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Grand Designs – Success without the Stress?
(14 September 2011)

The new series of Grand Designs started last night (Wednesdays Channel 4, 9.00pm) and we were waiting with baited breath to see the latest drama unfold before the riveted public in TV land.

However £600k build, £200k for the site and over 5 years to complete with none of his time and effort accounted for doesn’t really do it for us. Don’t get us wrong, we love the programme; it has done so much for getting the idea of building your own home out there as a general discussion point all over the country. However, is it us or has the format become increasing skewed towards the TV ‘drama’ side of things? Will the couple run out of money in week 4, will their marriage collapse mid build as they retreat to separate ends of their onsite caravan? Will the planners stymie their attempts to build something individual and insist on architectural mediocrity just to ‘fit in’?

We understand that if you want high viewing figures for a subject that could be seen as a bit dry, then the sure fire strategy for all TV programming (including such topics as diverse as News, Sport, and even Cookery) is to inject some drama into it. You know the format; the alternating downbeat then upbeat soundtrack, dramatic close ups with husband standing waist deep in water as pregnant wife sobs. And to be honest we all enjoy watching people triumph over adversity, don’t we?!

But is it really a triumph? True, they normally get through the process with the home they always wanted, but at what price? We almost never hear the true financial cost to the owners, especially the cost of their discounted labour and often the time on site over-runs by months!

The problem is that although we love the drama, many will be put off by this rollercoaster process. True we don’t mind watching, but we wouldn’t do it ourselves. No fear!

However, in Europe, Australia and the US, tens of thousands of fantastic bespoke self built homes are completed each year on budget and on time. Sure, many of these have their own dollop of drama, but this is centred around how great it is finally being able to spend the biggest cheque of their lives on something that is uniquely theirs.

What we’re saying is that to create a self build revolution here in the UK we need to show people that you don’t have to put your marriage, health or home finances on the line in order to get what you want. All C4 have to do is turn down the ‘drama factor’ a touch and perhaps they would see the ratings soar?

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