The two programmes were well-received by critics and a further seven episodes followed in 2001, ten in 2002, five in 2003 and a final feature-length show in 2006. The programme has always fared well in the ratings, with an average audience of just over two million - a strong showing for Channel 4, which is still to some extent regarded as a minority station.
The programme shares much with earlier British TV shows such as In At The Deep End and Jobs For The Boys/Girls, and more recently the children's show Bring It On, all of which featured TV presenters or other celebrities learning other trades, but Faking It was the first to successfully use members of the public in the role. The show's basic format is that a member of the public lives and trains with an expert for four weeks and then takes part in a contest against experienced participants in whatever activity they have learnt. A panel of expert judges then give their verdict on which participant is the "faker". Ostensibly, success means fooling a majority of the judges, though there is no prize for success and the real point of the show is the experience that the fakers receive over the course of the month's filming.
Among the most acclaimed episodes were cellist Sian Evans learning to be a club DJ, burger-van proprietor Ed Devlin training with Gordon Ramsay to become a cordon bleu chef, former naval petty officer Spencer Bowdler being trained as a drag artist and city lawyer George LuBega learning the art of the garage MC.
The narrator for the British episodes was actor Michael Kitchen, though his voiceover is often replaced when the programme is seen elsewhere.
Faking It hit some controversy in 2003, when participant Laura-Jane Foley claimed she had been misrepresented by the show. A former choirgirl, she had taken part in an episode in which she was taught how to be the frontwoman for a punk rock band. The episode in question had already run into trouble before it even aired, with regular sponsors Smirnoff refusing to be associated with its scenes of "irresponsible drinking", however apart from an article in the Cambridge university newspaper Varsity, Foley did not pursue the matter further. She is, however, the only participant to date not to co-operate with Channel 4 in pre- and post-publicity for the show.
The show has proven hugely successful in the UK and elsewhere, twice winning the BAFTA award for Best Factual Feature. A 2002 episode, in which punk singer Chris Sweeney was trained as an orchestral conductor, won the Golden Rose of Montreux in 2003 as well as the Press Prize at the same festival. The chef episode won an International Emmy Award.
Faking It is now being shown on UKTV People part of the UKTV Network.
M REAL LIVES: From Faking It to Living It; in April Last Year, the Channel 4 Documentary Faking It Challenged People to Learn a New Profession in Just Four Weeks. We Catch Up with Three of the Contestants a Year on and Discover Although Their Experience on the Show Only Lasted a Month, Their New Skills Have Changed Their Lives for Ever
Apr 09, 2002; Byline: RACHAEL WOOLSTON The classical musician turned dance DJ Sian Evans, 23, a classically-trained cellist from Somerset,...