The Real Good Life (ITV1); Big Ideas That Changed The World (five): LIVING off the land in a life of self-sufficiency looked such a nice idea when Tom and Barbara Good did it in the BBC comedy series The Good Life.

The reality is very different as the three families who've left the rat race to live the good life for the TV cameras found out very quickly. The programme-makers are paying their mortgages for the next year, but that's all the help they're getting and some are obviously ill-equipped to fend for themselves.

Steve and Lisa, who've given up a joint income of £80,000, take it very seriously. Even moving four tons of steaming manure failed to dent their enthusiasm. They sold their possessions at a car boot sale, and then sold the car.

Spending every waking hour together is taking its toll as they're not used to being together 24/7. "I never realised she moaned so much," confessed Steve.

They're doing better than Neil and civil servant Veronica, who confessed that, "I've never planted anything before." While the other two families were busy preparing their plots, this couple had lost the plot by deciding on one last treat. She had her hair done, he drank home brew with his friends. A field trip to Wales for a weekend in a self-sufficiency community proved too much for Neil, although I can't say I'd have liked to be summoned to meals by someone blowing a conch. Give me a dinner gong any time.

Steve and Lisa loved the idea of people building their own houses. Neil complained about the state of the toilets and ordered a meal from a pub because he didn't like the look of the community's food.

The other family, the Smiths, faced a different sort of rebellion. Daughter Lottie, 12, didn't approve of buying two pigs to fatten up and then slaughter for food. "Obviously he's just a murderer," she said of her father.

Steve was squeamish too. After finding 15 slugs nibbling on his plants, he was at a loss what to do with them. "I don't like killing," he said.

Big Ideas That Changed The World, a sort of history of Communism, isn't the type of serious programme that you used to associate with five. It was an even bigger shock to find none other than former Soviet premier Mikhail Gorbachev telling the story.

He offered a clear and concise guide to the rise and fall of Communism in his country, bringing it down to a more personal level by telling how his family was affected by events.

The son of a peasant, he was the first in the family to go to university, where he met his future wife, Raisa, who encouraged him to take his first steps into politics.

Now 74, he told how him being in politics took its toll on her health. "She would still be alive if I hadn't been made President," he said.

Published: 01/06/2005