If you’re part of the cult of Dermot Bannon, you’ll enjoy this

TV review: Room To Improve – Constructive Criticism avoids being a backslapping bacchanalia

The obvious concern with Room To Improve: Constructive Criticism (RTÉ One, 9.30pm) is that it will be a no-holds-barred bacchanalia of backslapping. With the latest season of Dermot Bannon's home improvement blockbuster drawing to a close, the big idea is to have Ireland's starriest architect reflect on stand-out episodes from the show's recent history.

Bannon is rarely smug, as people who have stumbled their way into unlikely fame sometimes are. And yet the worry is that he might finally make an exception. Will the next 60 minutes be a monument (with large windows and an open-plan living room) to his ego?

The answer, mercifully, is no. He is joined by a trio of mega fans: Majella O'Donnell, wife of Daniel and reality TV star in her own right, weather presenter Nuala Carey and Irish Times journalist Patrick Freyne. They're all obviously pro-Room To Improve. Yet no extravagant claims are made for RTÉ's most enduring Sunday night smash.

Constructive Criticism should be praised, in particular, for declining to engage with the annoying idea that there is something “uniquely Irish” about prurient property telly (hello Location, Location, Location, Selling Sunset etc etc). It could have been the small screen equivalent of a “did you leave the immersion on?” joke or a twitter thread about (pauses to slap forehead) “notions”. Thankfully it chooses a more dignified route.

READ MORE

That said, the special is also a bit of a missed opportunity. There is no serious scrutiny of Bannon’s architectural philosophy. Is he really, as Twitter appears to believe, obsessed with outsized kitchen windows? And what of the complaint that Room To Improve tries to foist on householders architecture that prioritises design over practicality?

Constructive Criticism isn't that show. It is is instead a celebration of a selection of Room To Improve's greatest hits. Half laughing, half doubling over in existential horror, O'Donnell ratchets up the comedy factor by recalling the time she and Daniel had Bannon apply his magic touch to their house in Donegal.

This yielded the unforgettable scene where Daniel, informed the budget is significantly higher than originally envisaged, fixes Bannon with a laser-guided death stare. “It is the first time I found Daniel slightly terrifying,” says Bannon, who seems unable to ever again think of Daniel O’Donnell as not terrifying.

With Bannon and guests installed in exactly the sort of on-trend minimalist living area of which the architect is such an champion, they delve further into the archives. We flash back to 2018 and David and Susie Horan chasing their dream of building a spa in their house in Fermoy, Co Cork. Then it's off to Borrisoleigh in Tipperary in 2019, where Joe Kenny and fiance Mary Hayes call on Bannon to upgrade Joe's bachelor pad in the sticks.

“You miss people,” says a wistful Bannon. “They are people I spend a year with.”

He appears to have formed a particular attachment to Joe and Mary – to the point of attending their nuptials and giving a speech from the top table. “You would never see this, where they go to the person’s wedding. This is what makes it Irish. You will not see that anywhere else,” says Carey.

Room To Improve: Constructive Criticism is ultimately less a proper extension to the series than a modest annexe. Fans will have enjoyed revisiting these “classic” episodes in the company of Bannon and admirers. Those stumped by the cult of Room To Improve will, meanwhile, depart as baffled as when they arrived.