Wednesday 12 May 2010


It took me quite awhile to get used to the TV programming in England – never has one felt more American than when they make this switch. It’s a combination of the production value of American shows, the money spent (millions), the graphics, not to mention the content: if there is not a dead body; a hospital; or some reality format, then America wants little to do with it. And of course you get used to this, as well as seeing hosts, reporters and actors that are botoxed within inches of their lives.

Over here, while they import a heck of a lot of American fare, they still have programs that are quintessentially English – at least in my mind. There are the gardening shows, the cooking shows (oh how they love their cooking shows), the nature shows (which are unparalleled), and of course the WWII “we came so close to being German” documentaries which seem to appear on a weekly basis.

My personal favorites are the property shows. And there is an army of them – over here they take their property very seriously. There are shows about houses at auction; houses that are dumps; houses that are amazing; houses that are on the market; people wanting houses, selling houses, renovating houses, you name it, they have it. Each show of course has its own flavor with it’s own host that provides endless amusement – keep in mind, I’m not sure that was the intent, but damn is it entertaining.

On one show, there is a host that is chronically pregnant, I mean constant, and she never seems to want to do her hair or put on any make-up. (You get down with your natural self!) Her roots alone are so distracting that it’s sometime hard to focus on the property advice she is giving. And give it, does she ever. She’s one of those ‘I do not mince my words’ English women that has no compunction about telling wannabe property developers they are complete idiots and are heading towards financial ruin. And of course, like Simon Cowell, she is usually right on the money.

Then there is the uber supercilious, ‘I’m so cultured it hurts’ host of a very posh architectural design show (it's a great show, don't get me wrong). In short, he documents the builds of the incredible houses of the UK/Europe – usually by the uber rich or those with some mysterious access to money – I can never quite work out what some people do on that show to obtain their wealth. He does it of course with one eyebrow raised, a wickedly posh accent and a vernacular of about 2000 adjectives he’s not afraid to use. And of course, he’s tri-lingual and when in Rome he’s the first to demonstrate his linguistic skills. He usually does this to the poor contractor who has been slogging away for four months in the pissing rain and could give a toss that the ceiling has a 'splendiferous rococo sensibility.'

My favorite – purely for its entertainment value, is a show called “60 Minute Make-Over.” What takes place is this…some couple unhappy with their home volunteers it for a makeover by a ‘designer’ (I use that term loosely). The best part, the renovation is to be done in an hour. An hour! I don’t know about you, but I don’t want anyone painting, laying tile, or ripping out my kitchen in a slipshod manner with a 60-minute clock ticking over their heads. There is usually a high energy host that runs around like a chicken with her head cut off screaming how much time they have left (but never helping), as the designer scurries around screaming at the workmen to move faster. The best part is what they do to the homes in question. In short: it usually looks like Disneyland meets Ikea on acid – especially when the designer starts playing artiste or crafts designer in the backyard and makes some sort of mock art, insisting on hanging it on the living room wall. But then again, the owners get all this done for free. So I suppose a piece of framed ribbon ‘art’ hanging in the living room is not so bad. After the renovation is complete, they walk the couple through the house for their reaction. Their reactions are usually priceless – although the English are far too polite to show their true feelings, so you hear a lot of ‘oh it’s just gorgeous.' I never thought of using bright orange on the walls in the living room' (nor did I!). One little boy walked into his new bathroom, looked around and screamed, I HATE IT, PUT IT BACK. Genius....I couldn't agree with him more.
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