Parents' Guide to

Victorian Slum House

By Jenny Nixon, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 10+

Past becomes present when modern folk move to an 1800s slum.

TV PBS Reality TV 2017
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In an era of cheesy reality shows focused on finding a spouse or flaunting one's wealth, it's a refreshing change of pace to see one focused on history, and how we can learn from it. Watching modern day families starve, scrape and sweat just to pay the rent in their newfound Dickensian habitat may not seem like it would be uplifting viewing, but it is indeed. Victorian Slum House pulls no punches, and shows how bleak circumstances and a judgmental society piled upon the urban poor, making a person's continued survival a daily question. It is especially illuminating seeing how past generations treated single mothers and the disabled. One of the show's participants has a prosthetic leg, which he trades in for a less-comfortable but more historically accurate version -- which, he notes, would in reality have been out of reach for him, since it cost two years salary in Victorian times. The single mom of two faces eviction on a daily basis, as she is forced to prioritize feeding her kids over paying the landlord.

Not all is grim, though. Whether it's the result of clever editing or of real lessons being learned, the kids are surprisingly eager to participate in the hard work it took to keep Victorian-era families afloat, and seem to truly appreciate that their contributions are valued. The families bond and grow closer as the weeks go by. Separated from their smartphones and video games, the kids take full stock of what's going on around them and marvel at how people were expected to live, and how little society did to help. It's an eye-opening documentary series that should inspire some enlightening conversations, and is a great choice for family viewing.

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