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Friday 6 December 2019

Getting angry at Room to Improve is daft

Straight Talking

Room to Improve’s Dermot Bannon
Room to Improve’s Dermot Bannon

Darragh Clifford

We might be known as the island of a thousand welcomes, a nation filled with people who love 'the craic', with our smiling Irish eyes and our laid back outlook on life. But at the same time, we are an afflicted people. We are infected with a very Irish symptom that has raged and spread like a rampant disease over the past couple of weeks.

I am, of course, talking about begrudgery, and how something so trivial as a popular RTÉ show about houses has lifted the lid on just how many begrudgers are out there, smartphone in hand, ready to launch their latest broadside.

Room to Improve has come a long way in its 12 seasons. When it first hit our screens, we were living in a very different Ireland. The recession had hit with a bang, and all of a sudden we discovered that up-sizing was not an option for large chunks of the population.

Enter architect Dermot Bannon, who developed a show where home owners could revamp their existing living space for a modest budget instead of selling on and moving to the bigger house down the road.

But over the 12 seasons the show, like the dreams and budgets of the people involved, have become a whole lot bigger. It is not just the budgets that have mushroomed, viewing figures have steadily grown too.

In 2018, Room to Improve averaged just over 700,000 viewers an episode. To put that into context, the episode of Room to Improve which featured Daniel O'Donnell attracted 722,000 viewers, coming in above the figures for the All-Ireland football and hurling finals of 2018. It is clearly a nation's favourite.

But all was clearly not rosy in the landscaped garden. So when ex RTÉ staffer Damien Tiernan decided to have a little rant on Twitter, all hell broke loose.

For the record, Damien said that Room to Improve was 'a disgusting programme. At no time does Bannon question the morality of what he is promoting. It's a complete cod of a programme that plays on people's greed, opulence and avarice. And RTÉ promotes it as entertainment? Pathetic. They should be ashamed.'

Wow! Tell us what you really feel, Damien!

The former South East correspondent with RTÉ is not afraid to say what he feels on Twitter, and that should be admired. But he inadvertently opened the floodgates on a tsunami of begrudgery, with people fuming over how a couple could, for example, consider spending €13,000 on a bath when we have a chronic homeless crisis.

Well, hang on a minute here folks. If a couple decided to spend over €400,000 on an extension to their home, making it a more family-friendly space for them and their five children, as per the episode Damien was referring to, then good luck to them. It is their money, they are entitled to do what they want with it. That couple being more prudent is not going to solve the housing crisis in Ireland.

Let's be clear about one thing, Room to Improve is an entertainment show, it is designed to entertain the viewer. It offers a little bit of escapism on a Sunday evening, an antidote to the 'fear' of the impending Monday morning blues. The couples on the show might be coming to the party with a big budget and even bigger ideas, but so what? We watch it and we marvel at how Dermot Bannon can create superb living spaces from often very mundane starting points.

We sit back and dream about what we would do with the house if we ever got lucky and had a few quid to spare. We chuckle at how the clients refused point blank to accept Dermot's crazy idea of an orange kitchen or an exposed cement wall, only to be talked around by the end of the episode.

And if you don't like it, simply watch something else. I'll happily stick with the 700,000 who tune in for the entertainment.

Wexford People

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