Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Reality TV Stars Are Not 'People like Us' ; Residents Claim TV Hit Is a 'Freak show'But Documentary Stars Say They're Thrilled

Newspaper article Manchester Evening News

Reality TV Stars Are Not 'People like Us' ; Residents Claim TV Hit Is a 'Freak show'But Documentary Stars Say They're Thrilled

Article excerpt

COMMUNITY leaders have reacted with anger over a 'sneering' and 'distorted' TV documentary based in Harpurhey.

People Like Us proved a ratings hit on Wednesday night - pulling more than 1.1 million viewers to digital channel BBC Three. The show, which is similar to the reality hit The Only Way is Essex, is billed as a documentary about a 'little-known Manchester suburb' which tells the story of a 'vibrant mix of feisty, witty and headstrong young people'. But some residents claim the show has deliberately focused on negative stereotypes of the community - which was named the most deprived neighbourhood in the country in 2004.

Episode one of the six-part documentary focused on characters including wannabe market stall lothario Jamie, crossdressing shop worker David and 25-year-old Chris who is battling with alcohol addiction and living with 52-year-old transsexual girlfriend Nicki. Richard Searle, chair of the Baytree Residents' Association, said: "They had a chance to focus on the diverse communities and fantastic projects going on in the area but instead they've gone down the road of creating a freak show. It seems to be typical of a particular type of elitist television at the moment encouraging people to 'laugh at the chavs' whether they are people from Essex, Geordies or Mancunians."

Stephen Holt, chair of the Parkmount Community Association, said: "A lot of residents are not happy at all that this show has been created in the name of Harpurhey while not showing the full facts.It's very disappointing that it lived up to people's fears of just focusing on alcohol and none of the many positives in the community." But stars of the show say they are happy with their portrayal in the programme, which is set to run another five hour- long episodes over the next five weeks.

The Wakefield family, who own the Wishy Washy launderette on Moston Lane, spent the opening episode nervously waving goodbye to 18-year-old Amber as she embarked on her first 'girls holiday' to Magaluf. Amber, an aspiring actress who will feature in every episode, said she could sympathise with concerns over the show having been on the end of mixed reaction to its broadcast. …

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