All cash and no culture
Goldplated dips into the champagne lifestyle of the infamous Cheshire set.
Goldplated, Channel 4, Wednesday 25 October
They drink champagne like water, they drive Porsches and Ferraris, they cheat on their partners, snort coke, gossip and have boob jobs in-between lunch dates and shopping sprees. Welcome to the world of self-made millionaires, and their trophy wives and mistresses, known as the ‘Cheshire set’.
Handily placed for the big clubs of Liverpool and Manchester, Cheshire is famously home to numerous top footballers and their wives and girlfriends – or WAGS as the press christened them during the last World Cup. Now the lives of their neighbours are immortalised in Goldplated, allowing us to indulge – and laugh at – the fabled lifestyle of the white-teethed, gold-handled handbag-carrying, botoxed, nouveau riche.
Series writer Jimmy Gardner got some street-cred (or mansion-cred, as it were) through his research methods. With the help of a local gossip columnist, Gardner immersed himself in the Cheshire set. Like a dutiful anthropologist, he engaged in some participant observation, going to millionaires’ houses, various events and popular party hangouts. He also interviewed local public relations people and others who know the scene. As a result, some of the actors’ lines were verbatim quotes, like the advice from an ex-council estate girl to one who hasn’t snarled her way out of the working classes yet on how to spot a rich man. Apparently, it’s by the watch (only Cartier or Frank Mueller will do), his wallet (not by the thickness, but by the quality of the leather) and his shoes (they have to be handmade and nothing you can buy off the high street).
At the centre of the Goldplated drama is John White (David Schofield), a millionaire who made his fortune in construction. He has recently traded his wife Beth (Barbara Marten) for a younger, blonder model – Cassidy (Kelly Harrison). With three grown-up children from his first marriage and a young baby from his mistress-turned-girlfriend, there is now a confusing myriad of competitors for John’s crumbling empire. By the end of the first episode, it seems the only one in Cheshire who doesn’t know that the bank has cancelled John’s overdraft is Cassidy.
What the characters’ don’t reveal about themselves, we learn from Cheshire’s keenest gossipers – three blondes who huddle together like witches to prattle, mock and glance jealously at younger women who are more popular with the men.
Goldplated has been described as Dallas meets Footballers’ Wives, though the series creators seem keen to distance themselves from the latter. Simon Heath, executive producer, has said: ‘We’re trying to dig deeper – Goldplated is funnier and sadder and everything’s more precarious. People have jumped up a social class and they can easily fall back down to where they came from.’
If Goldplated is Dallas, then John is its JR Ewing. He takes advantage of his softy oldest son, bulldozes a derelict school because he doesn’t have patience to wait for planning permission, then laughs at an illegal immigrant construction worker who flees the scene, before shouting out ‘let’s make some money’ at the top of his lungs. Cheshire’s Sue-Ellen is Beth, a middle-aged woman bitter about having been traded in for a gold digging twenty-something. Beth downs bottles of vodka in-between putts on the golf course before turning up hammered at the christening of John and Cassidy’s son. The three blonde gossipers are delighted when Beth and Cassidy start a catfight on the expansive lawn of John’s mansion.
So far, Goldplated just seems like a sarcastic look at the superficial champagne lifestyle of those with lots of money, but no class. However, a few insights into the characters’ secrets that have not yet reached the three blonde witches suggest that some moralising is yet to come. For instance, why is Cassidy hiding her real name, her Didsbury background and her mother in a council estate? Who is that black girl staring into space in a care home who John goes to visit? And why does John’s daughter sleep with her father’s business rival when it only leaves her in tears?
Goldplated seems to be saying, so far at least, that this is all you can expect when working class people drag themselves out of their roots and come into money without having the culture to deal with it properly. Whether the series manages to rise above such crass prejudices only time will tell.