ENTERTAINMENT
03/12/2013 11:10 GMT | Updated 01/02/2014 10:59 GMT

'Liberty Of London' Review - Episode 1 Sees Staff In Flurry Over Christmas 'Make Or Break'

London's iconic department store got what will now undoubtedly be called in the offices of TV commissioning execs "the Claridges treatment" - i.e. take some cameras and follow the busy, tireless staff of a business on their daily rounds of fault-seeking and perfection-tweaking, and add some plinky plunky piano music to let us know that we're in the surroundings of one of the country's great institutions.

Never mind the fact that less than 1% of the country could actually afford to buy this festive season's offering - a real-life size cuddly grizzly bear for £1,995 - this place is one of the backbones of British life, they're telling us.

liberty of london

Liberty starts preparing for Christmas in September

If reality TV has taught us anything, it's that if you film intimately for long enough, anyone is interesting. Last night, we got to know the staff of Liberty, from receptionist Judy Rose, still in love with the myth of founder Arthur Liberty, but ready to adapt, because she's a "Darwin fan" - interesting use of the word 'fan', I thought - to the In Goods Manager, who had to be broken the news that his mini-empire within an empire, the despatch area, was about to reduced AGAIN in the name of retail, and value per foot.

At the centre of it all is the bustling and extremely personable managing director Ed Birstell, another US import at the top of British business, five years in the chair, and so far triumphing in turning this stunning bit of battleship mock-Tudor wood into a profitable going concern again.

liberty of london

Ed Birstell runs some ideas past his polite but circumspect team

Over his glasses, he deliberates between one Manolo Blahnik shoe and another, and ponders the value of a singles night in the store for Valentines. And he stops to sign individual birthday cards to all his staff - (with a red pen, mind - yuck!) and sneaks in a £5 Liberty voucher - which I can tell you from first-hand experience, will get you a whole piece of wrapping paper in the no-holds-barred Christmas shop.

Of course, like any other shop in the borough, Christmas is - guess what - make or break, but everyone will pull out all the stops because - guess what - "Liberty is like a family".

Hmm. Did Channel 4 pay Liberty, or did Liberty pay Channel 4? Just wondering.

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