Channel 4, every Wednesday, 10pm
Do you know why there has never been a soap opera about privileged people talking blathering crap in an affluent area of the capital? Because no-one in their right mind is interested.
Seven Days much hyped revival of the docu-soap format has missed the two central ingredients required to be engaging with an audience; one, characters that viewers can relate to, and two, a discreet and natural way of documenting what happens.
Sure, if you’re an ‘It Girl’, airline pilot, property developer or model with a penchant for uncomfortable self-aware acting up to camera, this is the show for you. However, if like the other 99.9 per cent of the country, you find this world alien and annoying, Seven Days probably left you feeling cold.
Channel 4 billed the show as representing a cross-section of life in a diverse area of London, yet when it came to the crunch, episode one played up to all of the stereotypes that Richard Curtis made Notting Hill famous for in his excellent yet sugar coated film of the same name.
Meet Samantha Rowley, an aspiring television presenter and model and her friend Laura Zilli. “I’m so happy that you’re moving in with me,” said Samantha as the pair drove down the A4 into ‘town’ as part of a carefully choreographed introduction filmed from an adjacent vehicle. “I can’t wait for you to get out of the country and get back to Notting Hill and start being fashionable again.”
The two attractive young women quickly become the focus of the show, snorting remarks like, “I hope no-one sees us” as they ‘sneak’ off into a sex shop to try on French maid’s outfits before modelling their newly acquired threads at an exclusive shoe-design showcase at the Natural History Museum.
Never fear, it’s not just provocative shots of our girls’ legs, arses and tits, there’s plenty of inane chit-chat and a few pointless arguments about their hair styles too. Are you feeling empathy yet?
Don’t worry, maybe you’re more likely to have something in common with mother and daughter combo Laura and Hannah Booth. Hannah is taking over her mother’s interior design business, and has lots of annoying rich friends … she tells them how hard she intends to work for ‘mummy’ whilst quaffing cocktails at a swanky event. Sadly, by the time Hannah drops the bombshell that her dad is dying of motor-neurone disease, such is your feeling of distance from her character, that is hard to feel the sympathy that you might want to.
Elsewhere, there’s Malcolm, a property developer who already rents out 14 houses and flats. Known in Notting Hill as “Champagne Malcolm” (according to C4) because he gets through over a thousand bottles of bubbly a year, we’re expected to give a crap whether or not he can secure finance for a half a million pound flat conversion project. The tense (staged) phone call comes and Malcolm delivers the news to camera … “I’m going to have to do something I’ve never done before, exchange on a property without having the finance in place.” Oh, God, no … Malcolm, I feel your pain.
There are a couple of token poor and ethnic characters thrown into the mix, but it is obvious from the start that Channel 4 know far more people are going to be interested in knocking one out over Samantha dressed as a French maid than listening to the musings of Muslim student Moktar on Malcolm X and the struggles that aspiring musician Javan is having to succeed in his chosen profession.
It’s a real shame, because both Javan and Moktar are actually quite interesting characters and have inspiring stories to tell … but hey, that’s entertainment, eh, folks?
The only potentially interesting part of the show is the ChatNav system that allows viewers to interact with the characters before the next seven days of highs and lows are aired next week. However, the question still remains, who will want to interact with any of these people?
A soap opera is about hyper-reality, it creates characters that everyone sees something familiar in, and gives them storylines that are overblown, but still we can all relate to them in some way … the result – over time – is a connection with the people of Walford or Weatherfield, or wherever … because they’re a bit like us.
A documentary should do what its name suggests, find an interesting subject and document something about them, without interfering in their lives and manipulating their behaviour.
Seven Days is neither of these things. It’s characters are not interesting or engaging and the fact that there is no interaction between its stars means there is little or no chance of them changing anytime soon.
This is like a bad version of Big Brother, but without poor people having to mix with rich people and the claustrophobia and cabin fever that the house provides.
As ambitious as this project is, I truly can’t see how three camera crews can ever document the lives of up to thirty individuals in London in any meaningful way without resorting to cheap tricks, set-ups and stereotypes … I believe what we saw last night was just that.
If this is the “new reality”, I’ll stick with the fiction thanks.
Next week why not just rent the Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts vehicle on DVD … it’s a great watch and at least the acting’s good.