Last Night's Television: Kids For Sale &ndash; Stacey Dooley Investigates, BBC3<br/>School of Comedy, E4<br/>Restaurant in our Living Room, Virgin 1

Rescue mission accomplished
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The Independent Culture

A year ago, Stacey Dooley went to India with the BBC to film the acclaimed documentary Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts. She was one of a group but she stood out a mile, so refreshing was she in comparison to the bland, spoiled whiners that surrounded her. Now she's back for more, in Kids for Sale – Stacey Dooley Investigates, only this time she'll be in Nepal and the Ivory Coast, and without the peer-group entourage. Her trip to India, she said, changed everything. "I always thought charity was for hippies and do-gooders," she giggled. "And now I'm all, like, 'Yeah, charity rocks!'"

It's easy to see why programme-makers asked her back: she's utterly, utterly charming, brimming with off-kilter observations ("It smells like Whipsnade," she mused at one point, presumably in reference to the zoo). She's also admirably gutsy. When it comes to sticking up for the underdog, she's at the front of the queue, apparently wholly unintimidated by those in power.

Last night saw her in Kathmandu, where an estimated several thousand children are working, having been sold by desperate parents for piddling amounts. She was working with a local rescue charity, but soon became aware of just how Sisyphean their mission is. With only one sweatshop visit accomplished, all the factories in the vicinity closed down, their underage workforce terrorised into hiding. One little boy broke free, claiming he was regularly beaten and wanted to go home. Mind-blowingly, the charity couldn't do anything. They reported the incident to the police and hoped that something would come of it.

It was a similar situation later on, when they tried to rescue a 13-year-old girl from her position as a domestic slave. They were working with the little girl's sister, who was rescued a few years earlier. Despite the fact that such slavery is illegal, they struggled to get anywhere near her. Eventually – and, one imagines, thanks in large part to the presence of a TV camera – her "owner" allowed a representative in to negotiate. Several hours afterwards they emerged, victorious. The little girl was set free. Initially bemused, the prospect of a new life dawned slowly. By the next day, she sported a permanent megawatt grin. Stacey took her shopping, and she burst out of the changing room draped in colour. "Who's this beauty queen?" Stacey cried, much to the girl's delight. It's pathetically clear how little hope there is of any rapid change for these children. Their enslavement here is a cultural as well as an economic problem. Still, Stacey wasn't disheartened. "Changing one person's life is better than nothing, isn't it?" she asked the camera. "It's not great but... why wouldn't you do it?" She has a point.

More youthful dynamism over on E4, where a group of precocious teens display their blossoming talent in a new sketch-show, School of Comedy. Presumably, this is what David Walliams was like as a youngster. Annoying. And not that funny (no change there, then). To give the kids their due, not all of the attempted sketches were terrible. Indeed, the opening one, set in a primary school parent-teacher meeting, had me laughing out loud, as did the barrister who won over his jury by hypnosis. The problems come when they returned to the same set up for a second (and, sometimes, a third sketch). Hypnosis is funny. Not so much when he got out the Ouija board and even less so when Barry Manilow came out. You forgive them because they're only kids after all – and even at their worst they're still funny in an aren't-they-cute-in-the-school-play kind of way. But then, hang on, you think: what exactly are they doing on my telly? Especially at 10 o'clock at night. Someone, somewhere has some very powerful parents.

By comparison, everyone on this week's Restaurant in Our Living Room looked positively ancient. Still, it was just as fun as last week, and possibly even better, largely down to the fact that one of the couples – Tom and Liz – were completely, utterly bonkers. "Actually, I'm training as a chef," Tom from Yorkshire announced, grinning. "Sorry, that's a joke." Whoops! Must've forgotten to laugh.

The best (worst?) moment came when the two couples came face to face for the first time in a local restaurant, shortly before their "DIY restaurants" open. Each side presented their menu: Tom and Liz their Italian offering, while Steve and Julia, their comparatively sane competitors, their "bistro" themed menu. Suddenly, just as their food arrived, Liz started vomiting. Honest to God: actual, semi-projectile vomit, all over the carpet. "Oops, sorry!" she giggled, looking up from the soiled carpet. "I was being greedy." Apparently, she choked. Steve, Julia and Tom all look on, dumbstruck. Liz shrugged and then – or so it seems from the edit, and I have to say I struggle to believe this was really the case – actually left her regurgitated mess all over the floor until after the meal. Oh, god. Not surprisingly, Steve and Julia win.

a.jarvis@independent.co.uk

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