A town-like palace

Written on 5 Jul, 2020

Once, Channel 4 was the sanctuary for radical television (at least in my memory - though, now I think clearer, Countdown was probably never radical). Then came property programmes. Home ownership is ingrained in the British psyche with ideas of ‘getting on the property ladder’, or improving the value of your home. ‘Generation Rent’ has become a stock phrase highlighting a very real property Catch-22 where young adults pay so much in rent they can’t save up a house deposit and avoid the ‘wasted money’ that rent represents.

Location, Location, Location predates the problem of Generation Rent. For 34 series (and counting) Kirsty and Phil have kept to a simple format. A couple (nearly always a couple) are looking for a house. Kirsty and Phil show them options to help them clarify what they want from their new home and try to match them with their perfect place.

It’s all very nice. The presenters are jolly and care about the people they help, and to an outsider it’s a programme I should relate to. I had a nice job, a nice family, and live in a nice area.

I’m a little old to be radical now, but in me is still an echo of the university-educated working class boy. I remember being fired up by the radical Channel 4 and that’s why Location irks me.

Consider these episode descriptions:

Kirstie and Phil are in Edinburgh helping soon-to-be-wed Tara and Alistair achieve their property dream.
Property hunters Kirstie Allsopp and Phil Spencer are in north Cornwall to try and find the perfect home for another couple.
Kirstie and Phil are in Birmingham to find the perfect period property for two first time buyers.

The programme offers a middle-class worldview. First time buyers looking for period properties need serious family support to have gathered a deposit. Support not available to many others. A radical Channel 4 idea of property TV could reflect that. A young person forced to leave home, a new couple in need of a flat quickly, a pensioner having to downsize dramatically to fund their dotage.

As Generation Rent grows, programmes like Location less and less reflect the reality of house buying. It’s presenting middle-class idealism to a society that can’t hope to match its portrayal. It’s not alone but it’s the totem for the genre.