TV: Review

Inside Story

"I fell into this job and I'm still doing it", explained Nick Harrington, the eager young estate agent on whose day-to-day endeavours Inside Story (BBC1) had based its film about the despised profession. "You do get to see some lovely property," he went on, as if worried that he might have sounded underwhelmed by his occupation, "and you get paid for the privilege." An ideal job for nosy parkers, then, every day laying bare the domestic interiors of the city, like the cut-away vignettes in a children's encyclopedia.

Mr Harrington also confided that his youthful ambitions had been to do "something creative". All is not lost yet, because he would make a perfectly serviceable game-show host should he wish to change careers. He talked to potential clients with a perky little wobble of the head that might roughly be translated as "Don't be nervous, my love, it's just a game," and he had even mastered the more advanced skill of spray-on intimacy: "I do have a great fondness for Mr and Mrs Kinsella," he said about an elderly couple, "because they are super people".

"House Traders" presented itself as an examination of a profession - but it didn't really have much new to say about estate agents as such. Nor did the estate agents have much new to say, either - you were only 20 minutes in before you were told for the second time that "ultimately for most people this is the biggest financial investment of their life", a truth most home-owners will have absorbed some time ago. There was a nice moment when Nick explained that he had to park his BMW round the corner when valuing properties at the lower end of the market - people can easily get affronted if you tell them that their home is worth less than your car - but for the most part, no trade secrets were divulged. What this was, in effect, was a glorified version of Channel 4's cheap and cheerful video-diary series Moving People, a programme which some time ago realised the emotional pay-dirt that lay hidden in the mundane ordeal of moving house. By tracing at least two links of a chain, though, Inside Stories was able to show you the domino-topple of anxiety and rage that can be set off by a single changed mind: the Ashs, a couple who backed down the night before exchanging contracts, ended up discovering the true market value of their loving DIY at no cost to themselves but a bit of embarrassment. It cost the Woods much more - hundreds of pounds and enough emotional distress to provoke a doorstep confrontation which only ended with the arrival of the police.

Walden on Heroes (BBC2), a series of unscripted talks about great historical figures, follows a well-received series in which Brian Walden did the same thing with three Labour politicians. The format is very simple: the presenter sidles on screen in a book-lined room, fixes the camera with glittering eye and expatiates for half an hour on his chosen topic. His delivery is reminiscent of a jeep making its way down a dried-up river bed - crashing into great pot-holes of emphasis, rebounding with a lurch from a rhetorical question, tyres spinning in the air occasionally as he searches for the next phrase. It isn't entirely comfortable, to my mind, particularly as the enlargement of subject matter raises some doubts about the bona fides of your driver (is he really qualified for non-local routes like this?).

But there is exhilaration, too - most notably when Walden was making his case that Britain's conduct during the Second World War was a kind of magnificent folie de grandeur, the product of Churchill's almost insane belief that he was right about everything and his thrilling ability to persuade others that he actually was. Recalling, from personal experience, the effect of his wartime broadcasts, Walden described the way in which Churchill extorted a sense of moral rectitude from a people who were indifferent, at the very best, to the prospect of war. "He thought so well of us it seemed shameful to disappoint him," said Walden, in one of his finer cadences, and even in paraphrase Churchill's verbal charisma stirred the blood.

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