tue 23/07/2024

Little England, ITV1 | reviews, news & interviews

Little England, ITV1

Little England, ITV1

There wasn’t enough reality in this Dordogne-set reality TV show

'Do you want mushy petit pois with that?' Dave and Helen Mansfield and their Dordogne mobile chippy

Why did I dislike this programme so much? At first I put it down to the stinker of a hangover I found myself watching it through. Perhaps it was the thought that my hangover would have been easier to bear under a yolk-yellow Dordogne sun than under a glowering grey London sky, and therefore the British couples featured here who’ve made just that move caused a twinge of jealousy.

But they weren’t bad company given that - on the basis of the title - I’d expected Little England to focus on the ruddy-faced lager lout variety of the Englishman abroad. So it must have been more than just that.

Well, let’s cut to the chase. It was partly these people. They just seemed so unfeasibly happy and contented; like blissed-out cats in their new-found paradise home in which every hilltop, crowned by a crumbling château, was doubly picturesque. Take Dave and Helen Mansfield. It just wasn’t credible that they really greeted every new day of switching on the fat fryer of their mobile fish and chip shop with the same degree of unbridled enthusiasm.

Dave and Helen were one of the half-dozen couples selected for this documentary from a population of some 20,000 expats in an area of south-west France nicknamed "Little England". Like all the others, they were misty-eyed about a new lifestyle made possible by cheap property prices. These were Stepford couples rather than just Stepford wives, unnervingly contented with, it seemed, neither metaphorical nor literal black clouds spoiling their utopian days.

I should point out that my chagrin at the happiness of others was not my main problem with Little England, it was the cliché-ridden voiceover. It might have looked like a good idea on paper to have Geoffrey Palmer’s world-weariness as oil to these couples’ clear and sparkly as spring water optimism and energy, but in practice it made for an awkward and grating mismatch.

When Palmer’s lugubrious, supercilious voice is combined with a passably amusing script it adds a certain light-hearted gravitas to shows such as the Grumpy Old franchise. But because there were few opportunities for him to be sarcastic, condescending and… er… grumpy, here, all we got was travelogue clichés (“fairy-tale châteaux” one minute, “majestic châteaux” the next), stating-the-obvious running commentary of what was happening on screen (“It’s the day of the wedding, and the weather’s looking positively British…”), and – the worst crime of all in my book – reiterating something that had been on the screen only a few minutes earlier, just in case we had forgotten it during the commercial break.

My only hope is that, because this is a 12-part series, some cracks will eventually appear in the various saccharine narratives and at least one couple’s majestic castle in the air will come crashing down for our viewing pleasure. Because if there aren’t at least a few rows, cash-flow problems, near divorces or business bankruptcies, you will have seen all you need to see in this first, very long half-hour.

But given that we were told at the end of this episode that later in the series farmer and butcher Ray (“You’re only as good as your last sausage”) Hicks moves into pies, and the Dordogne mobile chippy caters for “a surprise 50th birthday party”, it doesn’t look like we’re in for much high drama. As Palmer might have intoned, “If a programme that looks like it was made by the French Tourist Board is your cup of Chardonnay, this frisky little number should be right up your rue.”

Hopefully, at least one of the couples’ majestic castles in the air will eventually come crashing down for our viewing pleasure

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As an expat living in the Tarn, I was looking forward to watching this program, but was left really disappointed. Firstly the name of the program irritated me...Little England, this is what is wrong with so many expats living in France, they just want to be English, but have a piece of the French countryside without really integrating. Secondly, everyone on the program seemed so smug with their lifestyle and so ridiculously content. While I am delighted it has worked out well for so many of them, it isn't a realistic view of life in France. I live here with 7 children, assorted animals and am doing up a house and running a garden, while my husband commutes to the UK every week for work. The sky maybe blue and the wine may be cheap, but the reality is it can be bloody hard work building a truly integrated life in France. Perhaps they'd like to feature my family in the next series!

How right you are.

What exactly is 'yoke yellow?' Do you mean 'yolk?'

Liz, I think it's obvious that 'yoke' was a typo. Have you got too much time on your hands?!

I've lived here for 10 years + and find myself in disagreement with the author's jaded-professional-critic slant on things. For a critic to offer praise and a positive slant on a film or tv programme would seem to be treachery to his or her metier. Regarding Lizzie's equally jaded comments -- with 7 (!) kids, a menagerie and a commuting husband it is perhaps understandable that she doesn't have more time to enjoy the place, which she presumably volunteered to migrate to. Of course not everything is a bed of roses, but compared to the loutishness of overcrammed Britain it certainly seems so. As for her last sentence - Did she bother to volunteer to take part? There was good publicity asking for people.

Red. My comments are not jaded and despite 7 (yes 7!) kids etc etc. I have plenty of time to enjoy the place that I volunteered to move to. I love living here. I was merely pointing out that settling and integrating properly into a new country is not easy and anyone who says otherwise would be lying. As for volunteering to take part in the show…having seen how awful it is, I’m very glad I didn’t!

Its total utter drivel , be much better to do an expose on all the Brits working on the black ripping each other off and bucking the system, all the untaxed untested and unisured cars still on UK plates. Those same Brits who go on about the "bloody immigrants not paying thier way in UK", but no we have to endure the non event of a builder collecting his mother and sisters at an airport and featured how nervous he was of such a major event. Stupid program using stupid dul as ditchwater people and stupid presenter. Whoever signed this one off for broadcast should be sacked. There are sensible English people living in France, speaking French, paying tax and fully integrating - but they in the main keep away from the enclaves of cheesey Brits.

The 'colonel' who is in the trailer for next weeks episode does not live in France. he just spends the summer here. Ask him where he pays his taxes. He is not a genuine colonel, but was a lt colonel in the TA. His house is certainly not the biggest in the village. he is disliked by the locals on account of his arrogance and has not integrated well at all. It is a shame the programmen does not feature genuine immigrants to France.

Should anyone wish to visit the real south - west France they should come to the Tarn region and enjoy local markets, superb vineyards, stunning countryside and fabulous bastide villages, and the unesco world heritage city of Albi !

Is that why it's also known as KensingTARN? It seems to be inhabited largely by pretentious, middle-class North Londoners who wonder around talking too loudly, with inane grins on their smug faces whilst brandishing baguettes & carrying their obligatory gingham-lined baskets & allowing their implausibly named offspring to express themselves by running amok without the merest hint of any discipline. How very "real" France!

This program has shown us ex-pats up............not only does it show the ignorance of the Brits in the show but made me feel I should write and complain. You cannot get a true show if you advertise for people to participate, if you make them repeat lines if the makes do not like the first shot. It make us true ex-pats cringe to see deliveries from TESCO (especially wines..french wine at that coming from the UK) If your living in a country you should shop, eat and dream that country. I truly hope that the french people do not think all Brits living in France take them and the sunshine for granted. I for one shop in local markets and drink french wine. You can buy anything in France even English bread if you look hard enough..

The program is so false. The Dordogne is full of Brits who rip the French system off any way they can, then bitch about how the UK systems are rubbish. How do they think (if they are capable) that the Brits that came to France, worked their way through the system and are penalised with heavy social charges feel about these idiots that are on the show. The truth about the Dordogne is that 90% of the people rip people off with bad workmanship and pay no tax or social charges. Everybody wants something for nothing - social spongers. Your time is numbered as the French authorities ARE doing something about it - you are next and it will serve you right. Like to see you sitting in a cafe bragging about how long you are going to be in prison.

What a set of hanging judges you are. Wasn't aware there was a'right' way and a 'wrong' way of living abroad. Having lived abroad for a couple of years a long time ago, I know it has a good side and a bad side - not least of which is missing friends and family you left behind - that's one of the interesting points to explore, I would have thought, when you do a programme about those who do it - like the builder missing his mum and sisters. I found it quite moving. Surely people can live how they choose as long as they're not breaking the law or at least no more than the locals do. Not all of us want to see everyone fail. I've enjoyed the super 'technicolour' way it's filmed and I know from experience you do have moments like that when you live abroad and you think 'wow is this really me, living here in this foreign place, how bloody great is this'. No, not all the time but nobody's happy all the time. Take it for what it is - it's not a scientific, anthropological examination - it's a slightly tongue in cheek peek into the lives of people who have gone in search of a dream. Good luck to them.

any of these programs which doesn't show the misery that many have put themselves through isn't very realistic. France is a very difficult country to live in, it makes you realise how good we have it in the UK. There was no comment on the extraordinary levels of alcoholism and depression many Brits "enjoy". It was interesting that it was so obvious to everyone, that the subjects were too happy. Ask most people in France and you'll get the same response with the same inane grin. Most have to pretend to be happy because they a) had to leave the UK in the first place, and b)could never afford to move back (and many many many would love to). France is NOT the dream that was sold to everyone on Homes in the Sun.

Has no one noticed on this programme, half of the people featured DO NOT live in the Dordogne. Duras is in the Lot-et-Garonne is St Pardoux Corbier is in the Correze, there must be others I haven`t noticed!

And here I thought I'm the only one who noticed. Lolz

I love this show for the first two or three parts of the series, after that, well I'm getting a headache with all the cheerfulness in the show. Who can be cheerful 24/7. At least they could show some arguments between the couples. That would increase the rating of the show.

Don't quite get why everybody is getting their knickers in a twist about the 'lack of reality' in Little England. It's a bit of fun isn't it? If you want misery, alcoholism and failure watch the soaps, Big Brother or even the X factor. The programme doesn't claim to be a guide to moving to France, it doesn't offer advice, it doesn't give helpful links at the end. It just shows just snippets of people having a good day whilst living in France. Where's the harm in that? Why would you want to see them having a bad day? It's a refreshing change, although I must concede some of Geoffrey Palmer's scripted puns are a tad irritating, but only in a 'Christmas cracker joke' way - where you read it and roll your eyes rather than laugh.

I am amazed at how seriously so many of you have taken this programme. It is a fly on the wall peep at some real people doing what they want to do and have made a really good go of it, they are happy. Have we seen every part of their lives? Of course not. What we have seen is that a life in France can be fulfilling and, if you work hard and integrate, life will almost certainly be better than the UK in its current state. I think most of these posts should have been put in green text to indicate the envy clearly displayed. No one has sais integrating is easy but it is possible and I wish every one of those featured every bit of luck, health and happiness, good luck to them. I am deeply jealous, but at least I admit it!!

It is amazing to read all this "jealous bitching" on the part of the English, between themselves. This may be why it is difficult for Brits to integrate abroad, especially in France. Perhaps, if Brits thought more about what they are going to contribute to local life in French villages instead of how they are going to milk the system, they might be more "loved" locally. Further more, it is no use trying to transform France int "little England". So far, we are very tolerant of all this abusive behaviour (emptying the French countryside of young locals who cannot live there anymore as the cost of properties is becoming unaffordable) (locals moving away because of the force feeding of bad british habbits) (Brits refusing to speak French in the middle of villages), (expecting the locals to be on their knees to "revere" these "well off" arrogant Brits). French villagers remain polite still, but we feel that we have not been liberated from german nazi culture to be obliged to speak English in our own country. If you wish to live in France, respect the French as they have respected you as their guests, so far. It would be a shame to find that the resentment that is beginning to build up, escalates. Just work hard, speak French, be polite and ensure that what you love in France does not disappear due to an invasive british attitude. Look what happened in Spain.

i've read all the comments which, taken as a whole, go to show how the whole business of being an immigrant is so diverse and complex. i am the daughter of an immigrant, and i myself emigrated to france ten years ago. i have been through lots of different phases and stages in my relationship with the host country. i use the word 'immigrant' because it seems to me that the programme and the comments fight shy of acknowledging the reality of the word. my experience is that despite speaking fluent french, taking part in local activities as a volunteer, you inevitably suffer loss in its various forms, and this in the end eats up your creative energy. it's a struggle to maintain confidence. BUT what an adventure it is!

Blar - Blar - Blar I Loved it.

i watched this and it was amazing to see my old graphics teacher..he looks well and i remember how much fun i had wen he was at school..was lively t c him n his wife on telly..i wish him all best for future xxx

think that although your programme highlights the success stories from the people that live in the Dordogne area of France it actually doesn't tell the truth about most of the people that live in that area of France. The main reason that the french government changed the law to help people in difficulty that came to France was because of the cheating lying Brits that didn't declare all their interests & savings that they had & that they tried very successfully to get the most out of the french welfare system. This has made it very difficult for those that are in genuine need in other areas of France through no fault of their own..perhaps through bereavement or circumstances beyond their control. Maybe it would be an idea to highlight these problems and to not make people think that all British people that come to France are middle class people with money that they can afford to invest but that they also try to cheat the system with their lies

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