Category Archives: ‘Shoplife’

‘Shoplife’ (BBC3) Review

Fly-on-the-wall series Shoplife follows young people working at Gateshead’s Metrocentre – the UK’s largest shopping mall.

It shows them not only at work but at home and also out on the ‘toon’ enjoying themselves. It could have been an entertaining portrayal of hard-working teens who go against the media’s wholly unfair representation of their age group. On the whole, however, it simply reinforced the stereotypes.


Sure, there were some good eggs among those featured in this episode: Van Mildert worker AbbieKrispy Kreme worker, Jon Clarke had aspirations to become a supervisor, Helen wanted to follow her dream and become a model, and Krispy Kreme’s Jon (pictured, top right) wanted more work hours. Fantastic! Contrary to popular belief, that is how most young people feel: they want jobs, they want to work lots of hours, they want wages – but they simply either cannot find work to fit around their education commitments or don’t get a response from their application.

But then we have the infuriating ones. The embarrassments. The people who were embodied by Joey (pictured, bottom right): an employee at the Red Mall’s Skate Shack. Now, Joey simply showed himself up! He had no regard for his job or respect for his manager, boasting that he Skate Shack employee, Joeyjust does whatever he wants when his boss is working from home. I can only assume that the fact that he was being filmed for television slipped his mind.

It’s infuriating that people like Joey have jobs. It really is. I’m sixteen and have had two interviews in the past fortnight alone. Now, I know that I’m really fortunate to have got those interviews – some of my friends don’t even get to that stage – but I have been unsuccessful in both. Yet someone like Joey (and no doubt others who we shall see in this series, for I don’t want to blame him alone) is perpetually late and messes around at work, but still manages to hold down a job with little more than a few warnings. That is annoying. And embarrassing.


Shoplife represented the north east poorly, too. It portrayed the participating workers – although I use the term loosely – at the Metrocentre to be materialistic, greedy and foul-mouthed – to name just a few qualities. Now, I’m not saying that these people are these things, I’m sure they’re very nice people, but that is how they were portrayed. Who knows, even Joey might be decent and strive to succeed at work – although I doubt it.

I mean take Joey’s mam, Justine. On hearing that her written warning-magnet son had been reprimanded once again, she had this to say about the CCTV cameras in place at Skate Shack:

“It’s like f*ckin’ Durham jail! And ya’ve got the governor watching ya on camera twenty-four seven, they pick the phone up at the slightest little thing ya dee wrong. Graffiti on your cell wall and the governor’s at ya f*ckin’ door like a shot, that’s what it’s like: Durham jail, Big Brutha watching ya.”

It was like Stephen Fry was in the room.


So, there we go: in a nutshell, that was Shoplife – but it definitely wasn’t a fair representation of north east life. I promise we’re not all like that. When Jill Halfpenny claimed, ‘This is what it’s like being young, having fun and trying to get up for work the next morning,’ I was hoping for something to make me proud, not just as someone from the region but also a teenager looking for work. What we ended up with was Geordie Shore with job prospects – but not many of them.

Images courtesy of BBC and Dan Prince. © BBC

Shoplife is on Thursdays at 9:00pm on BBC3

What did you think of Shoplife? Do you agree or disagree with my review? Please comment below or tweet me – @UKTVReviewer.

You can also see my recommendations for the coming week’s TV on this blog, published every Saturday at midnight.


This Week in TV – 27th July – 2nd August

Here I provide a comprehensive list of the best of the coming week’s TV.

Saturday 27th July

The National Lottery: Break the Safe

BBC1, 8:50pm

Yes, now that Dale Winton and his infamous Red Area have left our screens for a little while, Nick Knowles is here with Break the Safe, in which three pairs'Break the Safe' - BBC1, 8:50pm try to beat the clock – and each other – to win a £100,000 jackpot.

All three couples are put through a Q&A round, until they are whittled down to just one. That one remaining pair will then go forward to take on the safe, which contains a huge £100,000. However, the money they play for will depend entirely on their performance in the Q&A round, so they will have to be pretty knowledgeable to be in with a chance of grabbing that jackpot.

