Channel 4 seems to have had an alarming shift in its programming. Rather than scripting TV shows on interesting topics and scenarios, their sole commission structure now seems to be based around putting well-known faces into various subject matters that they know nothing about.
Kirstie Allsop in December was showing you how to tart up a Turkey roast, and Jamie Oliver has an impeding show about to air where he prats around a classroom with Alistair Campbell telling you how good school is, because he went to school and now he gets paid shitloads to knock up pukka Caesar Salads.
A series currently being rolled out showcases Mary Portas going undercover to stop you getting ripped off by furniture and mobile-phone salesmen. Portas - when not subliminally promoting companies she has share options in though her various newspaper columns – explores how estate agents don’t exactly tell the whole truth when trying to flog you a bijou studio apartment (next week “fire = hot” and “isn’t it amazing how wet you become when sitting in the bath?”). Now I don’t know about you, but when I’m looking to avoid being shafted by evil property tycoons, I would always look for help from a lady who was made famous by dressing up mannequins.
Portas goes undercover to see agents at work, though her outfit mainly consists of a wig and a funny little bobble hat. Oh, but she takes her novelty sized ring off as well. Wow, Mary, you’re like James fucking Bond with your masterful disguises. The agents, unsurprisingly, are bullshit merchants of the nth degree, using jargon that I couldn’t even begin to comprehend.
One estate agent describes a house as on a ‘popular turning’ while other is on a ‘prestigious turning’. Sorry, what? Clearly the turning market is currently all the rage in that there London. You don’t want to buy a house on an ‘arsehole turning’, or else you’ll probably end up with some right shits for neighbours.
Another house Portas views undercover is in Hackney. You know, that leafy suburb with all the stabbing and whatnot. Turns out this house was broken into last week and Portas – shit, I’ve blown her cover… this is like the Valerie Plame affair all over again… let’s just call her ‘Lady P’ – asks about the safety of the area.
Estate Agent: Well, it is in East London. It’s not, you know, the safest place in the world.
Yes, basically estate agent speak for ‘yeah it’s Hackney, dear, so you will be mugged and shot within a week…but the master bedroom is en-suite, and wait look; are those some original features in the kitchen…’
Portas decides that to revolutionise the estate agent business she needs to re-brand a pre-existing firm, and chooses firm Martyn Gerrard to be her prototype. They are populated by the usual Next-suit wearing, spikey haired, reformed chav dullards that tend to populate these establishments, and Phillip who is just about the biggest berk I have ever laid eyes on. His hair spiked in every direction (co-incidentally, it’s the spit of the ‘geek pie’ barnet from Nathan Barley), fake tanned to a point where I’m now not sure what race he is, he looks like he’s been electrocuted in a bathtub of Fanta.
Phillip, it transpires, is actually a minor internet celeb, the organiser of some group called ‘Team Gorgeous’, a group of what one can only assume are comprised of failed lower league footballers and girls deemed too trashy for page 3, that prowl around the shittest night-spots London has to offer. God knows what Phil’s position is in the group, presumably ‘top tit’ or something of a similar ilk. This is a recent post by Phillip himself from their Facebook group;
Last few weeks we have bought a new genre to Valbonne with the xmasLOVE party and the style victims show-off party that was last week – now we get to play the games of champagne drinking fashion conscious love of partying.
The new “in crowd”
The glamorous the gorgeous the beautiful and the el…ite are all partying so now we link the best Saturday to hit London with the sexiest fashion styled crowd ever seen…LIST SHUTS @ 7PM SATURDAY** this is the epitome of London weekend partying and I AM LOVING IT. THIS IS STUDIO VALBONNE.
This, ladies and gentleman, proves that evolution got it wrong.
Phillip’s desk is covered in awards that only he seems to ever have won (won/knocked up in his garage; same thing really) and makes prestigious claims about making £20M for the company last year. Suitably impressed, Mary goes out with Phillip to a viewing, and the guy gives her a lesson in talking bollocks. Making up rubbish about the reason old drawstring light switches haven’t been removed (describing them as Victorian ‘servant bells’), saying the house has another 17 viewings for today; his real high point is when he claims that ‘west-facing is the new south-facing’, meaning that your house won’t overheat in summer as the sun won’t hit the back windows. I mean, you really have to admire someone which such a nominal amount of shame.
Agency owner Simon sees no problem with this practice, claiming that ‘everyone else is doing it’, which I believe was a defence used by Nazi war criminals. Portas isn’t happy, so takes the staff to Kenwood House – a stately home in North London – to gives tours to groups of visitors, as you don’t have to be a fool to realise that reeling off a load of arbitrary facts about a mansion that you have no vested interest in is perfect practice for selling a ‘two-up two-down’ around Clapham Common.
To be fair to Portas, Simon’s staff training isn’t much better. His consists of some piss-poor slides that look like they were stolen from a pre-school green cross code presentation, and some woeful buzz-terms like ‘you need to read your customers’. It’s like two bald men fighting over a comb, this.
Portas calls a board meeting with the directors of the agency. Look, she used to tart up mannequins in Harvey Nicks, alright - she knows what she’s talking about. Her idea is a new policy called ‘honesty’, where she wants the agents to be honest and tell the whole facts about the property to the customer. Call me pessimistic, but was she this ‘honest’ when working as a visual-merchandiser for Topshop? ‘These clothes, dear? Yeah, all from sweatshops. India or something. Anything else I can help you with?’. I very much doubt it. Owner Steve tries to claim that you can be a bullshit merchant and still tell the truth.
Steve: But not having a garden can still be a good thing.
Portas: How can it?
Steve: Well, it means you save money as you don’t have to employ a gardener.
Quite honestly, you have to admire this guy’s balls. They’re like fucking watermelons.
Portas, in a bid to show that people want to be spoken to honestly, takes the team out to see what the public thinks of their industry lingo. Phillip has come dressed in a fetching blue and orange suit, so either he’s starting to colour co-ordinate his shirts with his skin, or he’s just finished the day shift at Sainsbury’s.
Among the highlights are her asking a man in a café what he thinks ‘superb intercommunicating double aspect reception rooms’ means, and a deli owner if he can make any sense of the term ‘motorway accessible’ (my only assumption is that it means that the house isn’t at sea).
Portas asks the deli owner ‘Would you prefer estate agents to be honest?’ What a brilliant rhetorical question that is. What do you think he’s going to say? ‘Nah, I’d rather they kept on bullshitting me. Makes it more interesting when the front door falls off the hinges after a couple of months. Can I interest you in 400 grams of Brie?’
So, re-educated and re-buffed, Phillip and the team go out researching their ‘for sale’ property. Phillip takes much more interest in the pros of the property, in particular one woman’s very pretty radiator:
‘We got the radiator shipped in from Turkey, then installed it with eco-friendly valves’
Slightly self-defeating, no?
Anyway, clued up with facts, Phillip now sells the house like a dream, reciting every last detail to a potential buyer. The problem that I assume Phillip has in this area is that anyone listening to his spiel must be looking at his face and thinking ‘I’d quite like the downstairs bathroom to be that colour’, and would miss a number of his witticisms.
The new approach proves to be a huge success, and of all the hand-picked people chosen by Channel 4 to be subjected to their new selling methods, 100% thought it was impressive. Hooray!
So, what we’ve all learned is that Mary Portas is the smartest most bestest woman in The UK, and everything she does is perfect and we should make her Queen of England. Next week, she attempts to solve the Israeli-Palestine thingy.