tue 16/10/2018

Peckham Finishing School For Girls, BBC Three | reviews, news & interviews

Peckham Finishing School For Girls, BBC Three

Peckham Finishing School For Girls, BBC Three

The class war is on a reality roll: Peckham and Home Counties' lasses eyeball each other out

Posh girl Catriona (right) with her 'Peckham sister' Sarahcredit: BBC

We know the format: take a bunch of posh, privileged types - held up as examples of cluelessness when it comes to how “ordinary” people live by privileged, overpaid TV executives - and plonk them down in the middle of some dodgy council estate. Remove their credit cards and give them £6.50 to last a week. Watch as they baulk at the amount of cash their new, jobless neighbour manages to spend on fags, kebabs and the occasional drug habit. Watch as they wonder how to react to the plight of a harassed single mother in a mouldy one-bed flat who’s railing against immigrant families being given“five-star” treatment by the local council. And then watch with uneasy amusement as they manage to make complete tits of themselves. Not even their public school charms can save them in the “real” world.

We saw it recently on Channel Four’s Tower Block of Commons, where a bunch of “hapless” MPs were packed off to their new high-rise digs in different parts of the country. Except for Mark Oaten, whose notoriety extended to those who could barely tell you who was leading the country, few of the locals knew who these privileged infiltrators were. I imagine we were meant to read such ignorance as “disenchantment with politics”.

And so now, from the same TV staple, though on the not-so-prime BBC Three, comes Peckham Finishing School For Girls - which sounds even trashier than ITV’s From Ladettes to Ladies, which is kind of the territory we’re talking about but in reverse (gaw, I never realised I was such a sucker for this particular reality class-war format).

So this was the deal: four Home County gals are paired off with four hard-faced Peckham gales for this new three-parter - so instead of jolly japes with hockey sticks, we get self-defence lessons on how to disarm someone coming at you with a knife. And we also get an insight in how to dress “appropriately”, ie not in pink Alice bands like posh, polo-playing Catriona, but in the latest “street” fashion from Primark (one posh girl, Claire, mimicked the look by pulling her hair back tightly to give the wind tunnel effect, while another asked where the bracelet-sized hoop earrings were).

And were these HCGs (to give them their homie tag) apprehensive? You bet they were. The build-up as the camera slowly panned the mean streets of Peckham Rye made even this viewer want to cower behind the settee (or sofa, if, unlike me, you’re not a South London girl with more than a nodding acquaintance with the area). There were hoodies skulking on every street corner, pit bull terriers straining like potential mad dogs against every leash, bad boys on bikes calling out “I want to beat the whitey”, which apparently means “I want to have sex with that white girl”. But worse still - at least for the posh girls who huddled ever more tightly together for comfort - there were skinned goat’s heads heaped in a pile. Yes, that’s right - shiny pink and with bulging eyes and huge, cud-chewing teeth and lolling tongues, spotted at one of the African food stores. Only one of the girls, the sensible, committed-Christian Serena, was prepared to show any genuine interest in such unusual ethnic fare, rather than merely squeal with mild hysteria.

So how did they end up getting on with their Peckham “sisters”?  There were the usual noises - from Claire and Catriona - about benefit scroungers, single mums and “my taxes". But, when it came to face-to-face time, the posh girls did, on the whole, make an effort, while the Peckham contingent - particularly bi-polar Sarah and sucked-on-a-lemon-features Kerri - eventually fell into what seemed like the default position of defensive and aggrieved. They felt “disrespected” due to some fairly innocuous remark made by one of the poshees about bullying and public schools and walked off in a huff. The posh girls, meanwhile, had largely learned the benefits of holding back and taking it on the chin, even though they’d been “dissed” themselves. The trailer for next week, however, promises a fight-back. Yay.

As someone who went to a Peckham “finishing” school myself (for ladies of a rather wayward disposition - I think you‘d call it a referral unit) I watched this programme with obvious interest. I can personally vouch that Peckham is indeed scary - and, yawn, it's not all “fuelled by the meeja”. The girls are scary - at least to me who always thought that Jade Goody went to a rather “posh“ school, actually, going by the standards of the borough as a whole (Southwark). The pit bulls are scary. And the scowling hoodies are scary. Scarier still are the low aspirations - and not just among many of the kids who live there, but the people entrusted to teach them.

I shall definitely be tuning in next week - though probably only to chant “Fight, fight, fight”. Well, you know, you can take the girl out of Peckham….

Instead of jolly japes with hockey sticks, we get self-defence lessons on how to disarm someone coming at you with a knife

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