Grand Designs has had its day. Back for the start of a new – 11th – series today, the opening episode is a visit by presenter Kevin McCloud to a project that began in 2006. If the producers are so lacking in new building projects to film that they can’t even kick off with a bit of novelty, where’s the hope for the rest of the series?
The problem is that McCloud and his GD cohorts have failed to move on. Whereas Sarah Beeny has now branched out from her mainstay series Property Ladder to the suitably calamitous-sounding Help! My House is Falling Down, McCloud keeps plugging the same programme format – which has no place in these gloomy economic times.
The fact is, architects are the canaries of the retail economy – if it’s slim pickings for the rest of us, they’ve been on a starvation diet for a couple of years now. A kitchen extension there, a loft conversion here, but you only need to leaf through this paper’s property pages to see that there are very few people that are commissioning anything that could be described as “grand” from their building designers. Such an enterprise would produce a folly in both senses of the word. McCloud simply hasn’t enough decent material available to him in the first place right now to make a series that is likely to be worth watching.
There’s another reason that Grand Designs has to go. Even before the recession kicked in, those occasional jewel-like episodes where the likes of Damien Hirst did something dazzling with his home – something really worth McCloud’s extravagant adjectives – had become far outnumbered by the worthy and the dull. You knew the result would be dreary whenever the home owner murmured the word “environmentally friendly”. And whether the subsequent edifice was made of bird droppings, sheep’s wool or recycled nappies it always looked the same: a life-less, monochrome cube.
People’s homes aren’t the focus of fabulous design right now: there’s not the cash, and perhaps there’s not the inspiration. It’s time Grand Designs moved over and made way for a television programme about something that is.