Room to Improve review: 'If it ain’t broke... why drive a wrecking ball through it?'
Does Room to Improve have room to improve? Ratings suggest the Dermot Bannon home makeover show is built on spectacularly solid foundations, with 722,000 tuning in to watch the architect midwife into existence the dream crib of Daniel and Majella O’Donnell last Sunday.
That adds up to a 51 per cent audience share – placing Bannon among the top tier of Irish small screen personalities, alongside Ryan Tubridy and Brendan O’Carroll.
This week, the celebrity factor was dimmed but the project even grander as he traveled to Fermoy, County Cork to help Dave and Susie bling out their house on a hill with gym, spa, sauna and separate entrance for the dog.
After 11 years, Coco Television understands a winning formula is not to be tinkered with. However, if the episode ticked the property porn boxes, some of us will have craved a little more melodrama and, dare we suggest, reality TV manipulativeness.
The problem with Room To Improve is that it isn’t interested in being remotely gripping or sensationalised. It really is just a show about people patching up their houses. The setting and personalities change but, invariably, the dramatic core of each instalment boils down to Bannon having a very mild exchange of views with the client over choice of window or hue of the kitchen.
Both flash-points inevitably surfaced this week. Shameless penny-pinchers Dave and Susie were minded to spend a mere £40,000 on new windows. Bannon urged them to hold true to his grander vision and splurge £80,000. In the end, they came around to his opinion and a disaster of minuscule proportions was averted.
An edgier programme was would played on the tension between Bannon and Susie, who knew what she wanted from her north Cork wonderland and wasn’t afraid to advocate.
Instead, the show depicted everyone smoothing over their differences and rowing in together. Factually, it was no doubt an accurate reflection of what happened. But it made for thumpingly listless TV.
Then, does anyone truly tune in to Room to Improve to be riveted? Scandinavia has been credited with inventing the genre of slow television across the past several years – yet there’s a case that Coco Television and Room to Improve beat them to it when the series debuted in 2007.
The thrill here is in watching handymen put up partitions, windows be gingerly installed by a chap in the hard-hat and Bannon’s clients bask in their new extension in front of (not in the least jealous) friends and family
On paper that’s barely a formula. But, at a time when the national broadcaster has often felt one bad chat show away from laughing stock, it’s brought RTE one of its most consistent ratings-garnerers. If it ain’t broke, the station will no doubt conclude, why drive a wrecking ball through it?
Don’t miss Dermot Bannon live on the Inspiration Stage at house 2018, 25-27 May RDS Dublin. Click here for tickets.