Last Night's TV: Help! My House Is Falling Down / Channel 4
Domesday / BBC2

Just another brick in the wall

Why, when all those dastardly bank bosses were made to sit in front of a select committee and confess their contribution to the economic crash, did the presenters responsible for the property TV show boom escape censure? How is it, after encouraging us all to splurge our easy credit on houses we could ill afford, that they've managed to segue straight into home improvement advice, now that none of us can meet the expense of moving again? First came
Kirstie's Homemade Home, in which the relentlessly cheerful Kirstie Allsopp suggested homeowners spruce up their surroundings using techniques learnt from Blue Peter. Now we have Sarah Beeny with the B&Q-sponsored
Help! My House Is Falling Down, for which Channel 4 manifestly failed to find anything other than a working title.

"Over the next few weeks," Beeny explained, accompanied by a sinister soundtrack that wouldn't have been out of place in a Tim Burton movie, "I'll be rescuing families whose lives and houses are literally collapsing around them." Is it possible, I wondered, that the people who've applied to appear on this show are the same ones who were too busy watching Property Ladder and dreaming of their second property to think about maintaining their first? Becky, the first of Beeny's onscreen clients, certainly struck me as the type.



Becky had persuaded her husband, Nick, against his better judgement, that they should buy a delightful 17th-century bakehouse somewhere north of their budget. Unfortunately, neither had bothered to check beforehand whether, say, the bakehouse's timbers might be riddled with woodworm; the bricks might be damaged by rain and the local species of masonry-munching bees; or the open well in the basement might, just might, be prone to causing a spot of damp.



While the perennially pregnant Beeny chided Nick for being a tasteless moron, and her specialist consultants doled out advice on re-pointing the walls and re-flooring the dining room, Becky blithely chuckled away – then demanded the installation of a luxurious master bedroom in the attic, using the remains of the couple's savings. Not only did this loft conversion come with a costly-looking chandelier, but Becky also allowed the children to paint the dining room purple without telling their father. Would anyone ever paint anything purple if they weren't being filmed for a home improvement show?



Beeny's next TV project, Beeny's Folly, will involve her putting her own money on the line when she buys a decaying mansion and tries to turn it into a posh, profitable wedding venue. I'm not exactly hoping she'll fail, just that she'll encounter a few major financial and structural difficulties along the way.



Full disclosure: as I am a debtor without much hope of buying a first home, let alone a second, my objectivity is compromised. Friendly property experts like Sarah Beeny make me clench things extra hard – my jaw, my buttocks, my remote control. As helpful as all her home improvement tips undoubtedly are, there's a part of me that wishes somebody would invite her and Kirstie Allsopp to Westminster, plonk them in front of some angry MPs, and force them to say sorry.



Property ownership was an even more fraught business in the 11th century than it is in the 21st. Being the self-pitying sort, it heartened me to learn that a Saxon "villeyn" had things a lot worse than I do. These were men who owned the land they worked and the homes they built on it – until 1066, that is, when the Normans arrived and snatched it all. The Norman Conquest, insisted Dr Stephen Baxter of King's College, London, was "the greatest political and social upheaval in England's history". Once the landgrab was complete, some two decades later, William the Conqueror had every patch of property in England and its ownership recorded in the magnificent Domesday Book, which Baxter has spent one decade studying.



Why, he asked in his documentary Domesday, did William commission the survey in the first place – especially in 1085, when his knights were preoccupied with the possibility of a Viking invasion? Many historians argue that it was an aid to taxation, or a vainly comprehensive register of the King's power. But Baxter believes the book was propaganda, designed to airbrush the short reign of Harold Godwinson from history, and a way of giving Norman nobles the security of ownership of their new lands.



Whatever the truth, there's no doubt this was a fascinating period of history, but it's pricey to bring to life on screen. Unfortunately, the endless footage of random green fields, barely intelligible 11th-century calligraphy and Baxter wandering around medieval ruins speaking intensely to camera was all a little bit too Open University. The production couldn't even afford the few modest historical re-enactment sequences that graced its sister show, Robert Bartlett's The Normans. The BBC has just proved that history can be done brilliantly on radio (I speak, of course, of A History of the World in 100 Objects). That might be a better place for Baxter's lecture.

Arts and Entertainment

Filming to begin on two new series due to be aired on Dave from next year

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington plays MI5 agent Will Holloway in Spooks: The Greater Good

'You can't count on anyone making it out alive'film
Arts and Entertainment
War veteran and father of Peter and Laust Thoger Jensen played by Lars Mikkelson

TVBBC hopes latest Danish import will spell success

Arts and Entertainment
Carey Mulligan in Far From The Madding Crowd
FilmCarey Mulligan’s Bathsheba would fit in better in The Hunger Games
Arts and Entertainment
Pandas-on-heat: Mary Ramsden's contribution is intended to evoke the compound the beasts smear around their habitat
Iart'm Here But You've Gone exhibition has invited artists to produce perfumes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk