I’d say I’m a man in touch with his emotions. I don’t cry at films, I was one of the people willing the Titanic to sink so that it would ruddy finish! I don’t often get moved by music (though I often come close to tears when I hear a DJ announcing they’re going to play Justin Bieber next). Of all the TV I watch though there is one series that almost always results in me choked and trying to be all manly and whole back the tears.
I’m talking of course of the BBC’s renovation series DIY SOS: The Big Build. You may laugh. You may giggle but this is a real example of genuinely moving television. What makes the Big Build even more loveable is the fact that the whole hour is handled with such humour and grace that the viewer really feels part of the build. There’s something about the hour you spend with Nick Knowles and the team that makes you think that world isn’t such a terrible place. It restores in your fellow human being, especially those who happen to be good at manual labour or have access to a digger. We live in a culture where everyone is so suspicious of everyone else. The Tradesman from Hell is widely reported on and its nice to see that isn’t always the case.
On the face of it you could perhaps compare it to America’s Extreme Home Makeover but to do such a thing would be an insult to the work of both the workers on the site of The Big Build but also to the people who put the show together. On Extreme Home Makeover for example, presenter Ty Pennington uses a megaphone to shout at both the participants and the TV audience, the show is littered with dramatics, over the top music and people being too sickly sweet to be taken with anymore than a pinch of salt. The Big Build could have easily gone down this road too. The stories involved are always heartbreaking but they don’t feel the need to lay it on too thick. There’s no soppy music or misery, whatever the team are faced with is dealt with class and warmth. The Big Build has a real homely feel to it which is a quality sadly lacking from most television nowadays.
The Big Build treats the audience with respect and entertains whereas extreme Makeover feels the need to try and force the audience to feel a certain way, using every trick in the “let’s make ‘em cry book” they can.
Ironically it’s because DIY SOS doesn’t employ any of the usual tactics to make an audience feel a certain way that makes it more engrossing and emotional. You really feel that those working on the remodel (or in some cases complete rebuild of the home) really care about the people they’re helping. Nothing about the hour feels staged, forced or over dramatized for the sake of television. Everything about the way the story is told gives me as an audience member the feeling I’m in good hands.
So why and when do the tears start flowing? Well there’s something nice about a group of people coming together to help someone/a family need isn’t there. The reactions of those on the receiving end of the Build are always so astounded and grateful for the work that’s been done. Nick Knowles is a master of the reveal. He guides each homeowner through their new home without any need of overselling the work; he presents each room and allows the gobsmacked recipient time to take it all in. Then, (and here’s where I usually find myself trying not to blub) the homeowner meets the working team who like the homeowner are also in floods of tears. And there you have it, a genuinely nice hour of TV, featuring genuinely nice people doing a genuinely nice thing. . It doesn’t pretend to be anything other than what it is and what it is works brilliantly. I love the banter between the guys as they work to rebuild someone’s life and I respect it for respecting the audience and not making it too sugary sweet for us to enjoy.