Sunday, 13 September 2015

Review of Location, Location, Location - a glimpse into the lives of others




Location, Location, Location gives us more insight into the intimate lives of others than the East German Stasi achieved with all their vast resources.

Promotional photo of Cary Grant and Myrna Loy for the film Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948) (photo by RKO Radio Pictures)

During the latest UK property crash, as a mark of respect, Location, Location, Location presenter Phil banished himself to Australia and co-presenter Kirstie confined herself to making cushions out of gingham and lace. But now that things have hotted up again, Location, Location, Location is back on our TV screens. It’s gripping stuff.

In this week’s episode, property finder Phil cheerily announced that they have two sets of ‘perky’ house hunters looking for homes in the Home Counties. We cut to police officer Emma who is already in tears, comforted by her partner, IT manager Kelly. So not that perky, Phil. Fellow property finder Kirsty firmly bounces on, doing her best to control the maelstrom of emotion stirred up by a series of sturdy Berkshire properties. Emma seemed to regard each one more as a scene of the crime than a potential home, reluctantly opening cupboard doors as if expecting a trussed body to tumble out.
Regardless of how it might have helped the ratings, Kirsty did seem somewhat alarmed at the usual vicar’s tea party descending at an alarming rate into Ibsen territory. She made a desperate attempt to jolly things up by lying outstretched on a floral carpet. Breaking point for Emma arrived in the shape of a 1950s’ boxy, detached house. True, it might not have ticked all the boxes but it had a very pleasant palm tree outside.
Where was Phil when we needed him, with his breezy, naughty schoolboy sleaze that perfectly matches Kirsty’s bossy head girl’s sternness? 'I’m always up for it, Kirsty’, he tells her gamely. But he was in the wrong location for lightening the mood with Kelly and Emma, busy as he was finding an £850,000 pile in Surrey for a couple of chartered accountants. The programme's editor really did an excellent job: every time the Sturm und Drang down in Berkshire got too much, we’d be back in Surrey, pondering whether David and Lucy would have enough storage space. But then things hotted up in Godalming too, when Phil pulled out of the bag an extraordinary, quirky house built by Arts and Crafts architect Edwin Lutyens. It had the most immense inglenook fireplace. David’s normal composure fell away as he ecstatically imagined a future where friends would come round and he could say ‘Beat that!'.
This is how Location, Location, Location, despite its apparently limited palette, gets to the crux of the human condition: David’s fantasy takes us right back to our Stone Age ancestors, surveying their new cave. Fire, the hearth, bringing home the kill – it’s all there. Cue Phil on the voiceover: 'If I had such a big one, I'd want to show it off too, David'.
Being a Grade 2 listed building has its restrictions, though. As everything has to be left as it is, were David and Lucy’s modern appliances going to fit? It’s a question with an almost existential dimension. And here is the beauty of Location, Location, Location. Yes, the formula may superficially seem a tad tired, but within that, every sidelong glance, every sigh, every hand squeeze, every clash about the merits of a downstairs toilet has a significance, is a subtle revelation that draws us closer to each couple and their dreams and their rage. We gain more insight of the intimate lives of others than the East German Stasi managed with all their vast resources.Though I have to admit I’m still not quite sure why lovely Emma was crying so much.
This program was Episode 5 of Series 14.