Yes, the grass in France is greener

By Frances Grant

By FRANCES GRANT

For most, that dream of chucking it all in and making a fresh start remains a fantasy, the realm of telly dramas about discontented city dwellers finding their slice of rural or seaside heaven.

But new British docu-series No Going Back (TV One, 8.35pm) follows a series of more adventurous types, who grasp their chance to opt out of the rat race and venture to foreign shores to try to make the good life a reality.

In last week's opening instalment, cosily named builder Kevin Snuggs, partner Carol and her two children left their semi-detached in suburban Surrey and moved into an old French farmhouse set in 11ha of lakes and woodland in rural Brittany.

Their dream was to stock their new lakes with carp and attract British anglers willing to fork out for a tranquil spot of fishing and a proper, cooked English breakfast.

After all, a body needs something more than "bloody air" - Kevin's initial reaction to the croissant - in the early morning.

Of course, this wouldn't be docu-drama without a few hitches. Pretty soon Kevin and Carol found themselves settling slowly into that quagmire known as French bureaucracy and watching their first potential fishing season drifting by.

Belts were tightened and sacrifices made as the red tape wound interminably around their dream.

Still, after a promising start in which Carol bemoaned leaving her local beauty salon and pondered a life without regular eyebrow and bikini waxes, the couple did disappointingly well.

Language difficulties appeared easily overcome, the two daughters seemed quite happy switching to French schools, and the neighbours and villagers appeared friendly and encouraging. Brittany looks set to become the new Provence.

The Snuggs family seemed to possess that happy temperament that takes change and challenges in its stride.

And although they missed the odd drink down the pub, they happily adopted French eating habits ("the food is much healthier here").

Hopefully the series will deliver more than cosy tales of folks opening B&Bs and other tourist ventures in picturesque climes, however.

Some upcoming episodes sound as if they might deliver the requisite amount of schadenfreude.

After all, could there be a reality series which doesn't exist to exhibit the downfall, idiocy or general embarrassment of its subjects?

In tonight's episode, a city broker and fashion designer cash in the smart London lifestyle to run a safari venture in the African bush. It's a race against time to erect their lodge before the rains.

And in a another promising-sounding episode, a Norfolk couple move to Catalonia, where they enjoyed an idyllic holiday, to grow grapes and olives. They don't speak Spanish and have never farmed before.

Plenty of potential here for the dream to turn to vinegar.

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