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Thursday, 11 December 2008

Country House Rescue, Channel 4

Did we like it?
An enjoyable but not memorable beginning to Ruth Watson's Channel 4 career after her big-money transfer from Five's The Hotel Inspector.

What was good about it?
• There's something about Ruth we like a lot. We think it's the way she holds her neck. Such posture. She can be bossy but it's always in an endearing way. And she has a lovely yellow bob of hair. She's like the antithesis of Deborah Meaden off Dragon's Den.
• Bossyboots Television has generally become a bit of a bore but Ruth just makes a few simple, well-argued suggestions so it's not an unpleasant, hectoring experience for the subjects or the viewer.
• Even those who don't like formatted reality TV could have enjoyed this glimpse around the splendid Cothay Manor in Somerset, a house and garden which rose from the ruins thanks to the energy and commitment of Alastair and Mary-Anne Robb. He's 78, she's 68 but they have the energy of teenagers and work around the clock the keep the property looking stunning. She does five hours a day of gardening. We've not done that much in a lifetime.
• Mary-Anne reminding us of Dawn French's "stuff and nonsense" countrywoman.
• Mary-Anne's initial resistance to refreshing the refreshments on offer, treating eating as if it was a passing fad.
• Mary-Anne's determination to have her heart buried in her beloved garden, beneath the birdbath – "I've asked the butcher to cut it out," she said.
• Alastair's charming "blitch or blotch?" confusion over bling.

What was bad about it?
• In these shows, it's helpful if the subjects are idiots or unpleasant so there's an almighty battle of wills. But Alastair and Mary-Anne were a delightful couple and, with some hesitation, were prepared to accept the Ruth recipe for success – more teas and cakes, a calender of events and a bit more effort on flogging souvenirs and plants.
• There was no resolution in the sub-plot about bequeathing the manor to one of the offspring to avoid a £1m death duty bill.
• Mary-Anne's failure to adorn her garden with statues of naked men during the sculpture do.

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