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
Jude Law in Black Sea


In Black Seahe is as audiences have never seen him before

Arts and Entertainment
Johnny Depp no longer cares if people criticise his movie flops


Arts and Entertainment
Full circle: Wu-Tang’s Method Man Getty

Music review

Arts and Entertainment
When he was king: Muhammad Ali training in 'I Am Ali'
Arts and Entertainment
Joel Edgerton, John Turturro and Christian Bale in Exodus: Gods and Kings
film Ridley Scott reveals truth behind casting decisions of Exodus
Arts and Entertainment
Scare tactics: Michael Palin and Jodie Comer in ‘Remember Me’

TVReview: Remember Me, BBC1
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Hope Fletcher
booksFirst video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Damien Hirst
artCoalition's anti-culture policy and cuts in local authority spending to blame, says academic
Arts and Entertainment
A comedy show alumni who has gone on to be a big star, Jon Stewart
tvRival television sketch shows vie for influential alumni
Arts and Entertainment
Jason goes on a special mission for the queen
tvReview: Everyone loves a CGI Cyclops and the BBC's Saturday night charmer is getting epic
Arts and Entertainment
Image has been released by the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
Will there ever be a Friends reunion?
Harry Hill plays the Professor in the show and hopes it will help boost interest in science among young people
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
A Van Gogh sold at Sotheby’s earlier this month
Arts and Entertainment

MusicThe band accidentally called Londoners the C-word

Arts and Entertainment
It would 'mean a great deal' to Angelina Jolie if she won the best director Oscar for Unbroken

Film 'I've never been comfortable on-screen', she says

Arts and Entertainment
Winnie the Pooh has been branded 'inappropriate' in Poland
Arts and Entertainment
Lee Evans is quitting comedy to spend more time with his wife and daughter

Arts and Entertainment
American singer, acclaimed actor of stage and screen, political activist and civil rights campaigner Paul Robeson (1898 - 1976), rehearses in relaxed mood at the piano.
filmSinger, actor, activist, athlete: Paul Robeson was a cultural giant. But prejudice and intolerance drove him to a miserable death. Now his story is to be told in film...
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is dominating album and singles charts worldwide

Arts and Entertainment
Kieron Richardson plays gay character Ste Hay in Channel 4 soap Hollyoaks

Arts and Entertainment
Midge Ure and Sir Bob Geldof outside the Notting Hill recording studios for Band Aid 30

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

    Christmas Appeal

    Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
    Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

    Is it always right to try to prolong life?

    Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

    What does it take for women to get to the top?

    Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
    Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

    Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

    Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
    French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

    French chefs campaign against bullying

    A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

    Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

    Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
    Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

    Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

    Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
    Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

    Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

    Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
    Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

    Paul Scholes column

    I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
    Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

    So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

    It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
    Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

    Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

    The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
    Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

    Sarkozy returns

    The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
    Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

    Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

    Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
    Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

    Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

    Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game