TELEVISION / BRIEFING: Sick joke or guilt-stirrer?

COME ON DOWN AND OUT (8pm C4), a game show in which three homeless people attempt to win a 'dream house', has had the tabloids frothing at the mouth: Today called it 'a sick joke'. The tone is set by the opening titles, which show a front-door key being placed in a grubby, outstretched hand. In the 'greed is good' atmosphere, the audience whoops as Annabel Giles, the host, guides them round the prize, a detached, four-bedroom house in 'glorious Surrey' - complete with waste disposal unit, wok and fridge full of food. Andrew O'Connor, the quizmaster, asks the contestants such questions as 'how many homes were repossessed in Britain in 1992?', before asking them, Generation Game-style, to build a 'bash' shelter. He goes on to humiliate the three with hidden camera film of them being refused benefit and moved on by the police. Channel 4 maintains that the show is a novel way of challenging compassion fatigue and must be seen in the context of the 'Gimme Shelter' season on homelessness. Come on Down and Out is in the worst possible taste, but the amount of discussion it has already generated shows it has at least partially achieved its aim.