TV: How'd You Get So Rich?, C4

There has been a flurry lately of documentaries fronted by comedians. David Baddiel talked about his father’s dementia, Jon Richardson talked about his angst. But Katherine Ryan’s new series touches on a subject that is truly universal. “It’s the question we all want to ask,” she says at the start. And, give or take the few remaining communists in the country, she is probably right. We all do want to know “how d’you get so rich?”.

It’s territory that Ruby Wax among others have covered before, but Ryan makes a good fist of it, not sneering too much and only occasionally drooling over the private helicopters, Lamborghinis and bling. I get the impression she is both attracted and repelled by he idea of obscene levels of wealth. She certainly likes money but would probably spend it a touch more tastefully than the bunch she meets in the first programme.

What is interesting here is that the people she meets actually seem relatively decent (not that Ryan suggests that they are giving truckloads of gold to Comic Relief). Maybe it is because they all seem to have grafted to become obscenely rich. None of them were spoilt as kids or seem to have had money dropped into their lap – although looking at the trailers that might apply in later instalments.

First up, for example, we meet the founders of Poundland, Mr & Mrs Smith, who started out with a market stall and flogged their empire for £50 million. They still watch the pennies though and pack their own Yorkshire tea and tinned salmon when they jet off the Majorca. Their are a nice couple even if their 13-bedroom mansion is on the vulgar side. Maybe money hasn’t changed them - it certainly hasn’t bought them taste.

Likewise Danny Lambo ploughed the profits from a pop career into hotels. At first he scrubbed and cleaned things himself but now clearly has lackeys to do that and instead can swan around making cliched rap videos about being “Britain’s flashiest playboy” and judge Miss USSR UK. Ryan is more critical of his lifestyle and occasionally you get a hint that maybe he would like to settle down. But it soon passes. Before you know it he is whizzing around in his Lamborghini again.

Finally Ryan throws herself into her research in America when she meets Dr Raj, cosmetic surgeon to the stars and “King of Nose Jobs”, which, as Ryan points out, is a funny name for a country. Raj suggests some filler for Ryan and before you can say Kim Kardashian she is soon flat on her back being injected in the jaw. 

It’s not the most original idea for a series, but Ryan is a natural fit to front it. In recent years she has morphed into a younger version of Joan Rivers and Rivers herself presented an American series with the same title. Let’s just hope that having a little bit of treatment from Dr Raj doesn’t become addictive. There is some nice eyebrow-raising stuff here. I just hope that Katherine Ryan can still raise her eyebrows in a few years.

How'd You Get So Rich?, C4, Mondays from March 6, 10pm.


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