CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV: Stuff it! We’re all up to our necks in knick-knacks we don’t need
Shop Well For Less?
Nick Knowles’s Big House Clearout
The end of the world will not come about via global warming, or religious fanaticism, or even Love Island, though all these things are obviously threats to civilisation.
The biggest problem is Stuff. Every home has so much of it, accumulating lorryloads more every year, that eventually the entire planet will be 10ft deep in knick-knacks and we’ll all suffocate.
The American comedian George Carlin, star of Saturday Night Live, summed it up: ‘That’s all your house is — it’s a place to keep your Stuff, while you go out and get . . . More Stuff.’
As if in homage to Carlin, two shows at 8pm were taking all the possessions from a couple of family houses and laying them out on the floor, just to show how much detritus every one of us accumulates.
Chris, Charlotte and their twins, on Shop Well For Less? (BBC1), had an estimated £27,000-worth of bits and bobs — not the telly or the washing machine, but things they could probably do without.
The girls’ toy boxes alone contained playthings that totalled £3,500. Lurking in the bathroom cabinet was £700 of perfumes — or ‘posh water’, as Chris called it.
Mel and Joanna brought some zing back to the format. Their patter felt less spontaneous, more scripted, but that’s no bad thing —it stops the show sinking into blandness and small talk
The wonderful singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith, who died last week aged 68, used to say she couldn’t drive past a Woolworths store without stopping to run inside and ‘stock up on unnecessary plastic objects’.
She even wrote a ballad about it, Love At The Five And Dime.
All this petty paraphernalia comes at a real cost. Chris and Charlotte were renting their home, because they couldn’t afford the deposit for a mortgage.
They were being priced out of the housing market by their possessions.
This series has been running for five years, and was in need of some retail therapy itself. Out went former presenters Steph McGovern and Alex Jones, replaced by Mel Sykes and Gavin And Stacey star Joanna Page.
Nick Knowles had a more brutal approach on his Big House Clearout (C5). He told Vicky, Graham and their two teenage children to spread their household contents across a warehouse floor . . . and ditch half
Mel and Joanna brought some zing back to the format. Their patter felt less spontaneous, more scripted, but that’s no bad thing —it stops the show sinking into blandness and small talk.
None of their money-saving ideas was especially inspiring. Chris and Charlotte were told to consider a smaller car, cheaper holidays and so on. The brightest idea was to draw up a rota for their free time, to discourage them from shopping as a way to relax.
Nick Knowles had a more brutal approach on his Big House Clearout (C5). He told Vicky, Graham and their two teenage children to spread their household contents across a warehouse floor . . . and ditch half.
While they were doing that, Nick sent the builders into their empty home, to rip out the kitchen, lounge and bedrooms.
The family really were up to their necks in Stuff. The garden shed was overflowing, so their patio furniture was filling the sitting room. In the kitchen, they discovered 33 wooden spoons.
Jess and James, with the ruthless lack of sentimentality unique to teenagers, were clearly happy to get rid of everything. Hurling armfuls into a skip, they’d have burned the lot.
Mum Vicky was having a tougher time. Shows like these can skate dangerously close to exploitation when they encourage subjects to become emotional, and Vicky was constantly on the brink of tears.
I understood why. Her children were almost grown. You can’t stop them from getting bigger, but the temptation to hang on to trivial symbols of their childhood is overwhelming.
As James astutely put it, his mother didn’t have too much stuff . . . just too many memories.
Telly in-joke of the night: Joe Lycett toured a plastics recycling plant on Got Your Back (C4) — and did the whole thing in the style of Gregg Wallace on Inside The Factory. He even wore a bald wig. ‘It’s like a primary school trip,’ Joe/Gregg hooted, ‘but for grown-up TV. Luvvly!’
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