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BBC3’s recent double whammy of ‘Growing Up Poor’ presented an unremittingly bleak, forensically detailed view of life on the margins. ‘People Like Us’ – a six-part observational docusoap set in the Manchester suburb of Harpurhey – walks on the sunnier side, inviting inevitable comparisons with ‘Shameless’ in the process. ‘I’ve never known a place with so many village idiots,’ reckons resident laundrette owner Paul.
Certainly, the denizens of Harpurhey know how to throw a party just as well as those on the Chatsworth Estate: weddings, drag shows and a trip to Magaluf form the heart of this opening instalment, with the disappointments largely personal (heartbreak, hangovers) and free of any wider socio-economic context. As a result, it feels like we’re only getting half the picture: references to how communities are replacing families as support networks, or the struggles of young David with alcoholism, are taken in isolation and Harpurhey occasionally feels close to hermetically sealed. But it’s never patronising, and rarely dull: a cast of characters this lively undoubtedly merits a return visit.