It caused its fair share of controversy when it was first shown on BBC Scotland last year. And now viewers in the rest of the UK have had the chance to see what all the fuss is about after fly-on-the-wall documentary series The Scheme made its debut on BBC One last week.
First shown in Scotland in 2010 the four-part show follows the lives of six families living on the Onthank and Knockinlaw estates in Kilmarnock.
It was an instant hit when it was shown on Scottish screens, pulling in over 900,000 viewers – and over 1m tuned in when it made its network debut on June 14.
However locals have reacted angrily to the decision to screen the series across the country, saying that its colourful characters and portrayals of drug-taking, alcoholism and violence do not offer a fair representation of the area or its locals.
The first episode, shown with subtitles in for those who may have difficulty understanding the Scottish accents – introduced viewers to characters including the Cunningham family, as well as ‘recovering’ drug addict Marvin Baird.
The latter…who has become something of an unlikely celebrity since the series was first shown…was seen overdosing in the episode as well as being arrested after an argument with his pregnant girlfriend Dayna, herself just out of prison.
And the Cunningham parents Gordon and Annie had troubles of their own after one of their sons, Brian, was arrested for breaching the peace and their other son Chris became involved with drug dealers.
Others introduced in the first episode included single mother Kay and her daughters Candice and Kendal.
The second episode featured the Cree family, who were struggling to raise money to re-open the community centre.
However viewers in Scotland did not get to see episodes three and four when the series was first shown, as they were postponed pending a court case involving one of the characters in the show.
The two episodes are being shown on the BBC One run for the first time – and have attracted the inevitable comparisons with the Channel 4 hit Shameless.
It’s not lightweight like those daft reality offerings The Only Way is Essex or Geordie Shore. This is Shameless…but real. The Scheme knows the genre it’s in, knows the rules, does everything entirely by the well-thumbed book.’
Meanwhile residents and MPs in Kilmarnock have condemned the decision to screen The Scheme on, particularly due to its portrayal of Onthank and the description of the show as ‘a snapshot of life in modern-day Scotland’.
Local politicians have claimed that residents were ‘tricked’ into appearing and were not given an accurate idea of how they would be represented on screen – allegations which the BBC has denied.
And councillors are launching initiatives to try and counteract the negative portrayal of the area.
East Ayrshire council member Douglas Reid said, ‘Showing it in England will reinforce prejudices. The BBC are trying to say this a cross-section of the community of Onthank, but it doesn’t bear any resemblance to the Onthank I know.’
A lot of young people are absolutely disgusted at the way they are being portrayed and their community is being portrayed.’
And local Scottish National Party (SNP) politician Willie Coffey added, ‘There is a lot of work taking place to regenerate north-west Kilmarnock and there is a strong community spirit that is addressing the problems highlighted by The Scheme, but the BBC have repeatedly chosen not to display the communities successes in favour of glamorising the chaotic lifestyles of a few and patronising the people of Kilmarnock.’
Its controversy could prove short-lived though since it appears unlikely to return once the initial run is over.
‘There are no plans for a follow-up,’ a BBC Scotland spokesman told the News Of the World, while a source added, ‘The makers have moved on to another project. Besides, people are wise to it now. It just wouldn’t work again.’
by Sasha Dubronitz