TV review: Something for Nothing, Channel 4

The Route Masters: Running London Roads, BBC2

"I've had treatments worth £5,000," said Jenny Townsend, one of Harry's Heroes in Something for Nothing. You get to be one of Harry's Heroes not by rescuing a comrade under withering Taliban fire or helping orphans in a developing world country, but by blagging stuff for free. Jenny had managed to score countless beauty treatments for nothing in return for offering her face and body as training material for beginners. And already the central concept of Something for Nothing was starting to strain a little.

First, there was the question of "worth". Those treatments weren't actually "worth" that much, Jenny, that was just the inflated price people are prepared to pay. Then there was the notion of "free". Among the non-monetary bills Jenny had ended up paying was several weeks of acute social embarrassment after a haircut didn't go quite as she'd planned. Never mind. She seemed happy and undaunted: "Hopefully, I'll be having a chemical peel next," she said, beaming broadly. Oh yes, that's just the kind of procedure you'd want a novice to perform, Jenny. Having someone apply acid to your face.

Harry, for whom Jenny was a hero, was presenter Harry Wallop, who's set himself the challenge of seeing what he can get for free and passing on the tips to us. And not all of them were nonsense. If you're willing to offer yourself as a guinea pig to apprentices, you can get your haircuts for free, for example, and he also explored a new craze called "swishing", which turned out to be considerably less exciting than it sounded, but did offer a means of realising the dead capital locked up in all those unworn clothes in your wardrobes (it's clothes-swapping, basically). Other tips consisted of the kind of freebies that are only really accessible if a limited number of people know about them, an exclusivity that Harry seemed determined to undermine. You might be able to get yourself on the list for a restaurant's soft opening, for example, but if even one per cent of Something for Nothing's viewers act on the information it contained, places are going to be scarce.

You couldn't help but wonder, too, how helpful it is to have a camera crew in tow, an expensive accessory that has a positively magical effect when some chancer turns up asking for free pizzas and beer, as Harry did when he set out to organise a completely free party. "If you don't ask, you don't get," he said cheerfully after yet another local supplier had graciously chipped in. And if you try the same thing without the backup of a television commission, I'm guessing that more often than not you don't get, either. My hero, incidentally – summing up the odd surrender of agency that accompanies the something-for-nothing philosophy – was Jane Willis, an obsessive comper who appeared to enter competitions whether she wanted the prize or not. Among her booty were a condom wallet and a pair of remote-control vibrating panties. Jane did not look as if she had much time for either.

The Route Masters: Running London Roads was a profile of the systems that keep London traffic flowing. It had some problems as an hour-long film, since watching people trying to untangle traffic jams turns out to be only marginally more interesting than actually sitting in them. Even the Vauxhall helicopter crash, perhaps the most dramatic snarl-up in recent years, was reduced to men looking anxiously at tailbacks and saying things like, "Yeah, but if we do that it'll back up all the way to the Camberwell New Road."

But it was saved by its characters, including Indra, an ex-Gurkha member of the Incident Response team whose commitment to keeping London on the move included giving pedestrians a piggy-back through a flooded underpass, and Sean, who keeps watch on that sclerotic artery the Blackwall Tunnel from a cell-like Portakabin nearby. My kind of heroes.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Martin Freeman as Lester Nygaard in the TV adaptation of 'Fargo'

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

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

Arts and Entertainment
<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>

Arts and Entertainment

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

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

Arts and Entertainment

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

Arts and Entertainment

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

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

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

Arts and Entertainment
Crowds soak up the atmosphere at Latitude Festival

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

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

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

Artists unveils new exhibition inspired by Hastings beach

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
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
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

    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