Rich House, Poor House

Rating 7.1
Streamer My5
Seasons 6
Episodes 33 x 50 mins

Rich House, Poor House is an updated version of Channel 4’s Wife Swap from twenty years ago, except with this one the whole family are packing their bags and the cruelty level is far less.

We’ve got two families, one usually with a swanky car, a high-ceilinged house, all dressed top to toe in designer gear. And the other with a humble home, and even humbler means. They trade houses and budgets for a week, doing everything from the weekly food shop to buying the kids treats. This social experiment turned reality TV is intended to find out whether money really does buy happiness – didn’t we all learn the answer to that from The Muppet Christmas Carol? Obviously, the premise of the show potentially makes way for an hour of elitism and bitterness, with snobby comments on one family’s choice of pasta shapes, or a BMW ‘accidentally’ getting keyed. But there’s none of that here. In fact, the series is almost sickly sweet. Both families from both sides of the wealth divide are kind and conscientious – on first arrival at their new home for the week, they wonder through, tinkling with trinkets and going “Ah, they must work really hard to afford this souvenir from Mexico,” or, “oh, isn’t it a shame they can’t afford any souvenirs from Mexico.” But it’s a lovely reminder of the goodness of (at least a portion of) humanity, and is sure to warm your heart.

The Times’ Carol Midgley admits Rich House Poor House “played us like cheap violins,” but says, “it worked.” She says, “what a testament to humanity, but tough on the heartstrings. So much easier when reality TV is lightweight tosh.” However, The Guardian’s Tim Dowling thinks the series has got a “poverty of imagination,” but does admit that the series is “eye-opening, in a good way, for everybody involved.”

First shown March 2017. You can watch the trailer by pressing play on the show image, or by clicking here:

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