Last Night's Television: Inside John Lewis, BBC2
Famous, Rich and Jobless, BBC1

You get a better class of vox pop in John Lewis, judging from the first of Liz Allen's films about Middle Britain's favourite retailer. "In seven days, God made the world and in seven days, John Lewis will make your curtains," said one well-spoken lady, her tone suggesting that the latter act of creation was at least equal to the first. "If John Lewis is short of anything," said another customer feelingly "we've got it in our house." He appeared to feel that his wife had done everything that could reasonably be expected of her to prop up John Lewis's profit figures, but unfortunately not everyone has been shopping with the same zeal in recent months; Inside John Lewis, a three-part series about the department-store chain, was filmed as the recession was biting. It had already taken a great chunk out of John Lewis's ambitious plans for expansion and the question that ran through this first episode was whether it might yet swallow the fabled peculiarities of the John Lewis business model.

The film began on bonus day, when John Lewis partners (they're all partners, from the managing director to the lady who sells you hat pins) find out how large their slice of the annual profits will be, an exciting event conducted, it appears, with a certain amount of sealed-envelope razzmatazz. The staff owe this profit-sharing scheme to John Spedan Lewis, who appeared here on archive film to outline his essential idea in gloriously clipped RP. "If a naturalist who was a bit of a gardener found a seed washed up by the sea," he explained, "he might plant it and tend it just to see if it was alive. The John Lewis Partnership has been an experiment of that sort... not with a seed but with an idea of a better way of running a business." Some of his contemporaries may have suspected that the seed had been washed up from Russia – with its dangerous notions of equitability and common ownership – but Lewis had actually introduced it with the notion that a bit more fairness might forestall Bolshevik revolution.

It's a seed that's currently nurtured by Andy Street, a chirpy little man who comes across like an unusually ebullient youth-club organiser, rather than the managing director of a major company. He is curiously unembarrassed, for a top-flight businessman, by the idea that there might be more to life than the bottom-line profit. His own salary, for example, is capped so that it can never be more than 75 times then his lowest paid workers – a fact that puts him way down the executive-pay leaderboard: "We're not paid as much as colleagues running other organisations," he conceded brightly, "but I put it to you that this is a far more fulfilling job." Come on, you're only selling towels, you thought, but then it dawned on you that if the world's bankers had been driven by similar values we might not be quite as deep in a hole as we are right now. There were John Lewis executives in this film who muttered quietly about the sluggishness of its corporate architecture, but it was hard not to think of them as the kind of barbarians who dismantled Britain's building societies to turn them into offshore casinos.

Like John Lewis itself, Liz Allen's film went against the grain of prevailing values in its industry and was indisputably worthy. Like John Lewis, it was also in absolutely no danger of elevating your heartrate. At one of the very few moments where the presence of a film crew threatened to be revealing – when Mr Street was rehearsing for a press conference and took an unexpected question about redundancies in the solar plexus – the cameras were obligingly turned off at his request. And elsewhere the highlights consisted of things like a man unveiling the clearance sale best buy (a banded pack of bath towels) or a woman excitedly recalling the arrival of the first multi-decker lorry into the new Cardiff branch loading bay. "I felt quite emotional about it," she confessed. Strangely, I didn't, but I was touched by the quixotic and vulnerable idea that fairness and equity should be part of a company's spreadsheet.

In the second half of Famous, Rich and Jobless, the participants were paired up with members of the long-term unemployed and Larry Lamb enjoyed another opportunity to display his talent for unintentional comedy. There was a fine moment when he sat down Mark, a jobless sales manager, and sympathetically informed him that his dignity had gone, his masculinity had been undermined and his morale was in tatters. Mark, who couldn't get a word in edgeways for being told how bad he was feeling, looked as if he wished Larry would stop trying to cheer him up. By the end, every celebrity professed themselves greatly enriched by the experience, with a renewed sense of their own good fortune. What the unemployed got out of was a bit less clear.

Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West found himself at the centre of a critical storm over the weekend after he apparently claimed to be “the next Mandela” during a radio interview
music
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Craig and Rory Kinnear film Spectre in London
film
Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
music
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

TV
Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

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

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
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
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.

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    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?