The Big DIY Challenge: A ropey construction that just about hangs together

TV review: RTÉ is actually pretty good at this sort of low-stakes disposable entertainment

PJ Gallagher is the human equivalent of a hair-dryer set to max, with no “off” switch

There are few obvious upsides to a global health emergency that has prompted a never-ending lockdown and trapped us inside with our nearest and dearest for months on end. But here’s one: marooned at home, aspiring DIYers have taken the opportunity to retrieve their power-tools and get busy.

These amateur make-and-doers are celebrated in frenetic style in The Big DIY Challenge (RTÉ One, 8.30pm). It isn’t the slickest television ever, and presenter PJ Gallagher is the human equivalent of a hair-dryer set to maximum and about to pop a sprocket. Or a Duracell Bunny who fancies trying his hand at open-mic. Either way, on camera he clearly doesn’t have an “off” switch.

But goodness it all zips by. It also benefits from the fact Irish people, not being naturally attention-seeking, make for generally agreeable reality-TV subjects.

They’re not here for fame or fortune (though there is a €10,000 prize). Instead participants are proud of their work and up for a giggle. There’s certainly lots of laughter from Lucy Ross from Rhode, Co Offaly, who has designed split-level “cat hotel” inspired by – yes this is really happening – a Wild West sheriff’s office and prison.


She commits fully to the project, too. “I fought the paw and the paw won,” reads a tiny sign affixed to the structure. And she pays Gallagher the compliment of immortalising him in a miniature “wanted” poster. The felines, it is true, seem fecklessly indifferent. But the adjudicators are impressed by her ability to “set out a clear plan and deliver it”, and she is selected for the final.

The other entrant going forward is Clonmel fashion designer turned caravan enthusiast Gráinne Wilson, whose hipster-friendly travel pod channels the spirit of early-afternoon Electric Picnic. At a time when we cannot go to Body and Soul, why not have Body and Soul come to us?

Judges Jennifer Byrne, and Jimmy Englezos keep their distance, for obvious reasons. They do pop up occasionally with tips, though these sometimes sound like reader recommendations from Viz. “Handy tip if the nozzle is blocked,” begins one such bromide. “Remove the nozzle and put a nail in the tip to push the gunk out”. Thanks but I’m happy for the gunk to stay exactly where it is.

The Big DIY Challenge is the sort of low-stakes disposable entertainment at which RTÉ is actually pretty good. The production values are negligible, the host could yap for Ireland, everyone is here for the chuckles. And yet somehow the creaky edifice hangs together.

A scrappy job held together with duct tape – but it works.