Last Night's TV: Help! My House Is Falling Down / Channel 4 <br/>Domesday / BBC2 - Reviews - TV & Radio - The Independent

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.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Strictly Come Dancing 2014 contestants and their professional dance partners open the twelfth run of the celebrity ballroom contest

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin teaches Clara to shoot an arrow
doctor who
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.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week