World’s Weirdest Homes, Wednesday 5th December, 9pm, Channel 4
Every summer in Brighton there is an event called the Artists’ Open House Festival, where local works of art are displayed, and sold, inside homes all over the city. It is hugely popular. But for every person who is genuinely interested in buying a hemp rug hand-woven on an original 19th century loom, there are three who are just desperate to get in and have a nose around someone else’s house.
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We all love a bit of domestic snoopery. It’s why property programmes have proved so successful over the years. With Phil and Kirstie, George Clarke and Kevin McCloud all doing their thing, Channel 4 has made something of an art form of the genre. But nothing comes close to the properties on display in this series. The producers have trawled the world in search of the most profoundly bonkers homes out there, and come up with a collection of properties so surreal Salvador Dali would scoff at them.
First up is Falcon’s Nest, in Prescott, Arizona. It’s owned by a couple who go running together in the desert. Dressed head-to-toe in orange. As you do. Their home is 124 ft tall, a concrete-and-glass behemoth with four vast greenhouses sticking out of it halfway up. There is no aircon, and no heating, which most people might consider to be something of a problem, living in a glass house in the desert, but Ernst and Sristi appear not to worry. Ernst makes his living reading Tarot cards. Of course. It’s not the most lucrative business, and they weren’t able to afford the home until they were both knocked off their tandem by a truck, and awarded a significant settlement. Though I have to say, if I was recovering from serious injury, I probably wouldn’t invest in a ten-storey home with no lift.
On to the Netherlands, where a man called Ad Peters is repairing his ark. Yes, like that one. Indeed, it’s built to the same specifications. Unfortunately, this one isn’t saving the future of organic life on earth, but is instead moored up next to a Dutch car park. Ad is using it to spread the word of God. Whether or not God approves is a moot point – he sent a large storm to damage the ark recently, which is a shame. If there’s one home you’d think would be good in a storm it’s an ark.
If the first two homes are indicative of true eccentricity, the third is the epitome of bad taste and vulgarity. It is the home of 16-year-old Rashed, who has his own YouTube channel where he goes by the delightful moniker Money Kicks. Rashed is the son of a property billionaire, and they’re clearly not saving the whole lot for a rainy day (which, to be fair, is probably fairly irregular in Dubai). When we meet Rashed he is having his own Ferrari gift-wrapped in Louis Vuitton wrapping paper, for reasons that are never made entirely clear.
Rashed, it turns out, has his own private zoo. For most kids, that might mean the family dog, and a glass box containing some stick insects. For Rashed, it’s a complex with 500 animals, run by a permanent staff of 16. He has lions, tigers, leopards, bears, zebras, giraffes, you name it. And they’re all called things like Versace, Armani and Dior.
At the other end of the luxury scale is the next house, a functional, small, cramped pod in the Utah desert where scientists pretend to be on Mars. Eight people live there at a time, and are forced to stay inside almost all day. They have tiny living pods, and one bathroom between them. I’d like to see how Money Kicks would get on living in there.
There’s still time for a visit to Wayne and Catherine, who live on their own floating island in British Columbia, which they built themselves, and have been adding to for 25 years. It is an astonishing, remarkable and humbling achievement, and much the most impressive of all the builds. Not that I’d want to live there – the idea of organic self-sufficiency off–grid in remote rural Canada isn’t for me. I like aircon, and cold drinks, and I’d need somewhere to keep my cheetahs.
I think, at this point, I must have dropped off, because I had what I assume was a dream about a rather charming fellow called Marcio, from Rio de Janeiro, who has lived in an ornate sandcastle for the past 22 years. Good old ‘Money Kicks’ could probably learn a thing or two from Marcio, a guy from the favela who queues up to wash in a nearby public restroom. His is a humble life, but then again, he’s never wrapped a Ferrari in Louis Vuitton wrapping paper, so is considerably less of a loser in my book.
