The latest ‘WTF will people do next in a desperate bid for their 15 minutes?’ saw this unreality show, scheduled in an almost nightly glut over a few weeks in a slot late enough to allow for the swearing. From the same stable as The Traitors, this was an altogether brassier mare, not least due to the inclusion of rightwing GB News rentagob Sophie Corcoran, recently complaining about her university education going to the dogs because of Covid disruption, yet perfectly happy to take time out herself eating dog food in a bid to win wonga.
That was just one of the challenges the ‘grafters’ had to carry out to obtain money for the eventual winner (up to £100k was the maximum, they managed to get it to around £85k). Others included nearly electrocuting themselves, sitting in an ice bath and licking a whole load of crockery. They were parked down in the basement of a building somewhere on The Thames, although they wouldn’t know it because they never saw daylight. The ‘rulers’ did however. They had a glorious view over London and Sheryl, saucer-eyed as she surveyed the Houses of Parliament, exclaimed (in a voice that went up to eleven) they should let her into there to ‘sort things out.’
She was just one in a number of characters, for long gone are the days we are permitted to be entertained by ordinary folk. There was Ramona, whose protrusions entered a room a few seconds before she did. I know it’s unsisterly to comment on it, but her preferred attire, of suit jackets and no shirt thereby displaying her bra, barely contained said items. Anyway, she was as loud as Sheryl and continually referred to herself in the third person as ‘lady boss’ which is a hard pass from me.
There was also builder Jack, for whom the term Jack the Lad was invented; Sydney, who he engaged with in what I learn is a ‘showmance’ (as in a romance purely for the purposes of a show); Marina, the unnervingly over-confident 18-year-old, all bluster and bravado unmatched by performance. The same was true at the other end of the spectrum with 69-year-old Jeff, boring everyone rigid with how many years (417 at the last count) he’d run businesses for; slightly unhinged Joas, who engaged in a spat with Sophie and got himself evicted on the spot; enthusiastic Isaak, Ali (who sensibly left after a day); thoroughly nice Joanna and so many more.
I got a bit confused in the end with all the comings and goings. People would be evicted from the penthouse only to pop up again in the basement, and each time there was a ‘rise vote’ (whereby a grafter got their chance to go up to the penthouse), the rejected potentials would be sent back down. That lift saw more action than Piccadilly Circus. As many a comment on Twitter said, it seemed like the rules of the show had been made up the night before in the pub. It was flawed from the start; whereby the original six rulers were selected by the group when they’d only just met each other, or in the case of Rachel and Sheryl ignoring that and just charging into the lift; to the end when the winner was chosen by a trio of rejectees rather than the group as a whole.
Alliances were formed and quickly cast aside, contestants were accused of being snakes or bad leaders and therefore needing to be ejected from the Red Room. The ‘good ruler’ accolade was probably the most nonsensical part. All any of them did was decide on how many shifts the basement dwellers did, bicker and backstab. A better leadership challenge would have been planning and executing a task a la The Apprentice, or mediating a dispute, rather than exacerbating it. The grafters meanwhile, talked as if they had spent all day down t’pit slaving on their ‘work shifts’, rather than the (admittedly unpleasant) challenges which lasted no more than twenty minutes.
The rulers certainly dressed themselves as if they were on The Apprentice though. The shoulder pads and lip gloss could rival Dallas, as they walked in slow-mo down one of the corridors of power, their stomachs groaning under the weight of the mega buffet they’d just gorged on. The grafters had to exist on soup and bread that they made themselves, cold showers, a dorm of uncomfortable beds and jumpsuits in mostly unflattering colours.
In the end the final two were Eddy; a man from a privileged background, whose family lived in a stately home, yet had apparently fallen on hard times; and single mum Sydney, who worked as a delivery driver. Of course Eddy won. This is capitalist Britain, how could he not? And after all, he’d done all the grafting and motivating and baking in his time in the basement, whereas Sydney had been part of a tense standoff when selected to the penthouse that saw the team lose £14k.
I didn’t particularly mind Eddy winning, but by that point, nobody really cared. It seems unlikely it will return for another series, like the equally bizarre The Love Trap Channel 4 foisted on us a couple of years back, also fronted by a kinda smarmy, sardonic, smirking presenter. Nor is it likely any of the participants will emerge as bona fide ‘slebs’, a view not shared by them as a number have recently eagerly created Twitter accounts, with an ‘all enquiries to my agent’ type bio. Of course, there’s often a vacancy in The Cabinet, maybe they’ll end up there.