In 24 Hours in the Past, six British celebrities go back to the 19th century to live the life of the Victorian working class. They will live and work at four different places: the dust yard, the coaching inn, the potteries and end up in the worst place of all: the workhouse!
As you might have gathered, I'm a big fan of the 'living history' programs of the BBC, such as Victorian Farm and its successors and Turn Back Time. When I stumbled upon this program, I was a little bit wary as, for the first time, celebrities were involved and I was afraid this might make the program dramatic and distract from the history. Luckily, I was wrong and 24 Hours in the Past was actually very interesting and insightful!
The program takes us to a part of Victorian life we know best from Dicken's novels: the life of the poor. By using celebrities in stead of historical professionals like in the Farm series, we get to see very clearly just how shockingly different Victorian working class life is from our own. And it is really bad: the hard and often degrading work, the horrible treatment of the workers, the cramped living conditions. The program dives deep into the working of each of the four workplaces by giving the participants multiple jobs, so I learned a lot!
What makes the program work so well is that the participants really give their best. Well, most of them, because former politician Ann Widecombe was protesting against practically everything and even started a strike in the last episode, which was a bit annoying. I also found the voice-over a bit over-the-top sometimes and the involvement of Farm 'star' Ruth Goodman was actually wasted as she only got to give a bit of information here and there. But, I really loved seeing how teenage actor Tyger Drew-Honey tried really hard to master some Victorian skills and how comedian Alistair McGowan was so impressed by the operation of the pottery.
As I'm not British, I didn't really know any of the celebrities before this program, but this didn't take away any enjoyment for me. I would definitely recommend watching this if you're interested in Victorian history or the daily life of our ancestors. The series is on YouTube right now, though not in the greatest quality.