Last Night's TV: He can't pocket all of the credit

The Secret Millionaire, Channel 4; CSI: Miami, Five

For the opening five minutes of last night's The Secret Millionaire, I worried that I might be suffering from format fatigue. James Benamor, the first millionaire of this (third) series, acted like an unpleasant contestant from The Apprentice. He swanned about in his sunflower-yellow Lotus, strode the aisles of his office with a mobile clamped to his ear, stripped to the waist for a round of boxing training, and told the viewer with a hirsute, but entirely straight, face: "There isn't a company out there that we compete with, that I don't want to see smashed into the ground."

Hardly a sympathetic figure then. It turns out the business with which he's amassed his £77m fortune, aged only 30, is a credit company offering loans to people who've been refused them by banks. Scrawled on the office whiteboard, in full view of Benamor's team of twentysomething telesalespeople, was a mantra straight out of the Glengarry Glen Ross playbook: "Don't oversell. Short 'n' sweet. Capture, confirm, close."

So what made Benamor a suitable candidate for Channel 4's instant philanthropy format? After all, he admitted, "I spend my life trying to block out people's need." But as he swapped the Lotus for a Nissan Sunny, and his Bournemouth mansion for 10 days in a Moss Side terrace, we learned he'd been a teen tearaway, getting into scrapes with the law before finding his feet as a young entrepreneur. In Manchester, the city with the highest number of teen Asbos in the country, he was hoping to find troubled young men that he could put on the same path.

Posing as a classroom assistant at the Manchester Settlement, a centre for boys excluded from mainstream education, he came across a young wag named Aidan, who argued with him about the correlation between GCSEs and future wealth. Aidan produced one of those unscripted gems that reality-TV producers dream of: "You're not earning lots of money," he told Benamor, "I've seen your car." The millionaire laughed, and so did the rest of us.

Next, he sought out Ann and Terry, a retired couple whose home is a haven for troublesome boys. In the pair's manifest goodness, you could instantly see people worthy of Benamor's money. Their tender, good-humoured relationships with some pretty mean-looking young men were astounding, and the millionaire was visibly moved, though not to tears.

The requisite "crying bit" came later, when he met Miranda, a member of the local charity Mothers Against Violence, for those who've lost loved ones to violent crime. Miranda, whose 19-year-old son was shot and killed, showed Benamor the boy's school photo, pointing out two more of his classmates who had been shot. But while the hard-nosed Benamor finally blubbed, she just chuckled at her memories and offered to make him a cup of tea.

This show always throws up its fair share of moral quandaries: Should rich people give poor people big cheques and leave it at that? Should we congratulate them for it? Shouldn't they just vote for higher taxes on their own incomes? If the millionaire wants to keep his munificence so mysterious, why's he doing it on television? Not exactly Bruce Wayne, is it? And, as Benamor said after meeting Miranda, "I don't know if it's my place to put a price on a human life."

Sensibly, he chose not to do that; rather than hand Miranda or Aidan cash, he wrote out cheques to the charities that could really help them. When he finally revealed himself as a millionaire (which, by the way, felt "fantastic"), the Settlement, Ann and Terry, and Mothers Against Violence each felt the warm glow of Benamor's generosity – in all, more than £130,000 of it. Cue more crying, this time with added hugs.

Benamor, if not a "better" person by the end of his stay in Moss Side, was certainly one more aware of how the other half lives. But then, handing over money is easy for a man with his bank balance. Much as the secret millionaires are the protagonists of the programme, real heroes are rarely Bruce Waynes. They're "little old ladies" called Ann.

There were troubled youths and everyday heroes over on Five, too, in the first of another series of CSI: Miami. A wealthy businessman turned conscientious parole officer had been shot dead by one of his teen charges, and despite solving the complex crime before supper, David Caruso found time to take off those sunglasses and put them back on again at least 38 times while the Foo Fighters chugged away in the background.

In a world where more and more of us have seen The Wire, CSI simply doesn't cut the mustard any more. It's meant to be a police procedural and, except for the odd burst of sexual tension between implausibly attractive cops, the plot is all about process. But when that process is so utterly preposterous – and we're talking science fiction here – the whole thing just ends up feeling a bit like Midsomer Murders, with tits.

Arts and Entertainment
Wonder.land Musical by Damon Albarn

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment

Film review

Arts and Entertainment
Innocent victim: Oli, a 13-year-old from Cornwall, featured in ‘Kids in Crisis?’
TV review
News
Northern exposure: social housing in Edinburgh, where Hassiba now works in a takeaway
books An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop
Arts and Entertainment
Terminator Genisys: Arnie remains doggedly true to his word as the man who said 'I'll be back', returning once more to protect Sarah Connor in a new instalment

 

film review
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Arts and Entertainment

Final Top Gear review

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty and Carl Barat perform at Glastonbury 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Richie performs live on the Pyramid stage during the third day of Glastonbury Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
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.

    Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

    Is this the future of flying?

    Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
    Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

    Isis are barbarians

    but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
    The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

    Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

    Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
    Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

    'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

    Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
    Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

    Call of the wild

    How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
    Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

    'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

    If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
    The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

    The science of swearing

    What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
    Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

    Africa on the menu

    Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
    Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

    Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

    The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
    10 best statement lightbulbs

    10 best statement lightbulbs

    Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
    Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

    Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

    It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
    Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

    Dustin Brown

    Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
    Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

    Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test