rise in customer numbers in the crucial pre-Christmas period – and didn't need to spend £7m on an advert to do it.

Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Oliver
filmTV chef Jamie Oliver turned down role in The Hobbit
News
The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
TVDownfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Arts and Entertainment
Clueless? Locked-door mysteries are the ultimate manifestation of the cerebral detective story
booksAs a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Arts and Entertainment
Tracy Emin's 1998 piece 'My Bed' on display at Christie's
artOne expert claims she did not
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says

film George RR Martin owns a cinema in Santa Fe

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Clued up: John Lynch and Gillian Anderson in ‘The Fall’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
The Baker (James Corden) struggles with Lilla Crawford’s Little Red Riding Hood

film...all the better to bamboozle us
Arts and Entertainment
English: Romantic Landscape

art
Arts and Entertainment
Laugh a minute: Steph Parker with Nigel Farage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Comic Ivor Dembina has staged his ‘Traditional Jewish Xmas Eve Show’ for the past 20 years; the JNF UK charity is linked to the Jewish National Fund, set up to fund Jewish people buying land in Palestinian territories
comedy

Arts and Entertainment
Transformers: Age of Extinction was the most searched for movie in the UK in 2014

film
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Ronson has had two UK number two singles but never a number one...yet

music
Arts and Entertainment
Clara Amfo will take over from Jameela Jamil on 25 January

radio
Arts and Entertainment
This is New England: Ken Cheeseman, Ann Dowd, Frances McDormand and Richard Jenkins in Olive Kitteridge

The most magnificently miserable show on television in a long timeTV
Arts and Entertainment
Andrea Faustini looks triumphant after hearing he has not made it through to Sunday's live final

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

    Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
    Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

    Scarred by the bell

    The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

    Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
    Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

    Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

    Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
    The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

    The Locked Room Mysteries

    As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
    Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

    How I made myself Keane

    Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
    Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

    Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

    Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
    A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

    Wear in review

    A look back at fashion in 2014
    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

    Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

    Might just one of them happen?
    War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

    The West needs more than a White Knight

    Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
    Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

    'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

    Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

    Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
    The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

    The stories that defined 2014

    From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
    Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

    Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

    Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?