I’ve never paid much attention to cryptocurrency, not least because I never quite understood this made-up virtual money. People who evangelise about it tend to be the sort of po-faced young men who believe in online conspiracy theories and the benefits of a keto diet. Cryptocurrency: Has the Bubble Burst? (Channel 4) did little to disabuse me of this notion. It’s always nice to have one’s blind prejudices confirmed.
This ploddingly mediocre documentary found presenter Ade Adepitan taking a crash course in the so-called future of finance. “I like to think I’m pretty savvy when it comes to money,” said Adepitan by way of introduction. “But when it comes to cryptocurrency, I haven’t a clue.” You could almost hear the nation chorusing: “Us neither, mate.”
An estimated 3 million Britons have invested in crypto. Adepitan gamely joined them with £500 of his own cash. I hope he claimed it back on expenses. He sought advice from both believers and sceptics. The former were, as I’d suspected, of a type: nerdy men aged 20 to 40 (often bearded, bespectacled and baseball cap-clad), convinced they were cleverer than the rest of us and about to get rich quick as a result. The sceptics spoke more sense. After all, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Adepitan visited the sprawling Cotswolds pile of multi-millionaire Jon Joseph Bourgerie, who sunk $1 million into crypto and doubled his money. For a while, anyway. In East London, he met grime artist Tarm, who rapped about crypto changing his life. Adepitan didn’t meet anyone, just for balance, who’d lost a fortune or had their house repossessed.
The closest he came was ex-City trader Gary Stevenson, who compellingly argued that it’s a dangerous pyramid scheme, fuelled by social media hype. “People who buy Lamborghinis with crypto put it on Instagram,” he pointed out. “People who lose their life savings don’t.” By the time we heard about the environmental cost of “mining” crypto and the high risk of being scammed, it was beginning to resemble fool’s gold.
I like Adepitan as a presenter but he was ill-served by this dumbed-down production. In a bid to pep up proceedings, he adopted the credulous style of Gregg Wallace on Inside The Factory – going wide-eyed and exclaiming: “Wow! That’s mad!” Colourful explainer graphics lent the feel of a Blue Peter segment, rather than prime-time factual fare.
Filming took place shortly before the June crash which saw values of cryptocurrencies fall through the floor. A new ending was hastily tacked onto the documentary. This was filmed, I spotted, in my local pub. It was the most exciting moment in the entire hour. Adepitan’s £500, incidentally, was now worth £340.
Was it the end for the crypto dream? Or just a temporary blip in this volatile new market? Nobody seemed to know. Adepitan shrugged at the camera. Credits rolled. A frustrating sign-off to a film which felt like a wasted opportunity.