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Lunchtime in a small office in Coventry and, above the violent rustle of packaged meat snacks and the anguished whine of fuchsia skirting boards, John Armstrong is discussing his decision to allow the BBC to film the daily operations of his double-glazing firm, U-Fit."When they first approached us they said, 'We do not want this to be the X Factor. We want this to be fucking true,'" he barks, prodding the tabletop with a small, irritable finger. The reasons are as plentiful as they are stupefying.
And there is, above all, the suspicion that this is neither an exceptionally well-made reality series nor a cleverly calculated docu-soap but, in fact, the boldest hoax in television history.Not surprisingly, the Armstrongs - who are, for better or worse, very real indeed - have been inundated with emails and phone calls from incredulous viewers."Probably about 15 to 20% of all our emails are from people wondering if we're fucking actors," says John, 38, scowling behind a table in U-Fit's disconcertingly pink conference room."We've had to put the fucking bandwith up on the computer.We're paying extra money for twats to find out if we're real!We had 20,000 hits in 45 minutes the other day.""I've had a lot of emails from people asking me about my knickers," adds Ann, also 38, grinning saucily beneath a vast turret of aggressively layered hair."It's mad!
""Ann's a sex symbol," says John, angrily."Apparently, I am," says Ann, wistfully. We can't understand the fuss about the show, really, 'cos it's just what we do."In person, the Armstrongs are both blunter and more endearing than their on-screen incarnations, with John's incessant misanthropy sweetened by the fact that a) Ann clearly dotes on his every tirade and; b) his persistent fidgeting and preposterously oversized jumper make him look like a worried toddler.