Benefits by the Sea, Channel 5 - TV review: These guys make subjects of Benefits Street look like landed aristocracy

"Poverty porn" is at least supposed to entertain but Benefits by the Sea didn't even reach that low bar

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The Independent Culture

Snobby hierarchies can pop up in the most unlikely places, a truth illustrated by Benefits by the Sea, Channel 5's bargain-basement take on the more famous Channel 4 series.

It's filmed in the seaside town of Jaywick, Essex, which, according to the voiceover narration, is "the closest thing this country has to a shanty town". It's a place where nearly half of the 5,000 residents live on benefits and 50 per cent of children live in poverty. These guys make subjects of Benefits Street look like landed aristocracy.

Single dad Carl was unemployed and functionally illiterate, 17-year-old Louise was stuck caring for her chronically ill stepdad instead of studying, and ex-East End gangster Fred might have had some good stories about running with the Kray twins, if only his daily struggle to get by left more time to chat. Whatever we may make of the ethics of "poverty porn", it's at least supposed to entertain. Benefits by the Sea didn't even reach that low bar. So what, exactly, are we gawping at?

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