Monday, August 22, 2005

No waste like... TV waste

Last week I watched a new BBC programme: No Waste Like Home. Basically a reality/makeover hybrid revolving around consumer environmental issues. So far, so planet-saving (they seem to have nicked a lot of the clichés we have already 'homaged' - the difference is of course subtle, like eccentrics being mad people only with more money).

And at this point, I must declare an interest, in that we (well, my family) applied for a slot, on the basis of 'any publicity...' . And no, we didn't get selected, which is getting to be a habit at the moment. But I think I know why. We were too normal.

Though it was not car crash TV... quite... it was clear that the primary objective was extremes.

I'll dispense with the other of the two families featured in three words: Stepford and Sons (ok, seven: plus daughters and wife). Some purpose built CGI (though it was real, I think, as were the occupants) eco-dream home. Then a few quick allusions to stuff that's great when you do it from scratch, but tricky and costly in the kind of home most of us live in. And that was about as much time as the programme spent on them, too.

Then we got to the other extreme... family. About as nuclear as you could hope in composition, plus the fact that they needed a power station powered by same in their garden to run their lifestyle.

And what a lifestyle! For reasons not fully explained (we should have a gas supplier so generous) they hadn't had a gas bill for a couple of years, and so it was ‘turn up that dial’ on the thermostat (the use of which, mysteriously, no one explained to them despite it being ok to install a full solar system on the roof). The place was also lit up like Margaret Beckett's office during summer recess, and they specifically bought pineapples to throw away.

The slightly sanctimonious voice-over left us in no doubt as to their wicked ways, complemented by an affable but rather peripheral presenter who tut-tutted and came out with statistics that meant little to me.

There was some car-crash, and the inevitable post-shoot editing, with the main victim being the hapless housewife. She actually did have a few good points to make (if anyone has tips on how to make a towel dry in the sun without ending up like an emery board I'd like to hear it. And also what one does when it rains which, in the real world, it does in the UK).

But the show did have some nuggets that I would have liked to have seen developed further. For instance the fact that there is no need to wash anything above 40 degrees as modern washers/powders are designed to work at that. My wife would take some more convincing on that, but it was just kind of stated and that was that. Also there’s a composter that takes dead bodies… well, meat and gravy. I wasn’t convinced about that. But if I can so dispose, then our weekly bin bag gets even lighter.

It ended with the £10,000 pa annum saving the family was in line to make if they followed the new regime. Minus, one presumes, the cost of the new solar system, the spiffy chicken run (no old stuff here - all brand new plastic huts) and if they all live in the dark wearing jumpsuits (a fashion trend I reckon the tweens may tire of ‘in, like, ‘bout a munnet, Vickuy!’) to save washing.

I'm afraid this show did not engage with me at all, as it completely involved, if I can say something so contradictory: unrealistic stereotypes. Neither was anything like my family, which is trying, and doing, its best, with mixed information and the practicalities of modern life almost all but ignored. Reuse was mentioned, but not in any way I could really get to grips with, at least in ways we're trying to do with

But something is better than nothing, and getting people to think about re-everything is always to be lauded. Just so long as they don't alienate those who could be swayed in the process. Next week it looks like we have an Osbournesque teen saying 'whatever' when she gets grounded for leaving a light on.

Not another convert I suspect, but still good for ratings?