Desperate Scousewives, E4, Monday
Money: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? BBC2, Tuesday
Liverpool's would-be slebs may be dull, but a film on wealth creation exposes a truly odious world
'We're laaahd and we're praaaahd," shrieks Jodie, the narrator of latest reality TV offering Desperate Scousewives.
That a reality TV show has an off-screen narrator at all, like a low-rent Gossip Girl, might seem odd if it weren't for the fact that this is reality in the style of TOWIE and Made in Chelsea, promising to do for brash Liverpudlians with spherical boobs what the latter did for sloaney posh girls.
That is, give us a stage-managed, semi-scripted window on their world. But while it claims to be offering a slice of life, it's clear these would-be celebrities are fully aware of the conventions of the genre they're operating in, and are doing their stilted best to fulfil them.
The name is clearly a pun to no purpose; there don't seem to be any housewives, although they do all have a whiff of desperation. And they are a homogenous lot, with matching tans, hair extensions and dresses that seem to be made of tinfoil Sellotaped to a push-up bra.
One or two stand out: Jaiden is introduced as the "bitchy blogger". He must have been firmly briefed that being the Perez Hilton of the Wirral is his USP: he later dutifully parrots, "I can't wait for all the blogging, all the bitching." Brilliant. Then there are two girls who wander the streets in rollers, so dedicated are they to Big Hair. Amanda is a local sleb – apparently – who has an adoring shadow named Chloe. To shift stubborn fake tan stains, Chloe applies bleach to her hands, giving us a "beauty is pain" lesson of the most forehead-smacking variety.
Desperate Scousewives ought to be a guilty pleasure, but I can't help feeling I need to bleach my hands after it, à la Chloe – there's something incredibly grubby about its reducing of individuality and human relationships to a series of clichés. It's a bit tawdry and depressing. Plus, hand-wringing aside, it makes for really dull telly.
It's not been a good week for bolstering your faith in humanity. Money: Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? documents the world of wealth creation. Vanessa Engle's quietly devastating documentary, the first of three on filthy lucre, features people as desperate to be wealthy as the Scousewives are to be famous.
It turns out wealth creation is big business, from "how to" books to pricey seminars to a board game named Cashflow (a tongue-removed-from-cheek Monopoly). It's a nasty web where self-help-speak, capitalist theory, and religious cultishness meet. And the wealth gurus squat in the middle like greedy spiders while poor, credulous individuals get themselves completely tangled up.
Take Janice, a nursery teacher from Ilford. She owes £4,000 on a credit card thanks to wealth-creation course fees, and thinks she will be a millionaire, as long as she really believes it. Then there are the terrifying teenage couple who spout management-speak and have forked out thousands on courses and personal mentors already. That there are people who will take an 18-year-old's credit-card debt money is a miserable thought, but then the pursuit of wealth is, it seems, a rather miserable thing.
Most of those we see who are "financially free" – that's the aim, to live off the passive income of your canny investments – don't even seem to spend all the money they make. In fact, the passive rich seem thoroughly joyless. Perhaps it's unacknowledged guilt gnawing at their souls ... or perhaps not.
Meet T Harv Eker, author of Secrets of the Millionaire Mind, who describes himself as "a cross between Donald Trump and Buddha". This odious little man is one of those responsible for Janice believing that if she rubs her earlobes while repeating "I am a millionaire", she'll soon be rolling in it. He's fond of booming over a microphone to his many wide-eyed event attendees that the universe "owes" them a million pounds. This fostering of a sense of a spiritual entitlement to wads of cash is possibly more depressing than even the cast of Desperate Scousewives' belief that they are entitled to a spread in Heat. They may all be loud, but there's very little to be proud of here.
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