In the psyches of Irish TV-watchers, Dermot Bannon created an extension and took up permanent residence there over the past 10 years.
We shall leave it to future generations of historians and psychologists to deduce why, in an era of soaring house prices and general disgruntlement about the property market, Room To Improve (RTÉ One, 9.30pm) became one of Ireland’s great obsessions. Whatever the reason, the cheerful home makeover was a success. showDespite the fact that property has become a political battlefield, it has survived.
And now it’s back for series 13 – or 14 if you’re one of those Bannon purists who insists early 2020’s Dermot’s Home two-parter qualifies as its own separate season.
As is the Room to Improve tradition, the fun flows from the tension between Bannon’s starchitect ambitions and his clients’ more sensible desire to live in a nice house that doesn’t resemble a Frank Gehry fever-dream. In the first of four new episodes, Bannon attempts to convince Lisa and Marc Daly, from Kilmacud, Dublin, to equip their new kitchens with stained wooden units. They look like something out a trendy restaurant, where the drinks are served in jam-jars. “slaw”As a side.
Bannon, ever the visionary, strongly believes that this is what they need to connect their new building. Marc and Lisa are shocked. And, as they’re the ones signing the cheques, they win out.
There is an added human interest component as Lisa and Marc’s middle child, Liam, is autistic. The family is able to afford a new home, which will be built adjacent to their existing house. designA sensory room just for him
The pandemic strikes and construction slows down. The Dalys move to Drogheda where Lisa must commute with her three sons to Dublin. “It’s just crazy,”She said. “I don’t know if it’s sustainable. I’m exhausted. I have to hang around Dublin for four hours.”
Also at his wits’ end is builder James McGlynn who has not only had to negotiate the challenges of running a project through 18 months of rolling lockdowns – but has to deal with a huge increase in the cost of materials. McGlynn agreed to deliver the house at a fixed price, but now his overheads are skyrocketing. It’s an uncomfortable situation. With Bannon mediator, the Dalys agree on a number budget-trimming steps, with zinc roofing being the first luxury to go.
The Dalys prove that even the longest journeys end in the end. We visited their new home and it is a minimalist wonder.
“They brought me on a journey to give me a glimpse into life with autism,” says Bannon. “It is a massive relief to come here today and see that the building is working for Liam.”
The episode is really about parents doing all they possibly can for their child.
And that is perhaps where the secret to the success of Room To Improve ultimately lies – with all due respect to Bannon and his endless reservoirs of cheeriness. Externally, it is a property. show, what it’s actually about is perseverance in the face of overwhelming odds. Unlike Bannon’s stained kitchen units, that is something that will never go out of fashion.