“ ITV / Lifestyle „
This was a fascinating programme which was quite unexpected because I imagined the Duchess of York would be very 'royal' in her dealings with the family she was helping; I couldn't have been more wrong and I completely warmed to her.
Sarah Ferguson is an expert in diet and the pitfalls of eating the wrong food, so I had no doubt that she would know her subject; what I did not expect was her genuine friendliness and warmth toward a family who were really struggling on the breadline to provide food for their growing family on £80 per week. Heaven only knows how they are managing now that food prices are going up almost by the day. They live in Hull on an estate described in the programme as one of the most deprived in Britain.
She succeeded in limiting their smoking habit - even the boys under the legal age for smoking were puffing away like professionals - and this alone will obviously help the money to stretch.
The Duchess encouraged the family to experiment with different types of food including fresh fruit, and could not believe that they were reluctant to try the lovely fresh - and free - fruit and vegetables that their Granddad grew on his allotment. She soon taught them ways to add such food to their diet.
All in all, I found this to be a very heart-warming genuine attempt to help a family improve their diet and so, in the process, improve their lifestyle.
I have always had a soft spot for the Duchess of York, as Andrews wife she was always eclipsed by Princess Diana in both glamour and column inches. I did not blame her at all for heading to America following the break up of her marriage and I have read about her Weight Watchers connections over the other side of the pond, so when I heard about her 2 part documentary I was curious to see how she was going to tackle this family of grease loving Northerners.
The Sangerson family by their own admission lead sedentary lives and eat more fat in one day than I consume in a week, watching mom Tonia prepare their meals is an education on how not to eat. These really are a family who have chips with everything, and not 2 sausages on a sandwich for these people they have to have 3 plus a third of a bottle of ketchup.
Let me quickly introduce you to the Sangersons, I have taken some of this information from the ITV website. Tonia is very much the matriarch of the family and does pretty well everything around the house. At 47 she looks much older and has a heavy smoking habit despite having heart problems and a variety of other illnesses. Dad Mick is ex-army and I think he is the one most likely to succeed with a healthy living plan, he got quite upset about his failure to work but this wasn't enough to get him down to the job centre unfortunately.
The only one to work in the Sangerson family is daughter Terri who is in her 20's, she seems to want to change her lifestyle but she comes across as one of those people who would need a big push or even a health scare to really push her on. Teenage sons Harry, Mikey and Marc are all fairly active but have an appalling diet and seemed to smoke more than the adults in the house! Daughter Olly is a little treasure, she was quick to tell the Duchess that her favourite food is fruit - only for mom to tell her that it gets eaten too quickly and that is why she doesn't buy too much!
I was about to say that the Duchess of York needed no introduction, but watching the embarrassing moment when she walked into the Sangersons house and no-one knew who she was perhaps I should tell you a little about her! It made me cringe on her behalf but at the same time made me laugh that some people living in this country do not know the major royals even by sight! They had been expecting Jeremy Kyle or Harvey from Fat Camp I think.
The show began with Sarah Ferguson tackling the Sangersons attitude towards healthy living. It became apparent from the outset that taking the softly-softly approach was not going to work, and from then I quickly realised that the Duchess was simply not the right person for this as she is so quietly spoken and easily shocked that there was very little she could say to these people and from then on I got the feeling she was banging her head against a brick wall.
I think ITV did not think about this show very much before they made it. How on earth can a privileged and undeniably rich member of the royal family have even an inkling of the hardships a family like the Sangersons face each week. Put quite simply, their dole money does not cover a healthy diet. They live on cheap supermarket pies, sausages, chips and ketchup because these are cheap and have a long enough shelf life to mean they do not need to shop more than once a week. There has been much talk ever since the show aired about the exploitation of the family for ratings, but I would not go that far. I hope they have taken on board at least some of the Duchesses advice but I can truly understand them not being able to find money to eat the amount of fruit and veg/fish/fresh foods that they need.
I found The Duchess In Hull quite shocking in a way, although in this day and age I probably am being naïve, because here was a family of 6 with just one member who actually worked and the rest of them were completely dependant on benefits. When 13 year old son Marc walked in and lit a fag in the living room I felt this should have been a programme based on the social divides more than a focus on healthy living.
