Cherry Healey, the woman behind BBC3’s new lifestyle show How to Get a Life, is on a mission to catch up with the world, life’s fundamental questions, and whether she needs to wax her arm hair. As such, each week she tackles a pressing subject; this week it was whether your looks can change your life. In each hour-long episode, she meets up with various weird and wonderful people that fit in with each topic, and follows them around for a day or week.
Sounds good? Well, it really would be, had Healey and BBC3 thought about the finished product. Rarely does she reach any kind of conclusion or revelation, and most guests are greeted with disdain and judgement from the more-average-than-thou presenter. As a paranoid, hypochondriac, female, home-based journalist, I guess that I’m the target audience for the series, as with most of BBC3’s output, and I eagerly tune in each week with the hope of life’s fundamental questions actually being answered.
What I get instead is a surface skimming so vague and light-weight that it never really peaks behind the curtain of society it so desperately runs towards. Slimming tablets, tanning, and settling down are all presented as fair game but, surprise surprise, we’re left with whatever conservative message that’s applicable to the current episode. Of course you can be free and single, until you meet a man; you shouldn’t put yourself in danger to lose weight, but still have to be thin.
A typical statement after meeting some of the subject goes like: “I completely understand, but…” There’s nothing sympathetic or understanding about alternative lifestyles and, while there’s something commendable about putting these fascinating people on mainstream television, when they’re presented as different from Healey herself, they appear too strange. It might not be intentional, but our presented is held up as normal, healthy womanhood – wife, mother, hairless, slim – and everything else looks ‘wrong’ in contrast.
Like flicking through the pages of a magazine, or flashing through the channels, we get a taste of what Healey is hoping to do, but never the meat of the story.