Jane Robins

I’m addicted to property programmes

The voyeuristic joy of daytime telly

  • From Spectator Life
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Holed up with Covid recently, I decided to binge on some undemanding TV and selected property programmes, knowing that the genre satisfied some basic human instincts – nosiness about other people’s lives, other people’s taste, other people’s money and other people’s dreams. I was happy with my choice – confident that property programmes were the chicken soup of television, gently nourishing me back into health.

There really is something for every aspect of the human psyche in them – curiosity, aspiration, humour, voyeurism, escapism

Apparently, there’s a whole world of people who appreciate these shows. Jonnie Irwin, the presenter of A Place in the Sun and Escape to the Country died last week, aged 50, and there quickly followed an outpouring of love for him and his work in the comments sections of the national newspapers – viewers had found him ‘engaging’, ‘friendly’ and a bringer of joy.

I wasn’t surprised by the response, but what did astonish was just how many programmes there are to choose from and to the extent that the genre has exploded since Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and his over-active glue-gun pranced onto our screens nearly 30 years ago. Turns out, Changing Rooms was a kind of property-programme Big Bang; there are now more shows on our screens than you can count.

Channel 4 has more than 20 (top offerings include Location, Location, Location, Grand Designs, A Place in the Sun and Ugly House to Lovely House). Netflix has nearly as many (Selling Sunset, Marriage or Mortgage, Million Dollar Beach House) and the BBC now has a dozen or so (Homes under the Hammer, Escape to the Country, Restoration Rescue). So many property programmes, in fact, that there is now a myriad of thriving sub-genres serving our various psychological desires.

King-of-the-shows is the ‘extraordinary in the everyday’ sort that follows allegedly ordinary folk searching for a family home.

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