Last Night's TV: The House That Made Me/Channel 4
Kirstie and Phil's Perfect Christmas/Channel 4
Friday 10 December 2010
The most – in fact, post editing (on which more later), quite possibly the only – interesting thing about The House That Made Me was the story of Boy George's coming out. He was only 14 when he told his mum that girls weren't his thing; only 15 when he yelled "I love cock" at his dad.
This was a time when homosexuality was still taboo; more than that, it was barely legal. Decriminalised just a few years earlier, you had to be over 21 to actually consummate your affections. Indeed, bound up as George was in restrictive legislation, the latter confession had been prompted by an overnight spell in the clink. On going to meet his boyfriend at Heathrow airport, the then George O'Dowd was arrested by police for being underage.
George's parents, as it turned out, were tolerant sorts. His mother would reel off custom-made clothing: polka-dot dungarees, imitation Vivienne Westwood pantaloons. His father, despite an apparently explosive temper, demonstrated an ahead-of-his-time sense of live and-let live. "At first he didn't believe me," said George. "But he wasn't homophobic." The pair still fought – George recounted one incident that left his (shared) bedroom door impaled on his father's fist – though not, it seems, about his sexuality.
Which is not to say that things were rosy. The O'Dowds' first home, a miniature council house on a pastoral-looking estate, housed eight of them. Money and food were scarce but cigarettes weren't. The living room, observed George, tended to be "full of smoke and anxiety". In a weird device, the producers had redecorated it to resemble its 1971 incarnation. The paintings on the wall were the same, the television the same, even George's old record player (or the same model, at least) had been rehabilitated. He obviously found the whole thing unsettling; indeed, the version I received to review includes scenes of him, returned to his post-celebrity mansion, throwing a wobbly at the prospect of stopping by the house for a second visit. The mood passed, and he did return, but not, it's safe to say, very happily.
Unfortunately, the day after I glimpsed said hissy fit, the show's producers got in touch to say the scene had been cut, and could I, along with other reviewers, pretend not to have seen it. Rather a tall order, even more so since from that point on the programme has become increasingly tedious. Yes, the accounts of George's coming out were compelling. Yes, the flashbacks to the 1970s were engaging. But there comes a point at which Boy George's youth might as well be anyone's youth, and what you are watching is their home videos. Look at the colour of their bedroom walls! Isn't it awful? Look at the funny old underwear catalogues they used to perv over! Aren't they twee? Look where George lost his virginity! The House That Made Me is trying to build on the success of Who Do You Think You Are?, but it's missed a trick. WDYTYA? isn't good TV because the celebrities are interesting, it's good TV because the broader historical context is interesting. Boy George, on the other hand, is quite interesting. Certainly his evolution from lad on an estate in a working-class part of England to his sub-Bowie incarnation as a queer and proud pop star is. But too much of last night – and too much, no doubt, of the rest of the series – was spent dwelling on his Identikit 1970s existence. We've had this already, with Alan Davies' Teenage Revolution – only that was funny. Next up we've got Michael Barrymore and Sanjeev Bhaskar, both of whom promise something similar. Only Jamelia, with her 1990s upbringing, looks likely to offer something different. Different, but not, crucially, much more riveting.
"Have you ever been to a party and wondered which glass is yours?" asked Kirstie in this, the final episode of Kirstie and Phil's Perfect Christmas. Of course I have, happens all the time. Happily, Kirstie had the perfect solution: glass charms, made using just a few scraps of whatever that everyone keeps around their house. Like, er, charms. And wire. Shoot, must have run out of those.
Ah well, there's plenty else to try. You could make a giant ice sculpture, for instance, using a 100kg block of ice, a chainsaw and a chisel. Or some cheddar cheese. All it takes is a trip to the farm, a bit of milking, some cheddaring , and a temperature-monitored cave in which to let your cheese mature. Or how about a herb wreath? All you need is a sponge base, a truckload of herbs and some time. Yours for £30, apparently.
The reason they were going to all this trouble – other, of course, that for your individual viewing pleasure – was because they were hosting a New Year's party. "The Best Ever," enthused Kirstie, as she and Phil bubbled with advice on buying indoor sparklers and disco balls, oysters and curtains of fairy lights. Of course, it wasn't really a New Year's party, given that it wasn't really New Year. It was just a gathering of people who "helped with the making of the show". It didn't even look like the best ever gathering of people who helped with the making of the show. But at least they have good cheese. And, ahem, ice sculptures. So cheers to that.
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