Streets Ahead, Channel 4,

by | Jul 12, 2005 | All, Reviews

What to say if you liked it

Sarah Beeny leads a contemporary crusade to liberate the oppressed streets of Britain from dishevelled doors, putrid pebble-dashing, glaring graffiti, protruding porches and woeful walls and at the same time unite disparate, isolated factions and make them old-fashioned communities.

What to say if you didn’t like it

Under the groundless guise of home improvement, Sarah Beeny avails to strip all the charm and individuality from our streets and replace them with bland designs and plans, while any dissenters are all but herded on cattle trucks and sent to Poland.

What was good about it?

• The street in Penge, south east London did seem to look nicer at the end.

• Sarah Beeny, for all her faults, does make a decent presenter largely because of her inflexible determination to do things her way.

• John and Iris who refused to let Sarah remove their

prized porch.

What was bad about it?

• Sarah Beeny uses the words “I” and “me” with an abundance not seen since Vanessa Feltz was exiled from our TV screens. “Hopefully they’ll raise the value of their street if they listen to me/if they commit to my plan for improving their road.”

• The way in which the dimly lit, untreated street was shot staidly and stoically from ground level, while the refurbished houses were enhanced by swooping panning shots in the glorious sunlight.

• The persistent unchallenged references to the property market. “Every town and city has its sought-after addresses, and then there’s the rest,” Sarah confided, as though marking out people with debilitating diseases, which only she could cure.

• While the stated aim was to increase the value of the properties, there did seem to be an ulterior desire to create conflict in the street by Sarah’s insistence on a uniform design which was sure to create dissent among some residents.

• Sarah did seem to take rather too much credit for galvanising the residents into action to improve the appearance of their homes. Perhaps the £10,000 funding • and a chance to appear on TV were more persuasive.

• The gobbledygook Sarah expounded, partly to confuse the residents into agreeing with her by using language which made her seem like an expert and partly because there was a definite prevalent ignorance in the street of exterior décor.

The worst was when she was trying to convince procrastinating Virginia to have her home washed in a deep shade of green. “It would be really dramatic at that end of the street.” And “If you’re going to go this route, you’ll end up with a sophisticated colour that isn’t faddy.” “Dramatic?” “Sophisticated colour”? Are we to suppose that the house will be soon engrossed in the novels of Marcel Proust beside an open fire as the melodies of Dvorak waft down the road, while also taking the lead role in Othello at the Globe Theatre?

• Perhaps we’re being a little cynical, but to fill and hour of TV with renovation is utterly dull and some of the necessary human conflict came across as false and scripted. The worst instance was Caroline and Farrad’s moan about how the obstinate Karen refused to have her wall demolished; there were no pauses for thought, mumbling or the usual little ticks that interrupt everyday conversation. And the camerawork to-ed and fro-ed immaculately between the pair.

• The way Karen was isolated and pressured to accede to Sarah Beeny’s will, backed-up by the rest of the street, was reminiscent of Invasion of the Bodysnatchers.

• But Karen’s rapid acquiescence to coercion from both Sarah and Caroline suggested her objections could have been a false, and simply a ruse to generate tension to project and exaggerate a real sense of achievement at the completion of the renovation.

• It’s another of those shows which aspire to inflict a cultural tyranny on the nation by using experts to set out their dogmatic visions of how something should look or sound and then establish it as the orthodoxy while at the same time transforming alternative

perspectives into unclean pariahs. We’ve seen it in Howard Goodall’s analysis on music which inferred that those who enjoyed the technical tunes of the Beatles and numerous classical composers were mentally and spiritually superior to an 18-year-old headbanging to Slipknot. And be sure to look forward to Are You Younger Than You Think? which will terrify people into a lifestyle so conformist and dull those already adhering to such tepidity are stuck in walking comas.

Luke Knowles

Luke Knowles


Editor of the website and host of the podcast. A general TV obsessive. I've been running the site since 2008 and you can usually find me in front of the TV. My Favourite show of all time is Breaking Bad with Cracker coming a close second. I feel so passionately that television can change the world and I'm doing my little bit by running this site. You're Welcome!


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