Stacey cleans up… but it’s the BBC schedules that need decluttering: CHRISTOPHER STEVENS reviews last night’s TV
Sort Your Life Out
Helping Our Teens
Where does all the money go? The BBC pours £1.87 billion a year into its television services, never mind the half a billion that goes on radio, and the best part of a quarter of a billion spent online.
And what we get for that is a primetime hour about cleaning a house. Sort Your Life Out (BBC1) sent Stacey Solomon, her husband Joe and some mates round to a farmhouse in Shropshire, to clear the clutter.
Most people who pay for a cleaner will reckon anything over 15 quid an hour is too steep . . . and £1.87bn is definitely too much.
It’s nearly impossible to conceive of a lower-budget show than Sort Your Life Out — a statement we can assert with confidence, because BBC commissioning editors will have wracked their brains to come up with something even cheaper and failed.
We might forgive the Beeb for hiring Stacey’s cleaning squad to plug a gap if the rest of the week’s schedules were bursting with thrills. But every channel is stuffed with more junk than the cupboards in that farmhouse.
Wednesday’s BBC2, for instance, was solid repeats: old editions of Angela Scanlon’s Your Home Made Perfect and Inside The Factory with Gregg Wallace, then Emilia Fox from Silent Witness investigating the murders of Jack the Ripper, and an episode of the news quiz Mock The Week from May 2021 . . . very topical.
If only Stacey could give BBC director-general Tim Davie a talking-to, lay out all the year’s TV clutter on the floor of a warehouse and make him vow to get rid of half. ‘Tim,’ she’d cajole, ‘look at ‘ow many old bits ov Dragons’ Den you got. Does anyone really watch ’em?’
These shows accumulate like chipped mugs on a kitchen shelf. No one wants them but it seems wasteful to chuck them away. Farmer Andy, wife Lianne and their three children had around 1,000 mugs, which is enough for a chain of cafes.
We’re all guilty, on a lesser scale, Stacey believes: ‘I bet everyone’s got 40 or 50 mugs that they don’t need. When do 40 people ever turn up and ask for a cup of tea? It doesn’t happen.’
The best approach to decluttering is simply to be ruthless. On Stacey’s show, it’s always the children who find this easier. Invited to chuck away half their old toys, they bin without remorse or sentiment — while their parents watch, appalled and pleading: ‘You told us all your friends had one of those,’ and, ‘I queued in John Lewis for three hours on Christmas Eve to get that, it was the last one.’
Children are unsentimental beasts, of course. They live for the moment, which makes it easier for them to discard anything that has outlived its usefulness — but much harder for them to understand how reckless decisions today can have consequences for the rest of their days.
Behaviour specialist Marie Gentles was still struggling with bright but impulsive 14-year-old Jayliyah, in Helping Our Teens (BBC2). As the cameras returned repeatedly to Beacon Hill Academy in Dudley, to find the same problems recurring, we got a real sense of how heroically patient the teachers have to be.
Marie blamed ‘educational trauma’, caused by Covid and other issues. But parents also were traumatised. The mother of Oliver, a year seven pupil with autism, wept as she described how she had been left to cope alone when other schools decided they’d had enough of her son.
Though Oliver was autistic, he responded keenly to his mother’s emotions, and begged her not to cry. ‘It’s what mummies do,’ she told him simply.