Location Location Location, Channel 4
There’s nothing more pleasurable than a bit of property porn on TV, and Channel 4 is certainly the place to get it. They pioneered the genre with Location, Location, Location twenty years ago and it’s sprouted several offshoots since, all of which make for compulsive viewing. In the last few weeks they’ve been marking the 20th anniversary of the programme with Kirsty Allsopp and Phil Spencer.
We live in a country where aspiring to own your own house is something we are all taught to do at an early age. And once we’ve got one, we’re constantly looking out for the next move, and this is where Kirsty and Phil come in. They know their stuff and have an engaging way of imparting their knowledge. Over the years they’ve had some tricky customers to deal with, but they remain good-humoured no matter what the provocation. Sometimes they appear driven to distraction by the fact that many of their “punters” seem to think they can get a 6 bedroom property in a prime location for £100,000. If that isn’t the issue, then the couples often cannot agree on their priorities and set Kirsty and Phil an almost impossible task.
In recent years they have padded out the series by revisiting the scenes of previous purchases from episodes gone by. This appeals to the viewer’s sense of prurience. We all love a peek inside other people’s properties and judge what has been done.
Property prices may have changed dramatically over the last twenty years, but the one constant has been the relationship between Allsopp and Spencer. For all I know, they loathe each other in real life, but their onscreen partnership has endured because it’s so natural and flowing. They complement each other. They know what they’re talking about and their knowledge of the property market enables both the participants and the viewers to enjoy a show which some accuse of lacking edge. And that’s a good thing: TV doesn’t always have to be “challenging”.
It has to be said, however, that the programme is so very middle class and southern that it’s almost risible. Virtually all the participants shop at Waitrose, I imagine. The majority of property searches occur in places that would be eligible to host an episode of Midsomer murders, or they are in chi-chi areas of east or south-west London. I seriously can’t remember the last time I saw an episode of the programme from the North East, Scotland or Wales. Or the last time I heard a working class accent.
But I still love it.
How to Change the World podcast with Alan Johnson
The premise of this podcast is very simple: Invite a guest on and ask them what one thing they’d do to change the world.
Alan Johnson, the Labour former cabinet minister, is in many ways the ideal host. He has an easy manner and once he gets rid of the idea he has to follow a script and interview his guest, he becomes a very engaging conversationalist. This podcast falls into the trap of thinking it’s a radio show, with the same production values. It has music. Why? It’s utterly unnecessary.
What the listeners wants to drop in on is a good old chinwag between two people in the know. Alan Johnson is at his best when he’s relaxed. In the first episode his guest was Rory Stewart, who proved to be as entertaining as you’d imagine him to be. But that only happened once Johnson stopped asking minute long questions, reminiscent of Jim Naughtie at his finest. Sorry, Jim.
Interview podcasts are two-a-penny nowadays. This one has a theme to it, and a good theme too, but let’s face it: the question that the podcasts asks is invariably just a way of getting the interviewee to open up on the more interesting things about them and their careers. And in this Alan Johnson excels. He let’s his subject talk, and if you do that, they’re invariably going to say something interesting.
This podcast is only three episodes old – his two subsequent guests to Rory Stewart are Gloria del Piero and the comedian Stuart Lee. I’ve subscribed.