The question of the week in the UK FIRE blogshphere is: Could Channel 4 have made a less effective TV show about “How to Retire at 40” if they’d tried? The answer is a resounding “NO!”
For me, the show didn’t get off to a great start. As a thick, Northern, Brexit-loving, neo-fascist who could hate gays, women and disabled people, I have to be reminded to celebrate diversity by my intellectual superiors at Channel 4 through their selection of presenters. Patronised? Moi? Surely not.
Putting aside my petty hatreds, the first couple of minutes of the show sounded promising. The presenters announced that there was a growing amount of people interested in the concept of Financial Independence and Retiring Early in the UK and that they were going to explore the subject from a variety of angles. This seemed like a decent premise, and I felt a wee glow of pride in that I found the book “Early Retirement Extreme” back in 2010. “I’m a pioneer!”, I cheered, and then quickly warned myself not to become the FIRE equivalent of someone who claims that they were at the first Sex Pistol’s gig in 1976. It’s really not that big a deal.
The show quickly went downhill from there, and it soon became clear I wasn’t the intended audience and neither was any of the rest of the FIRE community. We wanted to see the elegance of the maths (which The Escape Artist made a heroic attempt at, no doubt, only to edited down to about thirty seconds of soundbites “You only need to save 75% of your income and you can retire in seven years!”) We wanted to see the heroes of FIRE, Jacob Fisker, Mr Money Moustache et al, and not some bloke selling potatoes who was happy to tell us what his profit was, but not his turnover, and young Pippa of Nut Butter fame, who was happy to tell us the turnover of her business, but not the profit. I held my breath to hear what Huw from Financially Free by Forty would say, but clearly the editor had decided his contribution was going to be his startling good looks alone. As for Julie and Jason, whose blog I follow as they wander around Europe on permanent holiday, if they’d a point to make I must have missed it.
The following day at work, the couple of colleagues I’d nudged to tune in informed me that they’d squandered an hour of their lives on “utter crap”. “What was it all about?” they asked, and I was at a loss to tell them. As I’ve tried to evidence on this blog, I’m no evangelist for Retiring Early but would like to see a rise in interest on Financial Independence. I had harboured quiet hopes that this show would at least spark some interesting debate on the subject, but judging by the complete lack of reaction following it in the national press I can’t help but feel an opportunity has been missed.
It’s easy to criticise and forget that while we in the FIRE community had this show planned as TV event of the week, the rest of the nation were immersed in the body-shaved car crash that is Love Island. We find this stuff incredibly interesting and appealing, but 99% of the rest of the population couldn’t give a toss about it. That’s what the producers were up against. But when the Mad Fientist can string together a bunch of immersive, informative and entertaining podcasts on FIRE and the people involved in it, is it beyond TV to produce something of a similar ilk? As it stands it seemed all they managed to do was annoy anyone interested in the subject while failing to interest anyone else. Bit of a shame really.