On Thursday night ABC1 features a BBC social experiment in which families are placed “back in time” to see if they can run viable businesses in the late 1800s.
Whilst television has previously placed families into colonial and Victorian eras for television cameras, this time the emphasis is on reviving a retail strip, a dying “High Street” town square in regional UK. Think butcher, baker and candlestick maker -literally.
And the families all have retail experience in their chosen field. But can they make it work with the most basic essentials?
In many countries, shopping is a favourite pastime, no matter how the economy is.
While the Internet, malls and superstores provide us with everything we need, there’s a nostalgia for the days when everyone knew the corner grocer or the friendly butcher in town.
Now, this inventive UK reality series transports viewers back to the late 19th century as five modern shopkeepers and their families set up shop and conduct their lives exactly as merchants did in six earlier eras, to experience what life for the average shopper used to be like. Before the fast food, pre packed, preservative-heavy Pandora’s Box of a shopping experience we have today.
This opening episode features the 1870s, when the high street was born, and by the end of the series we have moved on to the 1970s, a hundred years later. It’s part social commentary and part reality TV show. All of the shop keepers take things very seriously and have their own ‘Chamber of Commerce’ (led by Masterchef judge Gregg Wallace, successful baker Tom Herbert and historian Juliet Gardiner) to ensure that the protocols of the day are correctly followed.
The families also had to live and dress like the families of the eras involved, and in total there are seven different shops involved; The Butchers, The Bakers, The Ironmongers, The Chemist, The Dress Maker, The Record Shop and The Convenience Store Owners. How will they all cope, and will they actually make a profit?
Turn Back Time: The High Street airs 8:30pm Thursday on ABC1.