I love Lorraine. That’s all there is to it. Lorraine Kitchen, head of human resources at Low Cost Vans, a small vehicle leasing company in Neath, south Wales, is my hope and my salvation.
She takes part in the first episode of The Job Interview, Channel 4’s new documentary series, which puts fixed cameras in an office in Westminster and then runs the hell away, to let the stress, horror, potential humiliations and possible delights unfold as unaffectedly as possible. The jobs are real, the companies are real, the ads were real, the applicants are real and the interviewers are real, which makes it as refreshing as it is agonising.
Lorraine is carrying out the interviews – for a customer service adviser role paying £15,500 a year – with her boss, the owner of the company, Rod Lloyd. Nicole, a tour guide of a local haunted house, is one of the first up. She is going great guns until Lorraine asks whether she thinks she will enjoy the new job. Nicole has not considered this. “Nobody knows that, do they?” she says, with commendable honesty if not interview acumen. She brightens. “I suppose I can move on to something different if I get bored.” It’s what every employer longs to hear.
A man who is very nice but knows nothing is next. “What do you think?” asks Rod when it’s over. “No,” says Lorraine. “He’s a nice guy,” says Rod. “No,” says Lorraine.
Vicki does better but clearly does not stop talking unless you inject her with Thorazine straight in the throat. They bid her good day, Lorraine shuts the door after her and slides slowly down it. It’s a no from her.
And then there are Jody and Ian. She has been out of the workplace bringing up children for eight years; he has been made redundant after 26 years at a brush-making factory. They both want and need this job. Jody gets it, despite Rod’s misgivings and his natural sympathy for a fellow fiftysomething man out of work, because – because Lorraine. Lorraine breezes past the eight-year gap in Jody’s CV because – because it’s irrelevant. As she puts it: “It doesn’t matter. You don’t forget those skills. It’s like riding a bike.” And this is suddenly so clear and so true, about this job and so many others, that you want to cry. It just needs someone like Lorraine on the far side of every table to see it, believe it, and say it and we could end the ridiculous waste of post-partum women and their skills in a heartbeat. LORRAINE.
They planned to find something for Ian too, but – bolstered by their faith in him – he has retrained as a bus driver instead. All is well.
The rest of the programme was the less heart-swelling recruitment of a manager for a luxury wedding and event venue. Victory went to the posher of the two women who go through, but the rather superb Philippa Darcy (yes, really), who owns the business, is taking the loser under her wing and will, I do not doubt, See Her Right. Noblesse obliges.
It looks set fair to be as compelling, human and humane a series as that other fixed-rig fandango, First Dates. Put it on your shortlist.
It’s hard to know what to say about Child Genius (Channel 4), because it’s never the child’s fault, is it? This was the opening episode of this two-parter following the progress of 16 children through a competition run by Mensa to find Britain’s brightest child. Why? Why, why, why, why? As if it matters, as if it can be neatly quantified, as if anything important about a child can be measured at a podium through a series of quickfire rounds. The usual cast of characters are all present. The desperate dad with a lunging need to correct the inequities of his own childhood; the mother in search of something that will focus her bright son with ADHD; the ambitious parents for whom a day without another box ticked (“Great British international ice-skating championships – check!”) is a day wasted. And, of course, the baffled parents in awe of their changeling child who is frantically looking for something to harness his excess intellectual energy to.
The previous series of Child Genius at least purported to be an in-depth look at what forms intelligence can take and the pressures extreme variations can put on their owners, but things have become much more formulaic since. Now it is just a faintly saddening programme about nothing very much, and certainly nothing very valuable. Its own IQ has dropped off the scale.