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TV review: Channel 4's Benefits Street and Chris Stark in Celeb Hunters: 2 Chairs, 1 Chat

By Gloucestershire Echo  |  Posted: February 11, 2014

By Jonathan Whiley

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I'm angry. I'm angry because I've become angry. It just came out of nowhere; a seemingly innocent Channel 4 programme going by the name The Celeb Hunters: 2 Chairs, 1 Chat.

It's a tale, on the surface, of the average guy next door done good. Chris Stark, propelled to the type of stardom which will land him in I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here in five years time when they're out of Z-listers,

sets out on a mission to bag himself celebrity interviews through supposedly spontaneous kamikaze-style encounters.

But for those of you unaware of Chris Stark let me elaborate. In one sentence. He became a semi-internet sensation (think cats that play with keyboards) after an interview with actress Mila Kunis for the Scott Mills radio show.

Basically he acted a bit naive, a little starstruck and bit like an amateur. Which he was. Then suddenly, in this fame-hungry celebrity world we live, the 'normal bloke' on the street was a hit.

Sure he's likeable. In fact he seems a really nice guy. But it's all utter utter rubbish and he's trying to pull the wool over the nation's eyes with ever more irritating hash tags and a shameless attempt to chase viewing figures through social media.

There's nothing spontaneous about any of his meetings with celebrities here. The red carpet 'oh-let-me-just-grab' you here moment with Sandra Bullock and Daniel Radcliffe, the doorstepping of a man famous for talking to ghosts {Derek Acorah] and the chat in a posh London hotel with Emma Thompson.

All of it is simply not made possible by a happy-go-lucky attitude and a tendency to ask quirky questions. It's made possible by his BBC connections to set them up and a set of Channel 4 producers smoothing things over with PR people. "It's for TV, think about the publicity, it'll be fine," I can hear them saying over a graph of profits.

Course it's all done in the background and presented to the viewing public as anything but - otherwise it wouldn't be remotely entertaining. We back the underdog from start to finish; we're British after all and with his 'quirky' concept we are given ever more unlikely scenarios planned in the comfort of a Channel 4 boardroom, ahem, I mean his bedroom.

God I hate it. It turns the interviewer into the celebrity rather than the celebrity themselves and offers some kind of mantra that if you're just a guy on the street you too can become an overnight star. For being yourself. Scary.

I suppose you think Mumford and Sons roll out of bed and start playing music to accompany their unkempt look? Everything that is presented as quirky and alternative is, more often that not, anything but.

As Colin Farrell sat in a camping chair as Chris Stark fired ever more non-threatening questions, he said 'this says TV of the future'. If that's the case, as harmless as it may seem, the concept is absolutely terrifying.

And so to Benefits Street, which of all the TV offerings, is at least true to its characters. Fungi, who we've known throughout, is the focus of much of the episode and the potentially disturbing discovery of a lump in his chest forces him to evaluate life.

Thankfully, it turns out, it's nothing serious and as White Dee puts it, he's been given a second chance. Truth is , will he take it? In the vicious circle he lives in, it's a big ask to turn his life around. I have my doubts.

In the final shots as White Dee and Fungi stroll down James Turner Street, one of the most famous streets in the land, White Dee laments that for all of its faults, it's their home and always will be. It's another strangely touching and honest moment in this ever-more fascinating depiction of benefit culture that continues to tighten it's grip on Britain's conscience.

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