A nightmare vision from Smillie's people

Who wants a purple and lime green property? Home-improvement television programmes leave a lot to be desired, says Felicity Cannell

AS A NATION, we spend our leisure time trawling the aisles of DIY stores, gazing through estate agents' windows or sitting in front of the television. So it is hardly surprising that there are more and more property programmes on the box.

Most of them concentrate on home improvement and interior design - Changing Rooms, Real Rooms, Change That - leaving more serious issues to the Money Programme or "fly-on-the-wall" documentaries.

The current trend seems to be for an unfortunate game show format. Changing Rooms - where neighbours swap houses for two days and makeover one room in each house - is useful for ideas and responsible for substantial sales of MDF(medium density fibreboard), but that's not why it is watched. It is watched for two reasons: the first is Carol Smillie; the second is the hope that embarrassment, horror and total breakdown will feature somewhere.

The programme starts with the inevitable comments: "any colour as long as it isn't purple", or "the very worst that could happen is they take out my cocktail bar" ... and guess what happens?

Of course it's not really the neighbours who are making the decisions. Well, they make decisions which are then totally ignored by the interior designers, some of whom need a bit of interior designing themselves. In the brain. Lawrence, a Jason King for the Nineties with velvet frock coat and floppy cuffs, seemed to be on the wrong show. Velcro may be a useful product on the Clothes Show, but surely not for fasteners on the kitchen cupboards.

Some of the changes are imaginative - like creating a fake flagstone floor with a latex compound. Others are downright silly - one participant asks for "a lot of original features": dado, picture rail, coving, cherubs. Original? In a 1980s semi?

Lime green and purple also feature a lot - preferably mixed up in one big technicolour yawn. No safe beige or cream here, but whatever aberrations have been inflicted, there are always tears of joy and hugs and kisses all round at the end.

The lovely Lawrence can now be seen on Change That, a morning DIY roadshow which claims to give a new twist to TV makeovers as furniture, fabrics and fittings get a dramatic change of image. Lawrence, still looking as if he's on the wrong show, "dramatically" turns an old black cast-iron mangle into an old blue cast-iron mangle.

"I really like blue. It was the happening colour at Chelsea for outdoor accessories." The Flower Show or the Football Club? This show has a studio audience, giving new meaning to the phrase "as exciting as watching paint dry".

As well as Lawrence, almost the entire cast of Changing Rooms pops up at some time, except for the one person who keeps it at prime time - Carol Smillie.

Change That has taken the place of Real Rooms, now being repeated on BBC2 at 4pm. Real Rooms "tackles the nation's decorating problems". Does day-time television differ at all from prime-time TV, or is it all part of the "dumbing down" process?

Real Rooms has more to offer than Changing Rooms (apart, of course, from Carol Smillie). The designers tend more towards normality and, unlike Changing Rooms victims, the participants are going to get what they want, while the viewers are given practical DIY tips. And a room renovation is far more interesting than a chair or table (or even a mangle) renovation.

The result still produces the hugs, kisses and tears, but perhaps that's the emotion inspired by having survived three days with an entire television crew in the house.

Prime evening spot is held by Homefront. The programme showed innovation with its junior decorator of the year competition, resulting in some spectacular extravaganzas such as a tropical island, a James Bond bachelor pad and a baroque theme. These kids could teach Lawrence a thing or two.

As well as fluffy, frothy interiors ideas - how many garishly painted storage baskets can you fit into one wardrobe? - the programme covers more serious issues such as the danger of lead paint when redecorating old houses and what to do about it. Plus the very serious issue of how to have a picnic when it's raining - an indoor picnic trolley, complete with growing grass.

One of the weakest attempts to cash in on the home front/ game show combination is the dreadful Househunters. Three couples are shown, on video, the interior and exterior of a house. The idea is to guess the price. This isn't a test for budding estate agents, it's multiple choice. Or maybe that is pretty similar to estate agency, after all. Pick a figure and add 10 grand.

The format for this show may have come from Channel 5's Hot Property which is closest to an all-round property show, but not close enough. Hot Property sells your house over the television. A purchaser is shown a property suitable to his or her needs and "the experts" then go in and pull it apart. Or so they say. In fact, they don't. Otherwise no one would offer up their houses.

In Hot Property there is rather too much of the vendors' amateur attempts to sell their homes to us. The professional estate agents fail even more dismally. The programme, which leaves you feeling that you are doing a virtual reality tour from the agent's office, would benefit from a more artistic approach. Viewers don't want to buy the place. They just want interesting and entertaining viewing.

There is massive potential and enough viewing time to cover any property issue successfully - after all, almost all viewers over the age of 18 have an interest whether they are landlords or tenants, buyers or sellers, self builders or budding property developers - but we are still waiting to see that vision fulfilled.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Call Centre Debt Collector - Multiple Roles

£21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join ...

Guru Careers: Financial Director / FD / Senior Finance Manager

Up to 70k DOE: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Financial Director ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior / Apprentice Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£11000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This financial company offer ma...

Day In a Page

Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen