October 24, 2016

Last Night’s TV: How many ways are there to avoid doing the dishes?

There’s one group of people who don’t need shows like The Secret Life Of The Family (Channel 5).

They’re primary school teachers, who, if you’ve got kids, already know your family secrets, and more.

“My daddy drinks beer and shouts at the telly” was the caption my young son attached to one of his early school paintings.

His Year One teacher, meanwhile, learned one Monday morning that “Mum made dad stay in the cellar all weekend”.

The rest of us must rely on fly-on-the-wall TV shows that are sometimes more reliable than a small child (and sometimes not).

This latest peek at the lives of others was not as candid as it first appeared. Far from just filming six families as they went about their domestic business, it threw in little firecrackers to see what would happen.

The theme of last night’s episode was housework, most of which – apparently – is still done by mums.

In a bid to change this or make stuff happen, the featured mums were made to down Marigolds and make their kids and other halves help out around the home.

Through the lens of the all-seeing camera, we saw every permutation of that timeless struggle between the cleaners and the cleaned-up-after.

Do a job so badly that someone eventually loses patience and takes over was one.

Negotiate over the job until someone gives way, another.

We even caught glimpses of lesser-known varieties, such as refusing to do your job because your sister/brother hasn’t done theirs.

Mums, mostly, emerged as the victims and heroines of the battle, although the Smiths of Bedford proved an exception.

Mrs Smith promised to pay her kids the £180,000 a year to do the household chores. Having, perhaps, done the maths in a hurry, she then ‘forgot’ the agreement and claimed it had been her husband’s idea all along.

In many households, I suspect, a cheer went up for the dads at this moment – and a longing for a set of remote control cameras to record every ‘forgotten’ thing mysteriously, unprovably blamed on dad.

Having seen how little help some men provide around the house, however, you wonder if they might deserve it.

Derren Brown: Pushed To The Edge (C4) was an exceptionally bold experiment from the grand master of mind-games.

In a one-off special, an agreeable chap called Chris was taken to the edge of his own humanity, with the aid of cameras, stunt experts and more jobbing actors than the entire 16-year run of The Bill.

Then there was Derren Brown himself, engineering a set of encounters and experiences to show us how easily the average Joe can be programmed to push someone off a roof.

Of course, it was all done in the best possible taste without anyone actually being pushed off a roof.

The plot, if you could overlook the truth of someone being put through what he believes to be a living nightmare, was quite enjoyable.

In fact, with its assortment of desperate businessmen, comedy disguises and dead bodies in wheelchairs, it could have made an enjoyable farce.

The exercise entirely failed to prove how an ordinary person can be turned into a killer, though, because Chris didn’t do it.

Anyone who wanted that proof, meanwhile, wouldn’t need Derren Brown. They could just switch on the news instead.

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