Grand Designs: The Street (Three, Mondays at 8.30pm)
Kevin McCloud is in heaven. For the Grand Designs host, heaven is a big empty field in Oxfordshire, that the district council has divvied up into sections and started flogging off to punters desperate to build their own houses – bespoke houses.
"Imagine a different kind of community," he invites viewers at the start of new Grand Designs spinoff series, The Street. "Imagine a different kind of neighbourhood … Imagine a street where every house is self-built."
It sounds like he's trying to get us to join a cult. In a way, that's what The Street is about – the cult of Grand Designs and what happens when normal folks are inspired to build their own houses as a sort of fun hobby. Like all good cult documentaries, it serves in large part as a cautionary tale.
McCloud's heaven turns out to be more of an ongoing hell for the buyers of The Street's first two plots of land: retirement-aged Northampton couple Terry and Olwen, who have snapped up section one and their single neighbour Lynn, who has snared the section next door. For a very reasonable £275,000 including land and building costs, they have bought the dream of building their ideal houses side-by-side, sharing tools, knowledge and cups of tea.
What they don't seem to have factored in, despite having probably watched at least 10 full seasons of Grand Designs to this point, is that building your own house is always, without fail, incredibly bloody stressful. And that Lynn, for all her gung-ho determination, is 62 years old, approximately the size of a sparrow and has never lifted a hammer before in her life.
In a matter of weeks the idyllic self-build dream goes full Neighbours at War. Lynn is hacked off at Terry and Olwen's lack of co-operation; Terry and Olwen have got the pip because Lynn seemingly expects them to build her whole house for her and keeps letting her builder Aled store his stuff in their shed without asking first. "Relationships are becoming strained between old friends," Kevin states the obvious.
This is just the start of what turns out to be a dark couple of years for the former friends. First Lynn's roof breaks, then her underground heating pipes explode, ruining her floor and meaning the whole house basically has to be torn down and started again. Terry works his ageing body so hard he has to go in for carpal tunnel surgery; and Olwen walks into some scaffolding and gets a massive bruise on her head.
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The personal and physical cost of these builds is incalculable and the financial cost far exceeds the original £275 grand quote. But when they finally answer Kevin's knock at the door and show him around and you see all those bespoke details (Lynn gets the last laugh – her house is nicer), you forget about all that. Yes, you think, one day I'd like to build my own house too. The cult of Grand Designs grows.