Distributor: ABC 1
Release Date: Sundays, 7:30 PM
There seems to be a tendency in reality television to move from the everyday to the extreme. Take holiday programs for example. Getaway began with budget breaks for average families, and eventually settled on indulgent escapes only the super-rich could afford.
The same could be said of reality challenge programs. How long did programs like Big Brother, Survivor and The Apprentice run before we started to see supped-up versions like Celebrity Survivor, Celebrity Big Brother, Celebrity Apprentice?
Even the humble cooking show has strayed out of the homely kitchen and into the well-staffed, stainless steel domains of the world’s elite chefs. So it should be no surprise that home renovation programs should eventually tread the same, well beaten path…
Restoration Home is a British series produced for the BBC that chronicles the recovery of heritage listed homes in the UK. Caroline Quentin wanders the English countryside meeting well-heeled families who’ve decided to make homes out of dilapidated mansions, crumbling churches and Georgian estates. The usual renovation challenges are invariably complicated by the ancient building materials and the sometimes maniacal restrictions placed on the developers by planning authorities. Still, it seems there’s nothing a large amount of money can’t accomplish, and as we see these buildings raised from the ashes, we also get a glimpse of the personal histories of their original creators as well as what led to their eventual downfall.
Restoration Home is fascinating but clearly aimed at the fantasy market rather than the DIY enthusiast. There is just too much money involved for this to be a realistic route for anyone who isn’t on a first name basis with the Kennedys. In episode three a young family take on the restoration of Stoke Hall, a 250 year old pile that has been crumbling away in the middle of its Derbyshire estate for decades. The damp-damaged estate cost them $2.4 million to purchase, but that’s OK because they’ve set aside an additional $4 million to set it to rights. There are the usual trials with finding the right materials and blown deadlines but it hardly seems a bother considering the family aren’t actually involved in the work themselves. But when the job is finally done, the four of them are able to relax in their new 32 room, three story home. Phew!
Overblown programs like Restoration Home are amazing to watch but the greatest advantage to programs operating at the extremities of the market is the way they expose mainstream fallacies. Anyone tempted to think that they will be happier if they could just get the home they really wanted – or the body, the career or soufflé for that matter – soon discovers that there is no end to that sort of quest. Rather than satisfy Restoration Home leaves you jaded and wondering where happiness really lies. Or as C.S.Lewis put it,
“If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”