Also today: Gabby Logan presents Inspire: The Olympic Story (BBC1, 12:45pm), which will also look forward to next year’s Commonwealth Games in Scotland; Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (ITV, 3:05pm); Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (BBC1, 7:00pm); When Björk Met Attenborough (Channel 4, 7:00pm) (seriously); more chances to swoon over Matt Johnson (well that’s the main reason that I watch it anyway) on Your Face Sounds Familiar (ITV, 7:30pm); Nadia Sawalha and Emmerdale’s Jane Cox go head-to-head on All Star Family Fortunes (ITV, 8:45pm); and films X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Channel 4, 9:00pm), Con Air (BBC1, 10:30pm), The Invention of Lying (ITV, 10:50pm), and Khaled Hosseini’s tragic The Kite Runner (BBC2, 10:50pm).

Sunday 28th July

The Mill

Channel 4, 8:00pm

From Torchwood and Coronation Street writer John Fay comes this new fact-based drama, set in 1833 and showing how Britain was completely transformed by the industrial revolution.'The Mill' - Channel 4, 8:00pm

The Mill is Channel 4’s first factually-driven period piece and follows life at Quarry Bank Mill, which is owned by the moneyed Gregs and where children under ten work twelve-hour shifts. The apprentices who have recently been sold to the Gregs appear to be stuck: they are being exploited, their lives made miseries, but they are not permitted to leave the Cheshire mill until adulthood. That is soon to change, however, when a feisty apprentice called Esther leads something of a revolt and encourages her fellow workers to join her and fight for justice.

Daybreak’s Showbiz Editor, Richard Arnold, said that The Mill ‘makes The Village look like a Carry On caper’. And from what I’ve seen, I doubt he’s far wrong.

Also today: National treasure Clare Balding is on the presenting team for the Paralympics Anniversary Games (Channel 4, 3:00pm); Amanda Seyfried stars in romcom, Letters to Juliet (Channel 4, 6:00pm); Jennie McAlpine, Shaun Williamson (‘Barry off EastEnders’) and Pauline Quirke play Tipping Point: Lucky Stars (ITV, 7:00pm); Trudie Goodwin, Luke Campbell and Nina Wadia and their partners are on All Star Mr & Mrs (ITV, 8:00pm); The Golden Compass (E4, 8:00pm); Michael Scott presents The Mystery of Rome’s X Tombs (BBC2, 9:00pm); Rocky Balboa (Channel 5, 10:00pm); The Silence of the Lambs (ITV4, 10:00pm); The Final Destination (Channel 4, 10:10pm); and Alan Wicker: Journey’s End (ITV, 10:15pm) celebrates the life and career of the broadcaster, who sadly died earlier this month.

Monday 29th July

Caligula with Mary Beard

BBC2, 9:00pm

In this one-off documentary, classicist Mary Beard explores the life of Gaius Julius Caesar Augustus Germanicus – better known as Caligula – the third Roman Emperor. 'Caligula With Mary Beard' - BBC2, 9:00pm

The many stories about him are some of the most extraordinary told about any Roman Emperor. It is said that he not only saw himself as a living God but also whimsically killed half the Roman elite and enjoyed scandalous orgies with his three sisters – all in the short four years that he was in power.

Professor Mary Beard sets out to discover to what extent these tales are true, and unearth more information on the man himself, looking beyond the monster history has painted him as.

Also today: Escape to the Country returns (BBC1, 3:50pm) – and not much else.

Tuesday 30th July

Extreme OCD Camp

BBC3, 9:00pm

This two-part documentary, made as part of BBC3’s It’s a Mad World season, follows six young people living with OCD as they travel to America for a life-changing course.

The group are thrown in at the deep end as, after meeting and bonding in the UK, they are soon packed off to America, where their exposure treatment begins almost immediately and they must'Extreme OCD Camp' - BBC3, 9:00pm adjust to life not only with each other but without their home comforts, facing their fears and trying to overcome their compulsions.

I really hope that lots of people watch Extreme OCD Camp. I don’t suffer from the disorder but it infuriates me whenever someone says, ‘Ooh I can’t stop washing my hands – I must have OCD.’ No you haven’t! You like to wash your hands – just like anyone who has regard for hygiene. God knows how frustrated someone with OCD must feel when they hear something like that! We may all have compulsions (I take around five minutes to lock the door, I often have to turn the tap on and off again several times until it feels ‘right’, etc.) but we don’t all have OCD. Let’s hope that this programme will show exactly that.

Also today: Nicholas Lyndhurst joins the old dogs in New Tricks (BBC1, 9:00pm); Kumbh Mela: The Greatest Show on Earth (BBC2, 9:00pm) looks at British people attending the Indian festival; documentary Churchill’s First World War (BBC4, 9:00pm); and Oscar-winning film One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (BBC1, 11:50pm).

Wednesday 31st July

You Saw Them Here First

ITV, 8:00pm

This new show, which is unfortunately only in two parts, delves into the archives and pulls out clips of some of Britain’s favourite famous faces in their TV debuts.

Robert Webb narrates as a plethora of stars are seen watching themselves before they were famous and taking their first tentative steps onto the fame ladder.

Prepare to enjoy the debuts of big names such as Cheryl Cole, Daniel Craig and Dame Maggie Smith and watch Eamonn Holmes, Pauline Quirke and Michelle Collins squirm as they are made to sit and relive it all.

Also today: Katy Brand, Heidi Range and – God help them – Janet Street-Porter enter the kitchen for the news series of Celebrity MasterChef (BBC1, 8:00pm); documentary A Food Hospital Special: Extreme Diet Ward (Channel 4, 8:00pm); Nigel Havers studies his ancestry in Who Do You Think You Are? (BBC1, 9:00pm); Neighbourhood Force (ITV, 9:00pm) takes a look at the work of anti-social behaviour officers; topical comedy show The Last Leg returns to Channel 4 at 10:00pm (send your #IsItOk questions to @TheLastLeg) and one of the show’s regulars, comic Alex Brooker, investigates the topic of male body image in Alex Brooker: My Perfect Body (10:50pm); and BBC Wales documentary Swansea City: The Fall and Rise is on BBC1 at 11:05pm.

Thursday 1st August


BBC3, 9:00pm

If you don’t live in the north-east, it’s likely that you have never heard of the MetroCentre in Gateshead. However, let me tell you that up here, Christmas is not complete without a six hour 'Shoplife' - BBC3, 9:00pmtraipse around Europe’s largest shopping centre. Oh, and if you’ve never had to endure a performance from the Metrognomes, you haven’t lived. Just see what you’re missing out on here. That is what I had to watch while my mam and dad raided Toys ‘R’ Us every December!

So, if you’ve never experienced the delights of the MetroCentre, don’t worry: the BBC has shot a whole six-part fly-on-the-wall documentary about life there. It’s basically Geordie Shore with job prospects.

Over the course of the series, viewers will watch the workers at the MetroCentre – from fashionista Abbie to Krispy Kreme’s Jon – muddle through life in retail, avoiding warnings from bosses, dreaming of bigger things and trying to scrape together enough money for a night out on the toon.

By the way, I feel I should point out that my mam and dad didn’t actually ‘raid Toys ‘R’ Us’. They’re actually very non-disruptive people.

Also today: Urban Jungle (BBC1, 7:00pm) explores the urban wildlife lurking in unusual places; The Dealership (Channel 4, 8:00pm) follows staff and customers at a car showroom in Essex; documentary How to Get a Council House (Channel 4, 9:00pm); and Crash for Cash (Channel 4, 10:00pm) reveals the story of a multi-million pound road accident scam in County Durham. Well it would be the bloody north-east, wouldn’t it?

Friday 2nd August

That Music Show

Channel 4, 10:00pm

Radio 1’s Breakfast Show host Nick Grimshaw returns to his old stomping ground of Channel 4 for'That Music Show' - Channel 4, 10:00pm this one-off quiz, in which two teams, comprising of both musicians and comics, have their knowledge tested of the music of 1995 and 2005.

The show, recorded in front of a live audience at the Brixton Electric, also features performances from AlunaGeorge and Primal Scream.

Also today: Miles Jupp and Rhod Gilbert – who was seemingly uninterested in the game last week – are on 8 Out of 10 Cats Does Countdown (Channel 4, 9:00pm); and there’s a repeat of Cats captain Sean Lock’s 2008 live show (Channel 4, 11:05pm).

Are you particularly looking forward to any of these shows or is there something else from the world of TV which you want to have your say about? Feel free to comment below or tweet me –@UKTVReviewer.

Image credits: Break the Safe – Thanks to BBC and Steve Peskett, ©Thames, part of FremantleMediaUK; The Mill – Thanks to Channel 4; Caligula With Mary Beard – Thanks to BBC and Caterina Turroni, ©Lion TV; Extreme OCD Camp – Thanks to BBC and Dustin Bath, ©Watershed TV Ltd; You Saw Them Here First – All images thanks to ITV, ©Shiver TV; Shoplife – Thanks to BBC and Dan Prince, ©BBC; That Music Show – Thanks to Channel 4.