But is a diet of Diet Doctors, Ten Years Younger, Spendaholics, Property Ladder, Location Location Location, The House Doctor, FreakyEaters, How Clean is Your House? How to Pay Off Your Mortgage in Two Years, Grand Designs, A New Life In The Country, It’s Me Or The Dog & Colin and Justin any more edifying? Any better a use of all the hours of my life I’ll never get back?
Well all the house stuff I can justify as ‘research’ for my job in property (albeit not usually private houses), but all the personal makeover shows are a little harder.
Since the dictionary definition of 'voyeurism' is someone who gets a sexual kick out of watching others, a response I am hitherto unaware of while watching makeover shows, I think it unlikely.
Nosiness? Well of course. The human condition is unfailingly fascinating and it’s amazing how not being able to clean their house, living with a nose the size of the Himalayas, being hopelessly financially incontinent, or unable to stop gambling ends up being the key to revealing the whole person through that very weakness.
However it’s easy to watch these shows and be lulled into a false sense of security about oneself, ie; however much of a failure I am at least I have a clean house and no gambling addiction.
So while they can work on the one hand to cheer oneself after a bad day, one has to be very careful not to let the fact that one would make dull television by comparison, be confused with succeeding in life!
Notwithstanding there is something inspiring, even moving about watching a programme featuring someone who has scarcely left their house for ten years owing to some personal tragedy, finally being given the courage to overcome their agoraphobia via the expert help they wouldn’t possibly have been able to afford otherwise, and knowing that their life really has improved for the better, even if they invariably continue to experience the odd wobbly day now and then, or how a house de-cluttered and fully steamcleaned for the first time in twenty years inspires the inhabitant who was ‘stuck’ in that mindset for whatever reason, to then want to revamp and brighten every aspect of their lives.
The ‘big reveal’ or transformation of the house or individual at the end of the show is as irresistible and magical a moment as redemption. Perhaps it is a kind of redemption.
Of course television will exaggerate, bend the truth and even exploit, and not all such shows do more good than harm. Supernanny in particular has been singled out for criticism recently for deliberately making parents look worse and more inept than they really are, and even deliberately winding the kids up to exacerbate their bad behaviour for the cameras! Cosmetic makeovers don’t always last long, though of course the participants need to do their bit to maintain their new looks.
As for the sad endictment all these programmes are on a society which has seemingly forgotten how to clean their houses, manage their money, raise their kids, rule their dogs, enjoy functional relationships, well yes that is rather alarming, though thinking about my own areas of ineptitude, I am bound to believe that we must all fall short on at least one major area of basic lifeskills, and this has merely been untalked about/unrevealed until the last ten or fifteen years.
So to sum up, makeover programmes for me are:
a. a yardstick by which I measure my own progress in life against other peoples’
b. learn how other people deal with and get through life/how they think.
c. Absorb all decent tips & advice dished out in addition to seeing how participants fare on their programme ‘journey’.
d. Enjoy the transformation at the end. I believe in personal renaissance and second chances!
Is that enough junkie justification for the fact I wasted one whole hour on a young green-fingered gay man with transformer toy addiction spending more than twice his monthly income on Gucci products, followed by another whole hour on a DJ who was terrified of fruit and vegetables last night? In my defence, I no longer tape a single one of these programmes (digital ensures they are all repeated about five minutes later!)
Photo from Channel 4's Ten Years Younger