TV Highlights

What was on Monday 24th November

Skint

Channel 4 - 9pm

Who's in it?

Grimsby's most hard up citizens let us into their lives last night, in a programme which was either unflinchingly probing and necessary, or a patronising piece of poverty porn. It's kind of hard to tell which.

In a nutshell

If you were told there was a TV show called Skint, set in Grimsby, about people on the dole, what might you imagine? Sweeping shots of battered housing estates, perhaps. Disaffected kids kicking balls about on side streets. A tattooed lad with a police tag, maybe, and a middle-aged bloke lamenting the loss of local jobs while looking wistfully at nothing. Well, guess what: Skint is precisely all of this, and bundles in a bunch of other inevitable strands and scenes as well (a penniless woman freezing on a street corner as she solicits for business, someone taking drugs while slumped in a musty room).

The net result is a show which will divide viewers into exactly two camps. Some will say it's a no-nonsense examination of everyday lives below the poverty line, and point to the naked honesty of the film (including the gravelly and unsentimental narration). But other viewers will wonder what the point of a programme like this is, since it seems to reinforce every automatic assumption about poor and desperate people. Is it more about giving them a voice in popular culture, or giving well-off telly watchers an edgy ride through the "underclass"? Let the debates commence.

What's the verdict?

Whatever you think of the motives and end results of this series, there's no denying it's a powerful and gripping watch – and, quite apart from the socioeconomic stuff, it's also a moving homage to Grimsby's proud past as a fishing port.

Star rating: 3/5

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07-07-2011