Grace Dent on Television...Britain’s Hidden Hungry, BBC1

Starving people don’t sing or dance but by following their lives, the Beeb shows what it’s good at

Woe is me. The past seven days, week 44 in the TV schedule, have not been vintage ones for the televisual medium.

It’s one of those weeks where I open my notebook to find under “TV Highlights” a flamboyant Bic Biro doodle of a cat with Dracula fangs and the rough financial workings of how I might re-train as a reiki healer. Plus a load of Malbec-fueled chuntering about last Saturday’s Halloween Strictly Come Dancing where each dance was proceeded by an arduous, spooky comedy skit – truly gentle humour, perhaps designed for people recovering from facial skin surgery who want to enjoy something with their eyes without it troubling their stitches.

Poor, poor me. I’ve already watched Girls on HBO and The Paradise on BBC1 is a bit too French and Saunders “House of Idiot”. Daftness aside, it’s ironic I felt these were life-difficulties in the week when a documentary such as Britain’s Hidden Hungry – focusing on six months at the emergency food banks of Coventry and especially The Trussell Trust – came along and slapped me across my chubby chops.

Here, Bafta award-winning film-maker David Modell followed half a dozen  storylines on starvation. Those collection points that have began to appear outside Asdas, begging for spare cans of beans or teabags; here’s where your donated tins end up. The slightly wilted food you chuck out of your fridges; here are the people it could have kept alive for a week.

One of Modell’s most affecting storylines involved 20-year-old Charlotte; a skinny, pretty, forever effervescent gem of a kid, working at the food-bank, yet hoping to be a social worker, yet starving before our eyes. I call Charlotte “a kid” as she was brought up in care, so although eye-wateringly prudent with money (she can make £15 stretch a week, covering heat, electricity and some food), she lacked a thousand idiosyncratic skills and knowledge nuggets a mother would have taught her.

If this is boring you can simply look away. Starving people are quite boring, aren’t they? They don’t sing or dance or wear much make-up, which is why this show was shoved on at close to midnight. As the BBC, post-Savile, enters another gladiatorial fight about its right to exist, fantastic, emotionally scarring hours of TV like this are farted out with little praise or attention.

I noticed some people on Twitter becoming het up that some of Modell’s food-bank clients owned a dog (no help for them until they’d had it shot, I suppose) or had the audacity to turn up to collect out-of-date sandwiches for their kids in a clapped-out car. One of Modell’s subjects turned out to be a conman scamming the system. Some of the food-bank volunteers wanted the clients to express their love for Jesus as a pay-off for being fed. There were no neat story-arcs here, no solutions offered; simply more head-banging questions and social incongruities.

Living with continuous hunger, we discovered, has its methodology. Benefit-wise, Charlotte fell through the holes in the system and was forced to live on about a fiver a day – about the same as one might idly spend on a bottle of water and a sandwich in Pret, while on one’s way to M&S to stock up on tiny things to tide one over until the weekly supermarket shop. Charlotte, and others filmed, had trained their bodies to expect calories only once a day. At one point, Modell offered to buy Charlotte a sandwich; she refused as it spoiled her hunger regime. I found this daft, but later we saw Charlotte having a little extra money and being able to eat two or three meals a  day, before being plunged back into hunger again  and  suffering a  minor breakdown due to renewed  hunger pangs.

Modell cracks all the time and gives his subjects money. I’m sure this is the “Don’t do number one rule” of documentary making, but I can’t fault him for this. Who could watch a kid from care put her laptop into the pawnshop for food – the laptop she does her college work on (education being her key to freedom from this hell), the laptop she’s using to store her childhood photos on – then not be able to find £30 to claim it back, without giving her the cash?

Long after this show is shoved into the archives, I’ll remember the footage of Charlotte pointing out everyday teenage girls in the street in their Primark leggings and Top Shop jackets, flippantly donned headbands and Converse boots, while dreaming of how it might feel to have a change of clothes and to walk along the street giggling and hooting, linking arms with friends, with a mam at home, making you some dinner and nagging you as to when you’ll be back to eat it, knowing dinner would be there again tomorrow.

Who cares about Charlotte? I do. But now more than ever, I really don’t know how to help her.

Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Public Service Broadcasting are going it alone
music
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
News
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
people
News
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

film
Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Oscars
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
music
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
film
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

Film

Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
architecture
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.

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower