TV review: A new take on the makeover show, and goodbye Hayley…

Experts – Daniel Hopwood and Sophie Robinson from the Great Interior Design Challenge. Photograph: BBC / Studio Lambert / Nicky Brewin
4 Feb 2014 @ 10.27 pm
| News
Experts – Daniel Hopwood and Sophie Robinson from the Great Interior Design Challenge. Photograph: BBC / Studio Lambert / Nicky Brewin
Experts – Daniel Hopwood and Sophie Robinson from the Great Interior Design Challenge. Photograph: BBC / Studio Lambert / Nicky Brewin

The Great Interior Design Challenge, BBC2
Coronation Street, ITV
The Bletchley Circle, ITV

“Housey-housey” programmes are not really my thing, but BBC2 has brought a new lease of life to an overworked genre.

The Great Interior Design Challenge pits amateur home interior designers against one another with a specific task. Among the properties getting a make-over this week are thatched cottages in Dorset and Regency properties in Brighton.

A recent episode saw three women doing up kitchens on a Span estate in Surrey. They were handed a less-than-hefty £1,000 budget, three days and the help of a builder to get the job done.

The results revealed some real flair with 24-year-old mother-of-two and part-time student Kimberley a worthy winner for the contemporary, colourful look she created.

This was a proper design programme without histrionics, artificial attempts to put obstacles in people’s way or similarly-simulated showdowns. The contestants were serious about the subject and happy to listen to and absorb the expert advice of judges Daniel Hopwood and Sophie Robinson.

Despite the three-day limit, we weren’t subjected to a race-against-time. In fact, Kimberley overshot the deadline by a few hours but had still done enough in the judges’ view to merit her triumph. She is now in the quarter-final stage of the 12-part series.

The Great Interior Design Challenge was a nicely-layered programme in which we looked at design, the clients (handled sensitively and with respect) and the buildings themselves.

Each programme offers a little potted architectural history, provided by its presenter, the architect and design critic Tom Dychoff, so we learned here about Span houses.

During the 1960s architect Eric Lyons created more than 2,000 of these homes in the South East featuring modernist design and landscaped communal gardens. In terms of style and intent, the nearest thing to it in York would probably be the Ouse Lea development at Clifton.

I re-visited Coronation Street briefly last week, for the first time in a few years. I was paying my respects to the departing Hayley Cropper (Julie Hesmondhalgh), a survivor from my days as a Corrie fan.

Yes, I was a very keen fan. Watching from the mid-1960s, I gave the best years of my life to the programme before I dropped out at the end of the last century.

I felt that with less humour and an increasingly in-your-face attitude towards life, it was no longer quite up my street. If you wanted true grit, and confrontational people saying: “what’s that meant to mean?” you could get it all on EastEnders.

It would be interesting to know what William Rees Mogg would make of the modern Corrie, if he were still with us. The Times editor, doubtless an expert on northern working-class life, felt the programme did not reflect our times.

True, major social issues were not dragged through the door kicking and screaming, but neither were they ignored.

Now Coronation Street has gone the other way, becoming a parody of our times. At the risk of sounding prim, the increasingly sexualised element does not always seem appropriate for a pre-Watershed programme.

Still, the Hayley assisted suicide story, one that is clearly going to run awhile, is a brave and emotional one that would surely not have been attempted in the show’s glory days when Stan and Hilda Ogden and lodger Eddie Yates were all living in the Gemütlichkeit of number 13.

Hayley will be missed. As Julie Hesmondhalgh said in a recent interview with The Big Issue in the North magazine, Hayley and Roy have been the show’s “moral centre”.

Anna Maxwell Martin as Susan in The Bletchley Circle. Photograph: ITV
Anna Maxwell Martin as Susan in The Bletchley Circle. Photograph: ITV
Another TV farewell has seen mother-of-two Susan (Anna Maxwell Martin) leave The Bletchley Circle after helping to save a former code-breaking colleague from the hangman’s noose.

I’ve been an admirer of Maxwell Martin’s since she played Esther Summerson in the BBC’s brilliant 2005 Bleak House. So any storyline that writes her out has to be a source of some regret.

For all that, the second Bletchley Circle two-parter, got by without her. And the excellent Rachael Stirling, daughter of Diana Rigg, is a chip off the old block.

We had a strong storyline, grimly attractive recreation of the post-war austerity era (who wouldn’t have winced when that horrible tea / coffee liquid emerged from an urn in the café?) and a fine team of women all, à la New Tricks, bringing different skills to the table to trap the villains.