If there was going to be one upside to the recent economic shenanigans (technical term), it should have been the death of property shows. Ah, one might mutter, a loaf of bread may cost £5. I may only be able to afford to drive my car to the end of the cul-de-sac. My firm may have replaced me with a trained chimp. But at least I don’t have to look at Kirsty Allsopp’s face anymore or see yet another farmhouse in the Dordogne or be subjected to any more programmes about people with too much money and too many demands and the personality of a bread bin.
How wrong one can be? Because in the midst of the crunch comes The Home Show, proving that house programmes are much like the cockroach is fabled to be: Armageddon may come and go, but when the final survivors are standing amidst the dust and rubble with their skin hanging off in strips, bleeding from the ears, there will still be some chump offering his opinions on open plan living.
In this case that chump is architect George Clarke, not a human being at all but a telegenic composite devised by market research. Clarke has the personality of Dermot O’Leary, the Geordie accent of the Big Brother voiceover and the face of a member of a Take That tribute act and, since nobody can possibly envisage selling their house for the next million years, George is here to show one Dorking-based couple how to make the most of the home they have.
Truth be told, Dom and Claude were in need of some help – their house was extremely 1970s. All it needed was an afro on the roof. The loo was the worst, like the lav of Brutus Gold. “I’ve had some lovely times in there,” said Dom, though presumably they were with his eyes squeezed shut.
Worry not. George had a plan for the downstairs living area. “This room needs to be brought up to date,” he said, “into the 21st century”, he added, lest we were under the misapprehension that we were living in Dickensian Britain.
But before he could set about redesigning their house, there was a tense revelation to come: How much money could the couple afford to spend?
“I’ve got some great ideas” said Clarke, “but will they have enough cash?”
Well, call me picky, but why not ask them how much they had before you start making plans, you dolt?
Of course, this was just a pathetic attempt to add some tension to a show which is frankly devoid of it. George was angling for about £60,000. They pushed a cheque face down across the table. George made those noises plumbers do when they’ve spotted something dodgy about your U-bend. They’d given him £30,000. Come on. £30,000 is hardly a poke in the eye. I wished they’d given him £300 and watched him try to revamp the place on that, forced to offer sexual favours down the lumber yard and suchlike. But then, I suppose that would have been Changing Rooms.
Having packed the family off, ripped out the kitchen and bathroom and sprayed the place white, Clarke invites them back to see their “naked house.” But – oh agony – should he remove one of entrances to the kitchen?
“This is your big decision,” he said, trying to crank up the tension. “I’ve been absolutely torn by it.” “I see nothing to be torn about,” said a nonplussed Claude, completely ruining his attempts to make the programme even vaguely interesting.
At some point in the show we popped to Denmark for some style tips. The Danish are world leaders in style (although who says so is unclear) and we were invited to gaze in awe at a huge glass fronted log cabin with absolutely no dividing walls. It looked like an airport lounge.
“It’s great that all the family are together in the one space,” said the presenter, over shots of the grandkids frolicking around. “It can be noisy,” said the designer’s wife a little tiredly, I thought. Their bedroom was just a double bed tucked behind a small wooden divider somewhere to the left of this gigantic rectangular room. Lordy, if that’s great design you can keep it. I want to be able to close a door on my loved ones occasionally, or even frequently.
The Home Show did teach me one thing: property shows, evil as they were, used to be more gripping than this. But since no-one has any money to spend at the moment, it all seemed rather pointless.
George, of course, did a splendid job on their house, but I couldn’t care less. In fact, the best bit was when the couple went hunting for sofas and the presenter guessed, correctly, which ones each would go for - the husband opting for minimalism and discomfort, the wife for a comfy, squashy, leather one her husband had referred to as “offensive”.
Scrap the property programmes, there’s TV gold in this: a sort of DFS meets Mr and Mrs where each partner has to guess their spouse’s tastes in soft furnishings.
If they get it wrong, they divorce. Or their houses are re-decorated in Artex. Or their property instantly loses a third of its value.
Oh no, that’s already happened…
The Home Show, Channel 4, 8pm, Wednesday