Last Night's Viewing: Restoration Home, BBC2
"It's a bit like a little old lady waiting for a facelift," said Polly Grieff about the Norfolk manor house she is renovating in the village of Saham Toney. The metaphor suggested that all that was required was a nip and tuck here and there, a bit of dermabrasion, perhaps, to lift off the unsightly pebble-dashing and some tidying up around the verges.
But the truth was that the old lady also needed a double-hip replacement, a heart-lung transplant and several different courses of chemo-therapy. Not a few of Polly's friends felt that the kindest thing to do would be to let the old lady slip away gently. But Polly herself, having viewed around 200 other properties and found them wanting in some way, was determined to go ahead with the operations. "This house just called to me," she explained to Caroline Quentin in Restoration Home. "Run away and don't look back" I would have thought. But Polly heard something different.
To any sane observer the house was a terrifying money-pit. What's more it was Grade II listed and 200 miles away from where Polly was living. Which made it perfect for Restoration Home, a series that sits on a deep and solid foundation of envious schadenfreude. A programme in which everything went swimmingly and all the surprise discoveries were good ones would be a bit of a bust, because we want some kind of reassurance that our own timidity when it comes to bricks and mortar is actually a prudent course of action. So when Polly's builders pry off the cement rendering from her ancient house to reveal that her walls are made of mud and talcum powder, we feel a pleasing stab of vindication. All they have to do is drop the line, "back at the site the contractors have uncovered a major problem" into the voiceover every 10 minutes and we'll be happy.
There is a limit of course. Because the other pleasure of Restoration Home is that of restored order, the reassurance that, after a necessary period of tribulation, the debris will be cleared. We may be mean, but we're not psychopaths. And we're also gluttons for resolution. So the moment when Polly revealed that her beloved house had been trashed by vandals was a bad one. Ironically, the historical research that provides cream in between the mille-feuille of structural catastrophe revealed that the manor house was the beneficiary of a bit of pillage itself, boasting a medieval stained glass window that had been "borrowed" from a local church at some point and a Tudor door frame that had been installed in the 18th or 19th century by a previous owner looking to add a bit of patina. In the end, we didn't get the magic wand moment – Polly's cash having temporarily run out – but the parable of fortitude still survived. "How do you remain so upbeat when everything around you is collapsing?" Caroline Quentin asked at the end. Acrow props, cement underpinning and a dogged refusal to look facts in the face, I'm guessing.
Vexed is a strange affair, a comedy-drama about an odd-couple pair of police detectives that doesn't seem to have entirely resolved how comic or dramatic it wants to be. The essential dynamic has a self-regarding Eighties male throwback teamed up with an ambitious young female officer, a contrast heightened yesterday because the case involved a university gender studies course. Unfortunately, there's something genuinely ugly about Jack's dinosaur misogyny and the drama itself seems no less old fashioned in its attitude to women. At one moment, Jack's partner, Georgina, is excoriating him for his chauvinism, at the next she's simpering gratefully because he's praised her breasts. A bitter man-hating lesbian straight out of stock cupboard didn't help much either, or the decidedly foxed satire on academic life. It doesn't make sense and because of that it doesn't make you laugh.
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