Cast your mind back to the early Noughties: a time when the humble makeover show ruled the TV schedules.
From your home to your style choices to (more controversially) your wrinkles, a quick flick through the channels would find you faced with a show targeting a specific form of so-called self-improvement.
Changing Rooms, the BBC home decoration show that brought the term ‘feature wall’ crashing into our collective consciousness, was arguably responsible for some of the genre’s most enduring moments: who can forget the sheer, undiluted horror of the aftermath of Linda Barker’s teapot disaster, which saw the presenter responsible for the destruction of a priceless collection of porcelain?
Recent reports have claimed that a potential reboot of the series is on the cards, with TV bosses allegedly keen to sign up former stars Laurence Llewelyn Bowen and Carol Smillie.
We’re keeping our fingers firmly crossed on this one – and what better excuse to look back through the archives of British TV’s most iconic – and sometimes problematic – makeover shows?
If there was one programme that epitomised the sheer madness of the makeover genre, it was Changing Rooms. The format of the BBC series, which ran from 1996 to 2004, seemed simple enough. A couple would swap houses with friends or a neighbour for a few days, teaming up with the show’s revolving line-up of interiors ‘experts’ to revamp a room in their pals’ home.
Anna Ryder Richardson, Linda Barker, a floral-suited Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and ‘Handy’ Andy Kane (who must be single-handedly responsible for the Noughties MDF boom) were among the show’s most memorable faces.
After watching just a few episodes, though, viewers would inevitably be left wondering whether these couples actually harboured secret vendettas against their so-called ‘friends’, and had signed up for the show to enact an awful revenge.
Thanks to the designers’ very distinctive tastes, participants were often left speechless – if not visibly outraged – by the end results. One memorable instalment saw a woman reduced to tears when Llewelyn-Bowen transformed her dining room with a Queen Anne-inspired makeover, complete with portraits of her and her husband as Nell Gwyn and Samuel Pepys.
Perhaps the most harrowing scene of all, though, came when Barker set up some free-hanging shelves to house a priceless porcelain teapot collection. Just seconds after it was finished, the contraption came crashing to the ground – bringing the teapots with it. The pottery avalanche brought participants to tears, and surely left even Handy Andy questioning the value of MDF.
Instead of feature walls and historical throwbacks, a 2020 version of Changing Rooms would surely swap feature walls and historical throwbacks for exposed brick, Pinterest-friendly bookshelves and rose gold fittings, with Instagram interiors influencers advising participants on the correct use of millennial pink. Even if a reboot never makes it to screens, though, we can rest safe in the knowledge that Llewelyn-Bowen’s aesthetic lives on in some of Harry Styles’ more outré fashion choices.
If Changing Rooms was responsible for stamping the distinctive aesthetic of the Nineties and Noughties onto Britain’s homes, Ground Force did something similar to its gardens – though participants seemed to be left significantly happier (and significantly less perturbed) when faced with the end results.
In each episode, gardening experts Alan Titchmarsh and Charlie Dimmock, along with builder Tommy Walsh, would be tasked with making over a new garden, belonging to someone who’d been nominated to take part in the show by family and friends. That participant would conveniently be whisked away for two days, giving Titchmarsh and co enough time to revamp their outdoor space before surprising them on their return.
Where Changing Rooms had MDF as a catch-all solution to all interiors woes, the Ground Force team were devoted advocates of water features, pergolas and (most frequently of all) garden decking. So convincing were they that viewers quickly jumped on the bandwagon, blighting lawns across the nation with endless outdoor floorboards.
B&Q even reported a rise in decking sales from £5,000 in 1997 to £16 million in 2001, and credited the show for the unexpected boom. “I have no doubt that when I’m put in the ground they’ll deck my grave,” Titchmarsh has since remarked.
In one memorable special, the Ground Force gang paved over Nelson Mandela’s lawn, while an ambitious cross-over episode saw Changing Rooms’ Llewelyn-Bowen tasked with making over a garden, while the green-fingered stars tried out interior design.
A reboot in the vein of Queer Eye, though, would surely have to acknowledge the fact that most millennials can only dream of a back garden – let alone frivolously covering it in decking. Perhaps succulents and flower walls would be a good place to start.
What Not To Wear
If Queer Eye’s Tan France, who calmly and kindly dishes out style advice to the show’s participants without ever shaming them for their fashion choices, sits at one end of the makeover spectrum, What Not To Wear’s Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine sat at the other.
Each episode of the BBC’s flagship fashion show saw the presenting duo ambush an unsuspecting woman (who’d previously been nominated by friends and family as offensively unstylish), forcing them to confront their body in a nightmarish 360 degree mirror before berating them for their unflattering clothing choices with a series of savage one-liners.
After this verbal evisceration, Woodall and Constantine would then attempt to salvage the situation by presenting them with a series of style ‘rules,’ which always seemed to involve v-neck jumpers, a statement necklace and a pair of brown knee-high boots. Armed with a new highlighted hairdo, the participant would then parade their new wardrobe in front of the friends and family who’d been so horrified by their original look.
There’s no way that What Not To Wear would work in its Noughties incarnation in 2020 without a serious re-think – for a kinder twist on the format, try Rylan Clark-Neal’s You Are What You Wear.
How To Look Good Naked
How To Look Good Naked stands out amid the decade’s often problematic, sometimes downright offensive makeover offerings as a step in the right direction (or at least, a step away from the body-shaming dished out in many similar shows…)
Instead of encouraging women to drastically change their bodies, presenter Gok Wan would emphasise the importance of body positivity, attempting to build up participants’ confidence through a series of bizarre tasks, all while drowning them in compliments (despite his insistence on comparing women’s shapes to various fruit and vegetables).
When it came to fashion advice, Wan was in his element: he can surely take responsibility for the waist belt boom in the mid-Noughties, and was inexplicably obsessed with adding a ‘pop of colour’ with bright scarves and colourful jewellery.
10 Years Younger
If there’s one makeover show that’s definitely best left in the past, it’s Ten Years Younger.
First, there’s the problematic concept at its core: that contestants were being encouraged to go under the knife in order to better fit conventional beauty standards. Inexplicably, participants would willingly stand in crowded public places while presenter Nicky Hambleton Jones asked strangers to guess their age, often egging them on to wildly over-estimate. After totting up the average ‘age’ of their face, they’d then aim to knock 10 years off that figure by any means necessary.
Those means most often involved chemical peels, eye ‘lifts’ and other more invasive surgical procedures, along with the inevitable dental veneers, a Trinny and Susannah-lite style masterclass from Hambleton Jones and a choppy, highlighted hair cut from a celebrity hairdresser.
The premise, of course, is a veritable spider’s web of ethical holes, meaning that we’d like to hope that the show definitely wouldn’t make it past the pitch stage in 2020.
Gallery: The craziest watches going on sale at Only Watch 2019 (Esquire (UK))