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

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing