Finding a new group of people for viewers to sneer at is like striking reality TV gold. Ratings successes, industry accolades and an inbox full of interesting job offers await any TV exec who can achieve the right level of pathos.
ITV’s Little England had the potential to unite a nation in looking down our noses. First shown in 2011 and now available on catch up, its premise was to show the lives of an array of Brits who had moved to the south west of France.
Lured by affordable properties, a slower pace of life and more sunshine hours than in Britain, the show’s stars joined the other 20,000 or so Britons who live in the Dordogne.
“Shunning the fresh produce of the local markets, these ex-pats hankered for the processed food of their homeland”
Food played a different role to the one you might have expected. Shunning the fresh produce of the local markets, these ex-pats hankered for the processed food of their homeland. Viewers watched in disbelief as food arrived from Tesco stores at home.
You couldn’t help but be charmed by Ray and Sophie Hicks, who came to France to realise their dream of running a farm and selling their own produce. Ironically, their sausages and pies proved their biggest sellers. Dave and Helen Mansfield (pictured), meanwhile, enjoyed life over a deep-fat fryer, as they toured the villages in their mobile fish and chip shop.
The Eymet cricket team, on the other hand, were served up as a reminder of how not to integrate. Rather than take part in local French life, these Brits had taken Essex to Eymet.
Similarly, our introduction to Lieutenant Colonel John Walter Molyneux-Child was another high – or low – point of the series. Seemingly without the faintest grasp of French, he paraded around his village like the lord of the manor. How true to life this was is open to question.
After all, reality TV it may be. Reality, I suspect, it is not.