You know what Angela Scanlon’s like. She’s sizing up the gullible English for a real-estate takeover
Patrick Freyne: Ireland was wise to send the host to infiltrate their property industry. I trust her
Your Home Made Perfect: Angela Scanlon’s job in the short term is to be a likable Flava Flav-like hypewoman for the concept of architecture
It was wise of us, as a nation, to send Angela Scanlon over to infiltrate the British property industry. We’ve made a hames of it here. There isn’t a room unimproved on this island thanks to my muse, He Who Shall Not Be Named, and now we are sun-blinded in elevated greenhouses and bruised by freestanding kitchen islands. It’s good that we have Scanlon over there scoping out the conversion possibilities.
Ostensibly she is hosting the third season of a show called Your Home Made Perfect (Monday, BBC Two), but we know what she’s really at. She’s sizing up those gullible Angles for a real-estate takeover with her superior knowledge of road frontage, a copy of Bungalow Bliss in her back pocket, some anecdotes about the Land League and a willingness to spit on her hand whenever a deal is about to go down. You know what Scanlon is like.
Okay, she doesn’t actually do any of this on air, but I’m pretty sure she’ll introduce these things gradually as the series progresses. I trust her. In the short term, her job is to be a likable Flava Flav-like hypewoman for the concept of architecture.
You mean to create for me a dwelling that puts me beyond the laws of man and nature, Angela Scanlon? A settlement in which I could stockpile counterfeit denims and no court in the land could touch me? Well, obviously I want that
“Do you crave a home that lets you live exactly how you want?” she asks at the outset, and it’s a pretty lofty premise. Exactly as I want? You mean to create for me a dwelling that puts me beyond the laws of man and nature, Angela Scanlon? A settlement in which I could stockpile counterfeit denims and no court in the land could touch me? Some real estate in which I could keep and occasionally eat rare and exotic animals? An abode in which, if necessary, I could kill? Well, obviously I want that.
The gimmick in Your Home Made Perfect is that two architects compete to service the property-expanding desires of an ordinary family and demonstrate their talents by having the family don virtual-reality goggles to view realistic 3D mock-ups of their existing house. Well, realistic but with fewer stains. I find that reality has lots of stains on it. If I was in charge of television, my main note would be “more stains”.
Wearing the 3D headsets, the producers reckon, is better than having them use their imaginations like suckers. And it’s pretty nifty technology. Don’t let the Irish Government know about it or they’ll buy us one each instead of building social housing. The participants in the show spend a lot of time gasping in delight as the 3D visions on display warp and change.
Then the editors somehow place them inside the 3D design like in that classic children’s programme Knightmare. At this point they seem to be able to see it all without the goggles. So either the technology has advanced over the course of the episode or it triggers hallucinations. And now I really want those goggles.
In the early part of the show we get to join in as the production staff diss the three-bed semi we are visiting this week. Telly viewers live for judging other people’s choices, so this is our favourite bit. “Dingy Dining Room” comes up on the screen when we see the dining room. “Laughable Loo” comes up when we see the toilet. I expect “Hapless Fools” to float onscreen when we meet the family themselves, but the producers resist this, possibly because the families are always delightful.
Shelley and Steve are no exception. Unfortunately, they have an awful low-roofed extension for a kitchen, their youngest child lives in a tiny room the size of an even tinier room, and their sitting room is plunged into darkness.
This is where Angela Scanlon and architects come in. The competing architects, Laura Jane Clark and Julian McIntosh, are, like all of their kind, obsessed with light and opening up space. Ugh. I hate open-plan architecture. It’s unnatural. Not so long ago we all lived in caves and wombs. So when I was growing up people were really into cramming more rooms into small houses, then maybe adding some decorative pillars to the front and putting toilets everywhere. This still feels like the right way to go about things to me.
Because do you know what well-lit place is the most open-plan of all? Outside. Yes, secretly all the open-plan people want to live outside. It’s only a matter of time before some television architect demolishes a house entirely, starts gibbering about how the sky is a roof that Jesus made and how walls are the devil’s trousers and then we’ll all pick up our sledgehammers, smash our houses and go live outside. Like common ducks.
The viewers probably don’t even know Angela’s Irish, because she hasn’t, as yet, had a complete conniption about a supporting wall
That doesn’t happen on this show. Julian and Laura’s disturbingly geometry-defying open-plan visions are bounded by walls and roofs. They create Escheresque vistas in 3D while the reliably entertaining Scanlon is warm and funny nearby, throwing in asides like, “Now you’re talking!” and occasionally wearing a neckerchief like a 19th-century farmhand or a Dexy’s Midnight Runner.
What’s missing from Your Home Made Perfect is that sense you get with the homegrown Room to Improve (and note the relatively humble title) that everyone involved in the project might have a complete emotional collapse before the hour is over. This is partly because in this show, after the design phase, the finished property is presented more or less as a fait accompli without the bit where the builder and architect wrestle in fibreglass and the homeowner craves the sweet release of bankruptcy.
But it’s also probably because of the deep psychosocial connection Irish people have with their properties. We are, after all, the only country in which builders and architects are officially designated as health professionals, and extensions are prescribed rather than designed.
There’s a quote, erroneously attributed to Freud, about how the Irish psyche is impervious to psychoanalysis. In fact, the real quote is “the Irish psyche is incredibly pervious to architecture”. Which makes it all the more impressive that Angela Scanlon holds it together on Your Home Made Perfect. They probably don’t even know she’s Irish, because she hasn’t, as yet, had a complete conniption about a supporting wall.