BBC2's hit makeover programmes such as Home Front are to receive their own makeover by the channel controller Jane Root.
She wants to bring "greater depth" to the lifestyle and hobby programmes that have recently dominated much prime-time television. The new approach will be more "documentary-based", she said, contrasting with "leisure programmes on the mainstream channels which are more star-led than expertise-led. Carol Smillie on BBC1's Changing Rooms, for instance, is a television professional, not a decorating specialist ... We're moving away from half-hour magazine programmes and probing deeper into people's relationships with their houses."
The change seems to mean even more airtime for the celebrity hosts of such programmes as the dandyish Home Front presenter Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, who will present shows with a greater narrative element than the magazine-format programmes of the past.
Home Front in the Garden, fronted by the "green-fingered hunk" Diarmuid Gavin, is one example of the new genre and is already well-established. Home Front in the Kitchen is, said BBC insiders, expected to follow soon. A colleague of Ms Root said: "Two Fat Ladies led the way by providing a strong narrative element to a show about cooking. It was a significant move away from the 'take two pounds of flour and a cup of sugar' approach."
The Naked Chef programmes with Jamie Oliver are another example of the genre, having story lines that feature Mr Oliver's life in London and his shopping expeditions, as well as conventional cooking demonstrations.
Miss Root has just commissioned a number of gardening programmes. She said: "We're steering away from full-blown makeover towards shows which include other areas of expertise such as landscaping". Ms Root is seen by colleagues to be trying to move away from "quick-fix" programmes, such as Changing Rooms on BBC1, towards more "programming for grown-ups". Her new approach, said a BBC2 executive, could even be extended to the Top Gear car programme.
Recently Ms Root said BBC2 was "not a wham-bang, niche youth channel". Her comments, and desire to give more depth and authority to lifestyle programmes, are seen in the television industry as an attempt to secure a stronger brand identity for BBC2.
"There is a feeling that we can put clear distance between ourselves and Channel 4, which is increasingly becoming a youth entertainment channel," said a BBC2 insider. "There is a lot of stuff on Channel 4 which is there for a 'quick fix'. We will, of course, still have treats in the schedules, but quick fixes will not be our heartland programming."
The comment is a reference to Channel 4's emphasis on comedy programmes such as Da Ali G Show and The 11 O'Clock Show, which appeal to the younger audiences that advertisers favour.
Channel 4 executives, unsurprisingly, argue that Miss Root is simply following the commercial channel's lead. "BBC2 was doing wall-to-wall leisure programming which was accomplished but bland," said one. "We were the first to give greater depth to the aspirational lifestyle genre when we commissioned Grand Designs, about people with real ambition who wanted to build houses - and building your own home is inherently more interesting than a makeover of a bathroom."
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