Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 24 July 2014

The Estate: The cynical cameras depart, let's hope they don't return

Belfast Telegraph critic Joe Nawaz stirred controversy when he described BBC series The Estate as poverty porn. Here, he gives his last verdict as the show draws to an end

Street life: Ballysally resident Martin
Street life: Ballysally resident Kyle
Street life: Ballysally resident, mother-of-five Louise

Is it really all over? Has it really been eight weeks since we first tuned into BBC NI’s big fat reality show The Estate?

Farewell then, feckless free-swearing perma-texting teen Kelly-Anne. For all your annoying, close-up idiotic pronouncements, such as “I don’t do school”, you were sensible enough to carry condoms and in a darker moment of reflection admitted you felt empty. Your love-bites hid your low self-esteem but the camera caught it all.

Can it really be “goodbye” also to hardworking Jimmy and Denise and lovely little Lauren their disabled daughter? Thank goodness there was a concerned TV crew on hand to document those magic moments such as Lauren’s first catheter, or the time she was so distressed at yet another probing hospital check-up that she cried. Jim and Denise, we hope you managed to sell your house in the end. You deserved it.

Cheerio Emma the superhuman alcohol worker. You were the pivotal character in the drama in many respects: kind, generous and pretty and what’s more, you cared. You lost your job and had the traumatic experience of losing one of your clients, Gary, to the big brewery in the sky. You held yourself together for the unblinking camera eye after hearing the heartbreaking news. A visibly confused and upset Gary became the sorry subject of one of the episodes, which ended in his demise. The programme makers must have guessed it was what he would have wanted.

Take care, cheerful alco Martin. Your were resigned to “smoking my brains out and drinking my guts out”, but seemed to always retain your humour for the cameras. I hope it all turned out okay for you after alcohol worker Emma left.

Don’t be a stranger Adrian Dunbar. Your ceaseless attempts to describe the geographical proximity of Ballysally to Coleraine are only matched by my variations of “farewell”.

A pantomime “boo, hiss” to The Recession, the villain of the piece. Unfortunately Ballysally was so impoverished and neglected already that your malign presence was more subtle than anticipated. Save for the cheap BBC sound equipment that occasionally lapsed and seemed to require subtitles.

And a big “on yer way” to BBC Northern Ireland, without whom... well you know.

“Thank God they’re all away,” said single mum Louise at the very end of the last episode. She’s talking about Kelly-Anne joining the rest of her kids in returning to school. But the irony shouldn’t be be lost on anybody who felt unease at what amounts to a light entertainment smash ‘n’ grab on some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Let’s hope for the intrusive, cynical cameras it really is goodbye and not just au revoir.

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