Thursday 17 October 2019

Missing Room to Improve? Why At Your Service can fill that Sunday night void

Frances and John Brennan with Jenny Kiersey on At Your Service
Frances and John Brennan with Jenny Kiersey on At Your Service
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

If you're one of the 721,000 (average, consolidated) viewers who tuned in to the latest series of Room to Improve every week you may have found yourself at a bit of a loss on Sunday night.

The eleventh season of the show wrapped last week with a look back over the entire series from its humble beginnings in 2007 to more recent big-budget projects.

Its departure from the schedules was bemoaned by regular viewers.

It's coming back for a twelfth series next year but what to do with the Dermot Bannon-shaped void it has left behind for Sunday night viewing?

Well, you could do worse than At Your Service.  Here's why:

1) It's effectively Room to Improve for businesses

Francis and John Brennan are hoteliers who bring their troubleshooting skills to struggling businesses across the country from hotels to B&B's and guesthouses, GAA club houses, and even tea rooms, as featured in Sunday night's episode. 

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Frances and John Brennan on At Your Service, RTE One, Sundays 8.30pm

It has the makeover element of Room to Improve, albeit on a tighter budget, with added nuggets of business wisdom.

2) It has equally charming hosts

A large part of the success of Room to Improve is down to architect and presenter Dermot Bannon.  He's genial and charming but he's like a dog with a bone when it comes to his passion for the designs he creates for his clients. 

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Dermot Bannon and QS Lisa O'Brien

Whether you agree with Dermot or the clients on their various tete-a-tetes over walls or windows or soft furnishings, it certainly makes for entertaining TV.

Meanwhile, Francis Brennan, in particular, is a hard man not to like.  Like a modern-day Robin Hood Hotelier he swoops in and does his best to impart his know how to business owners who need a lift, as much psychologically as in a business sense.

Francis Brennan

Like the clients featured in Room to Improve, they're not always receptive to his and brother John's advice, but at the end of the day their hearts and their heads are in the right places.

3) The clients

And those clients are a vital ingredient for both Room to Improve and At Your Service.  Ireland is full of wonderful people, of characters, of people with strong opinions, the single-minded, the passionate - and we meet the full spectrum on both Room to Improve and At Your Service.

At a time that's particularly stressful in their lives, whether it's renovating their home or battling to save their business, they allow those cameras to chart their journey and the results make for some compelling TV.

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Dermot Bannon on Room to Improve

Of course, there are differences of opinion and therein lies much of the drama.

Where Dermot clashed with Padraig in Tipperary over the size of a living room window and Christine in Dublin over, well, everything, Francis and John had a battle with wannabe B&B owner Finola who wanted to run her business without the internet.

It (usually) all comes together in the end and that's the payoff - for both shows. 

4) Twitter

Much of the appeal of Room to Improve is the shared experience between the viewers live tweeting on social media.  There's much mirth to be had watching the ups and downs of our fellow humans and both shows tick the Twitter box.

We'll just leave you with this:

You can catch the first two episodes of the current series of At Your Service on RTE Player and it continues on Sunday nights on RTE One at 8.30pm for six more episodes.

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