Last night's viewing: Burgled, Channel 4 The Man Who Ate Himself to Death, Channel 5


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The Independent Culture

The Cutting Edge documentary Burgled opened with a sobering statistic – a burglary takes place every 47 seconds in the UK. In order to delve deeper into the life of crime, Channel 4 followed the West Yorkshire police to the home of some of the most burgled neighbourhoods in Britain: Leeds. The documentary adopted Cops-style filming, following police officers on duty as they attempted to catch thieves. This led us to believe that we were in for some fast-paced, real-life action. We weren't.

The most challenging piece of detective work involved an officer reviewing CCTV footage from a burgled home. Although the shrewd robber had the foresight to cover his hands to avoid leaving fingerprints, he neglected to avoid looking straight into the camera, allowing the officer to quickly determine him as a known criminal.

Another highlight involved the officers visiting a burglar's home to arrest him, but for some (disappointingly unexplained) reason, his sister had padlocked the door from the outside. Lacking their adversary's breaking-and-entering skills, the police couldn't get in, and had to wait for the sister to return and open it. More Inspector Gadget than Morse.

Things then turned farcical when an officer attempted to work out if a suspect was stealing from a house or genuinely lived there. The officer called his mother and asked for distinguishing features. "A tattoo? Or blond hair?" he asked. "Some say it's ginger," came her response. Even those on camera couldn't help but laugh at that one.

Anyone who's been burgled knows it's extremely traumatic. And as it's likely that most of us have either been robbed at some point, or know someone who has, it would have been helpful to find out a little more about the crime. Should we get that fake CCTV camera, a "Warning: dangerous dog" sign, or, indeed, buy a dangerous dog and train it to catch thieves? The only insight offered was that student homes are an easy target, something we could probably have worked out for ourselves.

Although the officers seemed to genuinely care about their duty, little understanding was offered as to why burglary is so common. Opportunity? Poverty? They assumed it was greediness: "They're just lazy. It's easy money," commented one. An offender astutely pointed out that there are many reasons why people turn to burglary. Some to feed a drug addiction, some through sheer boredom, and others purely to find some food, as they can't afford it. He also compared the process of finding something of worth to receiving a Sega Megadrive at Christmas. A profoundly depressing statement (although perhaps more so if he'd actually taken a Sega Megadrive from a kid at Christmas…).

We were left with several unanswered questions: How much money can they make? Who do they sell the stuff to? How likely are they to be sent down? How long will they spend behind bars? And, vitally (as the title suggested), how does it affect the victims?


With so many programmes covering the topic of obesity, it takes a lot to stand out. Channel 5 attempted to do so by following one of the world's most obese men, Ricky Naputi of Guam, as he tried to lose weight in time to have surgery in The Man Who Ate Himself to Death. The documentary dealt with the issue with more tact than the title would suggest, although the theatrical music was too dramatic to cover the last few months of someone's life.

Having spent seven years at home, all day in bed, unable to move, Ricky's desperation was clear to see. The parting message of the documentary was an important one: he was not the only one in that tragic situation, and far more preventative measures need to be taken before food addiction takes over people's lives.