Sarah Ferguson did try. She made coleslaw for the family, she tried to frighten them with facts on cancer and heart disease and she tried her very best to speak to them as equals. I do think she came across very well in this programme but because of the social gulf between herself and the Sangersons it did seem as though she were lecturing them at times and she seemed not to understand the restraints of shopping on a budget. She went shopping with them in a no frills supermarket and I watched the mom and dad of the Sangerson family keeping a beady eye on the items she was throwing in their trolley, I just hope ITV paid their grocery bill that week as no way would Tonia have had enough money in her purse to cover the items tossed in by the Duchess.
To sum up, while I found this interesting viewing I do not think there was any need for The Duchess In Hull. One of the Sangersons boys commented that it was a publicity stunt and I believe he was right, no matter of sweet talking is going to change these people but Sarah Ferguson did have a minor victory when she stopped them eating on their laps in front of the tele and got the family eating around the dining table. Bet they've stopped that now.
If we are honest the only real reason we watch social class based reality TV is so to see someone else worse off than us look rather silly and so be humiliated by the middle-class telly people who put them on, good sniggerall-around whats on offer. Sadly the 'Duchess in Hull' couldn't even achieve that. The idea was for the extremely privileged Duchess of York ( and money grabbing) to be parachuted into the most cliché and poor northern family possible (straight from Little Britain casting!) so to help with their dieting and healthy eating needs, the point being that Sarah was once also fat and so she could help them with their self esteem and general diet, the subject she now makes her living off in America on the social charity scene as a 'healthy living' guru.
I suppose the big question about this program was do ITV think its appropriate in the 21st century for a former royal to be given a family of poor people to use as props in the drama of Sarah Ferguson's reinvention in Britain after hiding out in America for 13 years, especially on ITV, the poor persons in question channel of choice, she effectively having a pop at that core audience, Hull, the single parent capital of Britain!
After Diana died she seemed to lose her comical sidekick status in the double act and rather taken aback she was shuffled off the royal screen, leading to all manner of excruciating gaffs to stay in the limelight, this, the latest. As like most associated with the royals she is clearly not very bright, one step back from this show only revealing the obvious patronizing content that will do her no favorites, pretty much every single tabloid star columnists quite rightfully laying into her.
With the weight watching career paying for her swanky Manhattan pad, things must be getting tight for her to agree to this, the latest derivative ITV reality show to hit our screens. If she marries again she loses her title and privileges and so that's not on the agenda to pay the bills, let alone have the clout to make more serious programs like this. If she wants to keep her celebrity then she has to keep this up. But the brilliant News of the World sting put paid to that.
The reality genre is not best suited for ITV as the very nature of it means it is taking one at the people who are most likely to watch ITV, and so when a fat council house family is paraded on our screens in front of the nation to reinforce the stereotype that working and underclass- class people are indeed fat, and a celebrity that was fat can make them thin, then you can see the program planners haven't put a lot of thought into it - like other equally clueless diet and image people did back in the 1990s for Sarah, famousley called 'The Duchess of Pork...' The Sargerson family, the 'stars' of this two episode documentary shown last year, were so hard up ( and, as expected, all on benefits) that her mum couldn't even afford a dentist, her teeth like a row of bombed houses. Not since Marion Antoinette airily suggested that the starving French peasants should eat cake have the poor been quite so royally patronized. Dad was ex army but now on the sick, mother also on the incap, the kids in and out of school as much as they were each others hand-me-downs.
Eating a palette of chips was probably one of very few thrills for the family in the harsh and weather beaten estate. The fact they all smoked like Cambridge Life Sciences Beagle pups made things doubly hard for Sarah to get them to drop working-class culture in just one week. Sarah didn't seem to want to ask herself the question through all of the show that why have I got so much when these people have so little? Both Sarah and the family, of course, are lazy b**tards that don't want to work for living because they both have a house and board paid for by the state if the truth be told. Since Sarah's retirement as Andrew 'Sloaney' misses she's has been squeezing as much out of that title and connection as the ghastly Paul Burrell did his Jewell encrusted mop!
The family, as you would expect, were very typical of the forgotten benefit generation factory farmed up in the north-east. If they weren't so dim then they could have given Fergie a much tougher ride over her intentions and twisted morals. When Sarah arrived at the families ramshackle home they looked confused on who the "celebrity" exactly was, clearly expecting Trisha or Martin kemp to walk through the door with their cases. But this wasn't a 'live in jobby'; Sarah packed off to a Newcastle B&B for the experiment (and delousing). There wasn't any room in the house anyway. With no takers on whom exactly she was on first contact, she announced to the bemused family (through the smoke she was wafting away) that she was married to Prince Andrew once: 'Princess Diana was my sister-in-law'? You've heard of the Queen of England haven't you? Well she was my mother-in-law'... If ever there was a job description for Sarah Ferguson then that was it. The mum finally twigged, but the kids increasingly unimpressed, not exactly someone to text their mates about.
But the family's teenage son was soon on to her exploitation, a talking head comment to camera in his baseball cap and tracker the programs most knowing moment, observing that: 'I reckon it's just a publicity stunt. She got a name for splitting up with Andrew, but she's gonna change it to "I help fat people"! It was the best moment of the show by far. You do wonder if the naughty production team put young Ryan up to it. .
So, after meeting the family she quickly set about how she was going to make them healthy in her less than frequent visits between trips abroad and the general social whirl. Intercut in the first hour's program was Sarah preparing for Elton Johns Ball, squeezing her still child bearing hips into a glamorous lime green ball gown. Sarah wants the 'oiks' to know she is still someone and they are none, so they should listen to her advice and be happy they are poor and she is rich. It was dreadful stuff.
Being chauffeured from her twee bed & breakfast to the 'Largersons' grim pre-war housing estate was all part of that 'social divide', critical to the programs limp integrity. After pushing a shopping cart around Morrison's to buy the family 'proper food' on their £80 weekly budget, the first time Sarah had seen a supermarket and less than a hundred pound cash, she was whisked off to their sink school to meet the teachers. The teachers seem unable to recall who the Largerson's kids were, GCSE Truancy thier kids were taking.
Sarah seemed quite taken aback about the unfair criticism she has received over the years about her weight so she took the opportunity of the program to hit back at her critics, especially those in the media. Alison Pearson of the Mail got particular stick for having ago at Sarah's daughter Bea, after pictures of her young innocent hour glass figure were show in a bikini on a beach recently, which was less than flattering and rather cruel on her daughter, the image clearly a subtle attack on he mums genes. I personally don't like that type of bitchy journalism and I think Sarah had a legit complaint. But Alison hit back intelligently in her excellent column saying that why is it all right for Fergie to swan in and give her blunt and unchallenged opinions on the smoking and eating habits of an incredibly vulnerable family in Hull, when it is apparently rude for other journalists like [her] to express any criticism of her immensely privileged family?
At the end of the program it was a dead heat on who repulsed you more. The family members had lost about four pounds between them after Sarah's expertise on weight loss, the social taking a few more quid of them after watching this, the family clearly not interesting in getting work. If you claim for incapacity benefit for a bad heart then I suspect smoking is a non-no, and condition of benefits.
Sarah seemed reasonably personable, but just unaware of how exploitative her program was. But one supposes that if she goes on stuff like 'Have I got News' for you or 'I'm A Celebrity', she will soon be exposed as the freeloader she is, the News of the World doing exactly that...
The Duchess in Hull
This is a new series on ITV staring the Duchess of York and a family of seven from Hull. The Duchess of York is a household name in America due to the work she does for weight watchers and is considered to be a health guru.The reason behind the programme is her interest in tackling obesity in the U.K
When I first saw the programme advertised I thought it was publicity stunt and was not really interested in watching it.
However, I did watch it last night and was very impressed. During the programme the Duchess is very open and honest about her past and her problems with her weight and problems with her body and self-image. I found a lot of it very deep and touching
The programme is based on a very unhealthy family in Hull that the Duchess wants to try and help turn their lives around by creating healthy eating and exercise plans. The main challenge is the low budget that the family have for food shopping.
I was amazed at just how down to earth and very patient and understanding the Duchess was in the programme. She never appeared shocked or disgusted with anything and she listened to all the family viewpoints. She was very non-judgmental.
I am continuing to watch the series and will update my review when it is comple.
Overall at present this is a really interesting and educational programme that has shown me a very different Duchess to the one portrayed in the media
The Duchess of York flies in from Manhattan to offer her dietary insights to a family living in a Yorkshire council estate. Top chef JC Novelli does the cooking.