Did we like it?
It was less an expose about the appalling conditions of workers in India who slave away making clothes so Westerners waste money and more a heavily-scripted docu-drama about a bunch of spoilt young people who gradually come to realise that the sweatshops they witness are, like, unfair.
What was good about it?
• This is a classic example of a good idea, devised with the best of intentions that has been passed through the blistering, homogenising gaze of the corporate department who have affixed umpteen unnecessary appendages – the focus on the group rather than the place they visit, the tortuous back stories of each of them – all to draw in the kind of viewer who will watch this and flick over to MTV to be far more emotionally moved by bare-chested, tanned skateboarders catching their testicles on a walkway hand bar.
What was bad about it?
• The whole mood of the series is parked on an intellectual mezzanine between Newsround and the adult world. None of the conditions observed in the Indian sweatshops would surprise anybody who can watch an hour of news without flipping channel (and that includes many of the target audience for this programme).
• The enervating procession of watching six naïve young people journey from their comfortable homes to the crippling indigence of New Delhi as they are cut, edited and shaped into reality TV clones. Firstly, they are all ignorant sniggering at their surroundings and storming off the moment the work they are doing becomes too much for their precious little minds to bear.
• Over the course of the series, and we observed the first buds of redemption in episode one, they will come to a greater understanding of the factories that produce the garments they take for granted.
• The only one of the group who acted obnoxiously of his own accord was Richard who berated the penniless denizens of New Delhi for the huge rubbish piles that littered the streets. But this, we imagine, will merely act as a prelude to him being fully educated and enlightened later on.
• It’s for this reason that it’s difficult to be too reproachful of any of the other five émigrés. Amrita and Georgina seem to cry at the slightest mishap, wailing how they don’t want to work in the atrocious factories. Stacey follows suit, while Mark gets tetchy when the factory boss takes his arm as he demonstrates how to sew.
• If any of the workforce displayed such insolence they would be sacked, and this is the problem. After their first pay packet, some of the group venture out in a “bit of an experiment to find out how much you can buy with a day’s wages”; and that’s what this whole escapade feels like – “an experiment” – as the Britons can be insubordinate with no concern, they’re going home soon to their lovely warm homes and it really feels as if their just dipping their toes into a shark infested ocean, able to pull it out at the first ominous dorsal fin.
• The contrived manner in which the group are given ‘training’ in sewing the garments. Five of them eventually find this is too difficult and so are moved on to ever more menial tasks in a Youth TV interpretation of Dante’s Inferno.
• The subtitles on the perfectly understandable Indian people.