(To be read in conjunction with Part I)
Things we must hear in property programmes.
Our vocabulary about property must be dwindling. We’re stuck with a few repetitive and meaningless phrases which are supposed to conjure some sort of sense of the house. They go like this.
- Character property. The ‘muggle-guests’ (non-professionals lacking all the magic and wizardry of the trained) all have this on their list (more about this nebulous list later). To me, that must mean more than 70 years old. Stone built, inhabited by an old fisherman or his ghost. Cobwebs, wood, small windows… But this phrase is thrown about by every house hunter. And what do they do? Choose the ugliest, most characterless house. All uniform red brick and ghastly double glazed windows. I’ve concluded that the guests are talking about themselves. They want bags of character.
- Ticks all the boxes. Is there one universal form with a list of requirements that anyone, anywhere can use? I suppose in Europe it would have to include, door, windows, at least one room. So what the hell does ‘ticks all the boxes mean’? I can’t see your list. Your list probably has things like, ‘a house we can afford which looks like it costs three times as much’ or ’a garden that reminds me of Rosings Park’ or ‘this house will make me look like the character I want to be: established, secure, stylish, loved.’ Yes I think that’s it.
- The wow factor. What? Is this what we’re reduced to? The word, ‘wow’ to replace any fluent English conversation. With our rich vocabulary and infinite choice of adjectives, the muggle-guests choose ‘wow’. Hyperbole used ridiculously. Ok so it has some outside lighting. Or a few fruit trees. Or a range-style cooker. That’s normally enough. Wow!
- Oh come on now. You?! Lifestyle?! They want it to sound like they have hot tub parties with glamourous toned men and women. Or cook up exotic menus for their neighbours every week. Or go hunting or shooting.
What they mean is they go to their humdrum jobs every day in their Sharan. Eat a Galaxy bar and (to compensate) a yoghurt-jam combination for lunch at their desk. Have highlights. Buy microwave lasagne for dinner. Get drunk with their friends at the pub on a Saturday. Then maybe have sex (which will be blurred in future memory). Do some DIY. Have the notion that their memoirs might be interesting to others to read. Start a book. Buy the latest mobile phone. Have the notion that moving house will make them interesting/give them a reason to continue living/be the highlight of their memoirs… Lifestyle.
I won’t go on.
I’ll still watch housey programmes. I like looking at the properties. Unfortunately I have to tolerate the stars of the show (the homes) being ruined by real people.
Masterchef I can still appreciate. There’s very little talking and the ordinary people actually know how to do something: cook.
And don’t get me wrong some presenters are intolerable too. But they’re annoying because they’re probably trying to make a name for themselves.
So I suggest we segregate professionals from real folk please. Let real folk do the watching and leave presenting to the professionals? Thank you.
A few years ago, I was saying the opposite. “More real people on TV please!” Dozens of house-hunting programmes later with ordinary people competing with sewing/cooking/singing and I’ve changed my mind…
I now see the appeal of people trained to perform.
As one with a compulsive house-hunting programme obsession, I rarely miss a showing. But the Escape to the Country one must top the lot.
Shiny, smooth, friendly, tolerant people faced with deadpan voices, estranged couples, chubby, badly dressed real people who’ve made no effort to smarten up for TV… it’s awful.
They shuffle about trying to sound like they know what they’re talking about and just ape the presenters with their catchphrases and slick comments. (See Part II.)
I’ve seen it all. I worked many years at an estate agent showing these people around houses and flats. They all seemed to think they had to contribute something knowledgeable to the viewing.
“Is the attic boarded?” and “Is this a partition wall?” and “I don’t think we’d fit our king-sized bed in here.”
No dearie. You wouldn’t. This cottage was meant for poor people. The builders didn’t envisage young’uns like you with your home-offices and LinkedIn profiles and annual amassing crap living in a humble worker’s cottage like this in 150 years. They had a fire and some tools maybe.
But these people are now on TV. Commenting on the wallpaper and floor tiles of someone else’s house. Making a mess with cake mixture or zips and Velcro. Get off! Go and do all this in the privacy of your own homes.
I want experts on my TV. Reasonably well-dressed, people who’ve bothered to brush their hair and wear clothes that fit. Telling me things they know and I don’t.
It’s a mistake I hope programme producers realise that the ‘docu-drama’ approach is failing. Real people doing real things, God! I wouldn’t sit in my neighbour’s house for an hour watching them just… live.
Glamour. People who’ve been transformed by the make-up artist. People who can speak… Can we just leave it to the professionals? Leave the rest of us at home on this side of the camera. That’s where we belong.
The experiment’s over. The findings are: it didn’t work.