Reflection of the Television: The Best House is Where the Heart is….

It’s broadly accepted that daytime television is trash. As a student, I recall mornings spent in front of ‘Supermarket Sweep’ and ‘This Morning with Richard and Judy’, shivering in my cold, damp student digs and being vaguely aware of my brain and muscle tissue slowly withering. So to clog cyberspace with an article bemoaning the depressing vacuity of daytime television would be about as vital as announcing excitedly that the earth is round.

Nevertheless, these things gnaw away at a person’s insides. At least back then daytime television made an attempt to be entertaining, and to be original (albeit often within the comparatively limited scope of the quiz or game show format), and the producers did make an effort to find suitably flamboyant hosts, however tango-tanned and inane. But as is the postmodern malaise, the acceptance that we have reached the end of originality – and what’s more, originality is too expensive to develop when quick profits for minimal outlay are the order of the day – has permeated every aspect of our culture.

And so it is that having moved on from game and quiz shows to so-called ‘reality’-based shows, daytime television has descended further still into an endless slurry of its own recycled making.

Not so long ago I was complaining about the low-grade ‘antiques’ show ‘Secret Dealers’ where there was nothing remotely secret about any of it while the so-called ‘experts’ trawled round the home of a member of the public and made offers on their belongings so they could then sell them on for their won profit. Being an amalgamation of various other programs based around people flogging off all of their worldly possessions for some cold hard cash they could use to ‘treat the grandkids’ or ‘go on a cruise, a holiday of a lifetime’ or something equally ephemeral that’s hardly a substitute for the family heirlooms.

I recently stumbled upon the latest stripped-down to moronic basics rehash of a tried and tested formula in the form of ‘May the Best House Win’. Basically, it’s a remake of ‘Come Dine With me’, the show where strangers spend a week taking turns to host a dinner party on which the other contestants score the host’s even out of ten and the winner – i.e. the one with the highest score – wins a grand (a large chunk of which they’ve already spent on lavish food and wine in order to impress their guests). ‘May the Best House Win’ follows the same format, only without the dinner party. Or the social interaction. This means that the contestants troop round one another’s houses, like some open-house viewing, neb round and criticise their choice of wallpaper and carpet, making inane critical comments like ‘for me, lampshades is a thing of the past’ before giving a mark out of ten for said abode. This is repeated for all of the competing homes and the house that scores the highest wins its owner some cash.

And that’s it.

It’s like ‘Through the Keyhole’ without any of the mystery or the celebrity allure. And it’s simply a means of justifying some misguided snobbery about individual and subjective tastes. All of the contestants mark their opponents down because it’s in their own best interests to do so, justifying their scores of four and five with remarks like ‘it’s ok, but it’s not really to my taste’ (which is only to be expected because it’s someone else’s home and not yours), but with the subtext that they are in fact supremely jealous that their opponent has a billiards room and private cinema that pisses all over their 52” plasma hung over the wood burner in the recently knocked-through living room. The winners invariably have large homes decked out to ‘high-end’ specification that’s all about style over function.

Instead of ‘who would live in a house like this?’ the question is more a case of ‘who would apply to appear on a show like this?’ Everyday people, of course – everyday people with a bit more cash who want to nose around other peoples’ homes and show their own off on national television. Strange that none of the houses look anything like my bog-standard two-bedroom mid-terrace, for example. Well, no, it’s not really. ‘Average’ simply won’t do: how will that impress anyone? It’s all about the ‘wow factor’. Besides, ‘stuff’ just isn’t done (where the hell do these people put their possessions?). But then, no-one’s going to sign up just to be subjected to ‘Look at all those unsightly records and books… and that bulky hi-fi. They should just get rid of it all, get a Kindle and rip it all to MP3, then the music can be piped into every room with some hidden speakers through an i-Pod docking station… A PC? How retro! So last century. Completely impractical, though, so bulky. You need an i-Pad…’ It’s all about nondescript colours and clean lines, about having a living space that resembles any 5-star hotel around the globe. Size matters.

Just as magazines ranging from Real Homes to Tatler aren’t really about sharing design tips, so ‘May the Best House Win’ adds a competitive element to vulgar vanity. But hey, it keeps the nation passive and numbs the nation’s unemployed, preventing them from rioting or otherwise expressing their discontent at the appalling state of things, while at the same time giving them something to aspire to. And if they can’t get off their arses, get well-paid jobs and ultimately achieve all the trappings of status in order to get their fifteen minutes of fame, well, there’s always ‘Jeremy Kyle’.

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