TV Times - Harrowingly real

I’VE always been a little reluctant when it comes to Comic Relief, which is on tomorrow night from 7pm on BBC One.

There seems something more than a little wrong by the fact we have to be entertained first, before we can be convinced to be charitable.

“Here’s something funny, now give us some money,” really ought to be the motto for Comic Relief.

But, of course, the massive amount of money raised is the main priority, not the public’s collective morals.

If it takes a special Doctor Who episode, followed by a brief clip showing Cheryl Cole crying in Kenya, then at least something is being done.

But those behind Comic Relief deserve an awful lot of credit for the two-part series which aired last week... Famous, Rich and In The Slums.

It dispensed with both the comedy and – most importantly – the mawkish interaction between the stars and the impoverished.

There are few more infuriating scenes on television than a fully made-up celeb like Cheryl Cole, crying at the poverty they have been exposed to.

Famous, Rich and In The Slums instead threw four celebrities into the Kibera slum in Kenya and left them to get on with life.

Lenny Henry, Samantha Womack, Reggie Yates and Angela Rippon were all assigned to different families with different jobs to truly experience slum life.

Womack – EastEnders’ Ronnie Mitchell – worked in a hospital, Henry helped a man make and sell samosas, Yates emptied rancid lavatories and Rippon followed around a woman who either did the affluent’s washing or turned to prostitution.

Thankfully, none of the four celebs ever looked as though the were overly affected by the situations until they were alone.

The perceptive father who worked alongside Henry noticed his man was slightly uncomfortable when looking to buy food so paid him much more than he normally would have.

In a particularly poignant moment, Henry shook the man’s hand and slipped back all the wages so as not to embarrass him in front of his family.

In a break from the norm, Womack beat herself up for getting upset after a shift in the hospital where she spoke to a woman who had just gone through a still birth and cleaned up bloody messes on the floor every five minutes.

It was enough to make anyone upset, but Womack felt guilty as everyone around her just went about their lives as if nothing was different.

The thing that struck the stars – and the viewer – so much was the fact that all the situations were normal to the slum dwellers and they just got on with it.

There was no desperation, no depression or self pity.

This lead to the key moment at the end of the first part when guide Abdul saw the slums through the eyes of the outsiders.

He had been very stern throughout the programme but broke down after seeing through his self-imposed barrier.

It’s hard to imagine there will be a more heart-breaking scene on television this year, largely because it was so unexpected and harrowingly genuine.

These people are getting on with life without your help but they could use it, if you can afford to give it.