Hammer Horror: The Despair Of The BBC’s Property Portfolio

The absolute awfulness of daytime television

There are few things in the world as irredeemably awful as daytime BBC One, something a lot more people than usual have been finding out this year. The collection of piss-poor soap operas (Doctors may be the worst drama on television, making even Australian soaps seem sophisticated) and crime shows designed to frighten old people into never leaving their house or answering the phone again is evidence of a channel that simply doesn’t give a shit, because the likely viewers are not the upwardly mobile demographic that their commercial-driven bosses are fixated on, public service be damned. When the quiz shows are the best thing on, you know something has gone wildly wrong.

Worst of everything is the endless stream of property shows that seemingly exist as a slap in the face for viewers – though it seems to be a slap that they welcome, given how long these shows have run for (though the BBC, not dependent on ratings, can and will do what they please when it suits them). This property porn might be defended as aspirational TV – a fantasy for the viewer. But it’s more a wet dream for the producers who love nothing more than celebrating money and greed and indulgence.

One of the most horrific shows on TV is Escape to the Country, where ageing middle-class wankers are taken – at licence fee payers expense – on a tour of some countryside location, while they decide which massive house to buy with their £900,000 budget. Such a conundrum for them, as they pick holes in gorgeous, massive houses (“not enough room for the horses I want, no space to set up a painting room”) that the local population have now been priced out of, thanks to wealthy ‘white flight’ Londoners moving into their area. The one saving grace of the show is that the house buyers are at least buying these properties with the money that they will release from the sale of their current house – though they are all clearly people who are not short of a few quid and, of course, we can look at the price of houses in London and shake our heads at the obscenity of it all as an ordinary farmhouse is declared a bargain for coming in at less than a million. Almost everyone who appears on the show seems utterly dreadful, and you find yourself hoping that wherever they finally move into, they find themselves on the end of a Straw Dogs-style welcome from the locals.

Television companies never explore how deranged house pricing has become, with London’s lunatic costs distorting the market nationally. Instead, they celebrate it. When house price rises stutter – not even fall, just slow down – it is treated as a national emergency, while rises are cheered on. And nowhere is the sheer greed and insanity of property values celebrated as vigorously as in Homes Under the Hammer, a worthless waste of production money that has been shown every day – even weekends – by the BBC for years.

For those of you unfamiliar with the show, it follows people as they buy houses in auctions, tart them up a bit and then sell or rent them at a profit. The show is obsessed with ‘yields’, something that normal people don’t give a shit about as they struggle to find a home that they can afford. But this show is awash with serial buyers, the sort of people who will just pop into an auction on a whim and spent £100,000 plus on a house that needs shitloads doing to it – because haven’t we all done that? – and characters who immediately look shifty and unpleasant, and who you definitely wouldn’t want as a landlord.

Probably worth a million quid after a slap of magnolia

Rarely has there been as depressing a collection of people securing their fifteen minutes of fame – and that’s just the presenters, a former footballer and a couple of spare parts who inspect the houses like vultures, cracking carefully scripted jokes while pretending to know about what makes a house a decent place to live. I noticed that when they are looking at the pre-auction hovel, it’s filmed straight to show just what a decrepit, cramped place it is, while the ‘after’ footage uses the wide-angle lenses and careful camera angles so beloved of estate agents to suggest that it has been miraculously transformed. Up pop a couple of socially awkward, badly dressed and too-often slimily cliched agents to confirm that yes, a slap of paint, fixed electrics and a new bath has made this place worth a good ten thousand more than it cost. Well done everyone. Another home fit for young professionals who have parents who will help them climb onto the mortgage ladder.

The other week, there was a schoolteacher who was buying houses for just under a hundred grand and then spending the same doing them up, and you have to wonder: where is the money coming from? Not his job, clearly. Equally, when you see twenty-somethings “starting their property portfolio”, eyebrows are raised, because clearly, the property market in Britain – where, in London and surrounding areas at least, houses and even flats are increasingly beyond the reach of anyone not making a lot more than the average wage – is dominated by trust funds, inheritance and moneyed parents indulging their brats. Like those teenage entrepreneurs that news providers love, who we are told ‘did it all themselves’ before the fine print reveals that daddy is a successful businessman who supplied the start-up funds unavailable to most, these spoiled brats are then feted on television shows like this for snapping up property that, even in its run-down state, is now beyond the finances of many.

This is the sort of show that celebrates the sort of people who actually want to build another house in the small garden of the property they’ve bought; who cram as many flats as they can in a building; who are entirely driven by greed. As Gordon Gekko once said, “greed is good”, but only if you are doing something worthwhile. These landlords and slumlords (it’s great when the show has to excuse someone who has clearly done the bare minimum in the restoration of a dump) are the worst of the worst. For the BBC to be pumping this awful shit out to an audience of pensioners and unemployed shut-ins is little short of a calculated slap in the face.


Help support The Reprobate: