The Weekend's TV: Holiday Hijack, Sun, Channel 4
Sugartown, Sun, BBC1

A dose of reality is just the ticket

I don't know what the participants in Holiday Hijack thought they were signing up for, but if they were genuinely surprised by the sudden change in their travel plans after a day of luxury the working title must have been something like "Yes, There Is Such a Thing As a Free Lunch".

You'd ask a few questions, wouldn't you, if Channel 4 pitched up and said "we'll pay for you to take a five-star holiday in a tropical location"? "What's the catch?", for one. And if you didn't it would suggest either breathtaking vanity on your part, or a stupefying lack of curiosity. To be honest, you couldn't entirely rule out the latter with Louise and Natalie, Dan and Alex – four representatively solipsistic hedonists who were first up for Channel 4's culture-shock therapy. They thought (notionally at least) that they were going to be pampered and cosseted. In fact, just one day in to their stay in The Gambia they were pulled out of their gulag of indulgence and sent to live with a local family.

BBC Three has done this kind of thing quite a lot – rubbing the noses of spoiled Westerners in the bracing Third World realities that underpin their pleasures, and the genre has a number of fixed requirements that Channel 4's version efficiently ticked off. There must be flagrant bad behaviour initially, followed by ordeals of heat, odour and primitive plumbing and then finally a welter of tears, as those taking part sob out a hymn of praise to the exemplary courage of those they've been billeted on. And, as you may just be able to detect, it's easy to become a little cynical about the format and its glib moral instruction. Except, of course, that the moral instruction is necessary and not everyone is going to get it by buying a subscription to the New Internationalist.

The four guinea pigs began by establishing their credentials as unthinking exploiters, encouraged to talk up their dependence on room service and their exacting standards of hygiene and comfort. One of them was seen, shortly after arrival, quizzing the front desk about whether the beach towels were Egyptian cotton, which I don't believe for a moment is her routine practice on arriving at a new resort. What's she planning to do if they're not? Check out again? Never mind; this little pantomime satisfactorily established her as a spoiled princess, the better to contrast with the contrite and ethically aware Cinderella into which she was about to be transformed. And then, just as they were winding down on the sun loungers after filming some establishing shots, their host, Bella, arrived.

The next bit is always quite hard to watch, since it involves polite and hospitable people having their hospitality cast back into their face. "No! No!" shrieked one of the women when they were shown Bella's family bathroom – a selection of buckets alongside a clean but seat-less lavatory (facilities which could quite easily have been the pride of the neighbourhood). And when it turned out that they would have to eat with their hands from a communal dish, like many ordinary Gambians, there was a giggling attempt at tact so hamfisted that open insult would probably have been preferable: "We had a big lunch... don't know what my excuse is going to be tomorrow". It was shameful, as were the fastidious hissy fits Dan threw when he was asked to help at the local fish market. All that was necessary, though, in order to give them something to be ashamed of later – when they weepily realise that their priorities might be a little awry. And, however confected the early sections are, the acts of penitence still look reasonably genuine and there's something touching about the tearful farewells in the final act. But I do hope the host family got a very generous fee for supplying social enlightenment to their guests instead of a mint on the pillow.

I cannot for the life of me work out why BBC1 are transmitting a children's programme at 10.25pm on a Sunday, though it's hard to see Sugartown as anything else, so guileless is its plotting and so jauntily empty of threat are its characterisations. It's the kind of big ensemble drama where comic pizzicato is in heavy demand on the soundtrack and the challenges of life are framed as a kind of gang-show, with everyone pulling together to triumph over adversity. It isn't a terrible children's programme, incidentally, if that's what you want to watch. It's set in a run-down Yorkshire seaside town named in honour of its biggest local employer, a rock and confectionery factory that has seen better days. One brother (the good boy) struggles to keep the factory going; another (the sexy bad one) plans to sell it off to finance a casino. There's also a rivalry over a pretty girl, a long-lost orphan, and an attempt to relaunch a dance academy, which will allow for the occasional disco-backed chorus-line number. If you think that ageing hippies say things like "Let me stir-fry something into your think-wok, Ken", then you may find it an acute and heartwarming study of community solidarity under pressure. If you're not convinced by that line you might want to steer clear, because there are quite a lot of others like it, as well as boilerplate stuff such as "Everything's just a game to you isn't it? Who cares whether you break a heart or two along the way?" Cocoa for the mind, I think.

t.sutcliffe@independent.co.uk

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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Feeling all at sea: Barbara's 18-year-old son came under the influence of a Canadian libertarian preacher – and she had to fight to win him back
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Living the high life: Anne Robinson enjoys some skip-surfed soup
TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Great British Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
Doctor Who and Missy in the Doctor Who series 8 finale

TV
Arts and Entertainment

film
Arts and Entertainment
Chvrches lead singer Lauren Mayberry in the band's new video 'Leave a Trace'

music
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Home on the raunch: George Bisset (Aneurin Barnard), Lady Seymour Worsley (Natalie Dormer) and Richard Worsley (Shaun Evans)

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers

Strictly
Arts and Entertainment
NWA biopic Straight Outta Compton

film
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dormer as Margaery Tyrell and Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister in Game of Thrones

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
New book 'The Rabbit Who Wants To Fall Asleep' by Carl-Johan Forssen Ehrlin

books
Arts and Entertainment
Calvi is not afraid of exploring the deep stuff: loneliness, anxiety, identity, reinvention
music
Arts and Entertainment
Edinburgh solo performers Neil James and Jessica Sherr
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
If a deal to buy tBeats, founded by hip-hop star Dr Dre (pictured) and music producer Jimmy Iovine went through, it would be Apple’s biggest ever acquisition

album review
Arts and Entertainment
Paloma Faith is joining The Voice as a new coach

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Dowton Abbey has been pulling in 'telly tourists', who are visiting Highclere House in Berkshire

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Patriot games: Vic Reeves featured in ‘Very British Problems’
TV review
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there