The recent BBC TV series Restoration sought to raise awareness about the architectural heritage of the UK. Each week, buildings of architectural and historical importance - but in a poor state of repair - would be featured with the aim that one of the thirty selected would be chosen by the public to be fully restored.
The program did a great job of bringing dilapidated buildings to public attention. For example, having originated not far from Hanley in Staffordshire, I’ve walked past Bethesda countless times and not realised its significance. Even though it didn’t win the vote, I’m sure it will no longer be a canvas for graffiti and fly posters and its mere presence on the show will help preserve it for the future.
Last night’s final show, in which the winning building was voted for and announced, was more like the final night of Big Brother, which makes sense because the production company that made Restoration was Endemol, the same company responsible for inflicting TV license payers with Changing Rooms and Groundforce and Ready Steady Cook. Endemol seem to have mastered the art of reaping the most monetary reward from the cheapest-to-make television, the pinnacle of their achievements being, of course, UK Big Brother. If you strip away what little entertainment value there is from Big Brother, you’ll see that the show is solely geared up for enticing the UK public to vote or text using a premium rate line day and night for the show’s nine week duration.
While Restoration was far from being the pits of television that the likes of Changing Rooms and Big Brother represent and I was genuinely ‘informed, educated and entertained’ by most of it, I was slightly disappointed to see Endemol on the closing credits of the program. If there’s any opportunity to make a few million from public phone votes, Endemol will be there. Unfortunately, I think that using the public vote to choose the winning building made Restoration an unfair contest, and as guest John Peel pointed out on the show, how is a building in the Norfolk town of King’s Lynn going to have a chance if one of the candidates has the whole of Greater Manchester voting for it? Public phone votes have little value when regional interests are involved (as the Eurovision Song Contest clearly demonstrates), which is why the winning building should probably have been chosen by a panel of architects. Some would argue that this wouldn’t make for exciting and engaging television; but then, Endemol would know all about that.