Last night's viewing - Sex: My British Job, Channel 4; Peter Andre: My Life, ITV2

 

Documentary-maker Nick Broomfield is one of those directors who's as happy in front of the camera as he is behind it. And that's putting it mildly. Fetishes, the film Broomfield made about sex workers, was set in a swanky "fetish parlour" on Manhattan's 5th Avenue and ended with him climbing a door frame, sound boom in hand, to escape the attentions of a bevy of randy dominatrix.

So in Sex: My British Job, it was amusing to see Broomfield relegated to the status of delivery boy and occasional giver of pep talks, despite his best efforts to insert himself in the action. That was your lot in terms of light relief, however. The real star of the film was investigative reporter Hsiao-Hung Pai (with whom Broomfield also worked on Ghosts), who went undercover as a housekeeper, risking safety and sanity to give us an idea of life in some of London's 2,000-plus brothels.

This was only possible thanks to a pair of thick-rimmed glasses with a tiny camera embedded in the frame. Wearing these allowed Pai to surreptitiously film whatever she saw at eye-level. It could have gone either way, but fortunately for the viewer, the effect was less like watching outtakes from the sitcom Peep Show and more like an impressive preview of the Google Glass-sponsored future. We were not only observing the world of the brothel maid from close quarters but experiencing it as if through her own eyes.

As soon became clear, Sex: My British Job was not really a programme about sex, or even the seedy underbelly of the sex trade, but the tragically liminal status of Britain's illegal immigrants, who make up an estimated 80 per cent of the brothel workforce. As a maid, Pai must work from 10am to 2am with no days off, for £200 a week, and that's assuming her boss, Mary, is in a wage-paying kind of mood.

Dickens himself couldn't have written a more caricatured villain than the real-life Mary. Often sporting only a towel and a scowl, she begins each morning by praying to the money god idol, kept on her mantelpiece. It was a rare daily pause in the otherwise constant stream of invective and psychological abuse issuing from her mouth. When Pai eventually confronted her at the end of the film, the moment was as satisfying as any fictional denouement. But, really, who needs 19th-century-set drama like The Mill when this sort of misery is taking place right now in an anonymous terraced house near you?

Over on ITV2, Australian-born Peter Andre was enjoying a remarkably different immigrant experience. At the opening of the fifth season of his reality show Peter Andre: My Life, he is just 40 and has already taken full advantage of the opportunities afforded by this great nation: sexual congress with Katie Price, a house where sparkling mineral water runs on tap, and now his own line of ladies' perfumes. Luckily, Peter's breathily excited assistant was on hand to explain what a big deal this latter achievement is – otherwise, I confess, I may not have been sufficiently impressed.

No one could fail to be awed by Andre's mastery of the celeb world's lingua franca, however. His humble-bragese was note-perfect throughout: "There's not enough hours in the day," he sighed during a business meeting in a luxury country hotel. "But I'm grateful." In fact, the worst that can be said about the relentlessly humble Peter Andre is that he's often a little late to appointments. Even by the low, low standards of "scripted reality" that made for rather a weak dramatic arc. Naturally, this didn't stop producers devoting a major strand of last night's episode to our hero's struggles with his punctuality demons.

It would seem that the time has come for ITV2's bosses to finally face the truth: if reality television is therapy for celebrities, the well-balanced Peter Andre has completed his course and must now be released back into the community.

Arts and Entertainment
Blackman: Landscape of children’s literature does not reflect the cultural diversity of young people
booksMalorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Arts and Entertainment
'Eminem's recovery from substance abuse has made him a more potent performer, with physical charisma and energy he never had before'
musicReview: Wembley Stadium ***
Arts and Entertainment
‘Dawn of Planet of the Apes’ also looks set for success in the Chinese market

film
News
Arts and Entertainment
The successful ITV drama Broadchurch starring David Tenant and Olivia Coleman came to an end tonight

tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Chocolat author Joanne Harris has spoken about the financial struggles most authors face

books
Arts and Entertainment
A scene from How To Train Your Dragon 2

Review: Imaginative storytelling returns with vigour

film
Arts and Entertainment
Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland and Jena Malone in Mockinjay: Part 1

film
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Characters in the new series are based on real people, say its creators, unlike Arya and Clegane the Dog in ‘Game of Thrones’
tv
Arts and Entertainment
A waxwork of Jane Austen has been unveiled at The Jane Austen Centre in Bath

books
Arts and Entertainment
Britney Spears has been caught singing without Auto-Tune

music
Arts and Entertainment
Unless films such as Guardians of the Galaxy, pictured, can buck the trend, this summer could be the first in 13 years that not a single Hollywood blockbuster takes $300m

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Miley Cyrus has her magic LSD brain stolen in this crazy video produced with The Flaming Lips

music
Arts and Entertainment
Gay icons: Sesame Street's Bert (right) and Ernie

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Robin Thicke and actress Paula Patton

music
Arts and Entertainment
The new film will be shot in the same studios as the Harry Potter films

books
Arts and Entertainment
Duncan Bannatyne left school at 15 and was still penniless at 29

Bannatyne leaves Dragon's Den

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The French economist Thomas Piketty wrote that global inequality has worsened

books
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant and Benedict Cumberbatch

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck plays a despondent Nick Dunne in David Fincher's 'Gone Girl'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pete Doherty (L) and Carl Barât look at the scene as people begin to be crushed

music
Arts and Entertainment

tv
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.

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

    Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
    Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

    The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

    Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
    Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

    Meet Japan's AKB48

    Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
    In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

    Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

    The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor