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
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
artSistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady are returning for The Apprentice series 10

TV
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder star in 'Girl, Interrupted'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas Pynchon in 1955, left, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of his novel, Inherent Vice

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Nicole Scherzinger will join the cast of Cats

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
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.

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

    Time to stop running

    At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence