Last Night's TV: They're cottoning on to the real world

Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts, BBC3; Heather Mills: What Really Happened, Channel 4

Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts is wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee television, and delivers one of this fledgling genre's most important pleasures, which is that the coffee should be nasally administered with a high-pressure hose. So when Tara, Stacey, Richard, Georgina, Mark and Amrita were sent off to India to discover what underpins the fashion bargains on British high streets, the taxi from the airport didn't take them to an air-conditioned hotel for a couple of days of acclimatisation. It took them straight to a New Delhi slum, where they will be living alongside the garment workers whose lives and jobs they are going to share. "I'm not staying here," said Amrita, "we don't have immune systems like they do." Or a fraction of their courtesy and resilience, you found yourself tempted to add, after another 20 minutes of Amrita's unimaginative whining.

In a lot of respects, Amrita is an exemplary guinea pig: a British- born Asian who blithely announced that she is indifferent to the ethical pedigree of the clothes she buys. "I think cheap fashion's great," she said brightly before her departure. "It doesn't really affect me whether it's been made by a three-year-old or a 50-year-old." I think Amrita's too young to know that three-year-olds are really rubbish at producing a straight seam, but you get the idea. She doesn't really want to know how the costs are kept down as long as she can buy two tops for the price of one. In that, she probably speaks for about 95 per cent of British consumers, and the idea behind Blood, Sweat and T-Shirts is to make that blissful ignorance a little more difficult to maintain.

Our proxies in India had a relatively gentle introduction to global economics, being sent first to a huge modern factory that produces around three million garments a month for Western markets. In sweatshop terms, this was the Ritz, a place with a modern canteen and bright, clean working conditions. But the line-management style – pretty much any movement except breathing and stitching prohibited – didn't sit well with the new arrivals. Georgina got the hump with the supervisor, Mark got ticked off for talking and Amrita had a fit of the vapours."It's like everything's closing in on you and you can't breathe," she said, before stomping out for a little cry on the roof. If the locals still harboured any illusions about stiff upper lip and imperial resolve, they were evaporating fast and presumably vanished altogether after Richard indulged himself in a foul-mouthed rant about the condition of the streets.

Not everyone made you ashamed to be British. Stacey, a shop assistant, is a sweetheart, with a cheery "namaste" for everyone she meets and Tara, a fashion student, actually earned herself a place on the production line and a skilled worker's salary of around £1.50 per day. But in general, the sharp contrast between people who can't even endure an ordeal they have chosen to inflict upon themselves and people who have no choice but to endure one inflicted by circumstances, is chastening. Morale was very low by the end of the programme, with the group getting their first taste of what a real sweatshop looks and smells like, but there were signs that some of the arrogance and self-regard was beginning to flake off and be replaced with buyer's remorse. The programme itself, incidentally, is top-quality schmutter.

Jacques Peretti presented his film Heather Mills: What Really Happened as a counterpoint to the ex-Mrs McCartney's recent tabloid monstering. He would, he promised, talk both to people who liked her and people who didn't. When it turned out that one of her positive character witnesses ("She can be a very nice person") was also the woman who was claiming they'd worked together as "high-class hookers", you began to realise that balancing this narrative was going to be uphill work. Peretti never actually got anything straight from the horse's mouth, he just got to people who'd been authorised by the horse to reveal selected details, including Heather's ghostwriter, Pam Cockerill (very vaguely pro), and the sister of Heather's first husband (most decidedly anti, and reportedly tipped the wink by McCartney's lawyers that they'd be happy for her to take part in the filming).

We learnt quite a bit about Mills's somewhat tenuous relationship with the historical record (a minor incident from her childhood had been blown up by her into a full-scale paedophile abduction), but very little about whether her claims to charitable endeavour are actually justified. And the programme ended with an oddly naive moment when Peretti showed you home movies of her as a child playing with her siblings and her father. "I hadn't expected to see such happiness," he said. "Watching these home movies, I wondered if this man really was the brutal father Heather has always claimed he was." Given that everyone smiles in home movies, the footage had all the evidentiary weight of an unsigned Christmas card. You sensed that a straw was being clutched at.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from Shakespeare in Love at the Noel Coward Theatre
theatreReview: Shakespeare in Love has moments of sheer stage poetry mixed with effervescent fun
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson stars in Hercules

film
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'

film
Arts and Entertainment
<p><strong>2008</strong></p>
<p>Troubled actor Robert Downey Jr cements his comeback from drug problems by bagging the lead role in Iron Man. Two further films follow</p>

film
Arts and Entertainment

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Tycoons' text: Warren Buffett and Bill Gates both cite John Brookes' 'Business Adventures' as their favourite book

books
Arts and Entertainment
Panic! In The Disco's Brendon Urie performs on stage

music
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Radio 4's Today programme host Evan Davis has been announced as the new face of Newsnight

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams performing on the Main Stage at the Wireless Festival in Finsbury Park, north London

music
Arts and Entertainment
Carrie Mathison returns to the field in the fourth season of Showtime's Homeland

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

music
Arts and Entertainment
Meyne Wyatt and Caren Pistorus arrive for the AACTA Aawrds in Sydney, Australia

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rick Astley's original music video for 'Never Gonna Give You Up' has been removed from YouTube

music
Arts and Entertainment
Quentin Blake's 'Artists on the beach'

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

art
Arts and Entertainment
MusicFans were left disappointed after technical issues
Arts and Entertainment
'Girl with a Pearl Earring' by Johannes Vermeer, c. 1665
artWhat is it about the period that so enthrals novelists?
Arts and Entertainment
Into the woods: The Merry Wives of Windsor at Petersfield
theatreOpen-air productions are the cue for better box-office receipts, new audiences, more interesting artistic challenges – and a picnic
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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.

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform