Popular shows like The Apprentice and Dragons’ Den have set the tone for the way business people are usually portrayed on TV – self-centred, greedy, manipulative and just downright horrible. So it’s refreshing for Channel 4 to broadcast a show that gives some of them a chance to give back to communities and learn that money isn’t everything. But if you’re offering it, they will rightly accept.
Former Rover Boss Kevin Morley goes Undercover in North London
Series four sticks to the tried and testing formula adopted by previous years as a high-flying millionaire leaves their luxury life behind to live incognito in a deprived area for a week on a limited budget. Along the way they meet and work with hardy locals who are in financial problems or need backing for their charities. On their final day the millionaire reveals their identity and surprises the chosen people with donations or gifts of thousands of pounds.
To kick off this series former Rover boss Kevin Morley goes undercover in Haringey, North London – where about a third of the population live in poverty – for nine days to find anyone in desperate need of support. After a quick flick through the local newspaper he stumbles across an article for a homelessness charity and decides to check it out. Here he meets the organisers and some of the single parents in need of aid.
The Secret Millionaire is about the Ordinary People
The entertainment factor of The Secret Millionaire depends squarely on the participant. In the case of Morley he comes across as a seemingly nice bloke with an honest streak who does want to make a difference to the lives of others. His time spent with single dad Neil makes him realise that he has missed out on his kids growing up as he was off making money.
The key to The Secret Millionaire is the plight of the ordinary people, which it focuses on well rather than just showing a rich sod complaining about having to live in a tiny council flat. After much thought Morley decided to give a total of £75,000 to help a children’s playground, £10,000 for Neil to help him and his three kids get settled in their home and £150,000 to homeless charity CARIS to fund new accommodation for families.
The Secret Millionaire is designed to be Emotional
What's odd though is that The Secret Millionaire is now in its fourth year yet nobody is the least bit suspicious about the unusual new person in the area who has little knowledge of rough living and happens to have a film crew following them. Unless those bits are edited out you would expect some folk to be a little more cautious about strangers asking personal questions with a camera poking in their face.
Ultimately though it is a show designed to tug on the heart strings especially in the reveal moments at the conclusion which erupt in an emotional payoff that, somewhat cheaply, uses melancholy and mawkish sentimentality for the purposes of light entertainment. Even though it’s very easy to be cynical about people crying on TV you’ve got to have a heart of ice not to be moved by some of the scenes.
But in an age where bankers, stock brokers and CEOs are considered amongst the most unlikeable humans in the world some of them really need a bit of public redemption. Although given the sensationalised nature of reality TV it won’t be long before The Secret Millionaire is kidnapped in the middle of the night, stripped naked and thrown out in the centre of a random working class suburb to fend for themselves while being followed by hidden cameras. Who would want to see that…
The Secret Millionaire is shown on Channel 4 at 9pm on Sundays. A repeat of episode one can be seen on