Jamie and Jimmy’s Friday Night Feast, Friday 7th December, 8pm, Channel 4
It’s a quiet week, TV wise. I’m a Celebrity is continuing to dominate the schedules, and the broadcasters are keeping their power dry until it’s over. With not an awful lot of new stuff on the agenda, it’s back to the café at the end of Southend Pier for another series of Friday Night Feast. Not that it’s a bad option mind you – it’s a cheerful, energetic, upbeat show that manages to combine ethical eating, fabulous cooking, proper A-list guests and a rollicking good time.
This week’s guest is Jodie Whittaker, who you will doubtless know as the new Doctor. I say doubtless because she’s had so much publicity she’s crossed even my mother’s radar, and she normally doesn’t know who anyone is unless they’re appearing on The Andrew Marr Show. She seems lovely, our Jodie, as she sits down for a quick chat with Jamie and Jimmy. Of Doctor Who she says “My dad’s delighted I’m in something he’s heard of,” which is a bit harsh, as his daughter was one of the stars of Broadchurch, perhaps the biggest drama of the last decade.
Anyway, before we can get too outraged on Jodie’s behalf, it’s back to Jamie’s shack as he takes inspiration from the US for “potentially one of the most amazing roast pork dishes ever.” So the dish is American inspired, the hyperbole is Presidentially-inspired. You’re not going to believe how good this pork is. It’s the best pork. Really, such good pork. Etc.
Thing is, though, the end product really does look absolutely incredible. I’m a huge fan of pork (a sucker for the suckling? Crackers about crackling?) but even with that in mind, Jamie’s creation looks like just about the best thing I’ve ever seen.
I’m also a fan of a Massaman Curry, which is up next. Jodie Whittaker, pork and crackling, Massaman Curry. If part two features QPR’s best ever goals and an old episode of Frasier I’ll know I’m dreaming. Jamie demonstrates how to make the curry for Jodie, complete with shrimp paste, which may well be the worst-smelling substance known to man (luckily none of the socks survived from my teen years to dispute this).
Then there’s an item about crabs. I LOVE CRABS!!! And they’re sustainable, eco-friendly, British (in so much as crabs have a nationality) and high in protein, vitamins and minerals. They make some crab sandwiches that looked so good I was honestly contemplating licking my laptop screen, which might have taken some explaining to the IT guys at work. Jamie shows some kids how to make a quick and easy crab pasta meal, which works provided your kids aren’t terrified, as mine are, of anything that’s not breaded and frozen. Sometimes, if they’re scared at night, I take them up a fish finger to cuddle.
Speaking of being frozen, Jimmy’s build this week shows us how to make a barbecue out of an old metal drum. Let’s be honest, who’s going to do that? You can buy a perfectly decent Barbie for £30, that doesn’t involve spending three days outside swearing and crying. (That’s not what Jimmy does, obviously, but it’s how my attempt would end up). Also, he announces that the segment is “designed to get you lot feasting outside this weekend.” This programme goes out on December 7th. It’s chilly out there. We’ll all be indoors, snuggled under blankets, clutching fish fingers for warmth and security.
The best… and the rest
Saturday 1st December
Darcey Bussell: Dancing to Happiness, 9pm, BBC Two: The ballet legend and Strictly judge reflects on how dance has a positive effect on mood, even when compared with other forms of exercise. She also looks at dance groups for the elderly, and those with dementia and Parkinsons.
Sunday 2nd December
Gun No. 6, 9pm, BBC Two: Powerful 70-minute documentary telling the story of a single gun that has been used in 11 shootings in the West Midlands. Featuring contributions from family members of those killed, as well as the perpetrators themselves.
Monday 3rd December
The Best Christmas Food Ever 1/10, 3:45pm, BBC One: Paul Ainsworth and Catherine Fulvio are joined by a different celebrity every day to discuss, and demonstrate, the perfect festive dishes.
Kirstie’s Handmade Christmas 1/15, 5pm, Channel 4: The daytime festive craft show that features the ever-resourceful Ms Allsopp weaving Christmas stockings from turkey carcasses. Or something.
Nadiya’s Asian Odyssey 1/2, 9pm, BBC One: The delightful former Bake Off winner explores the people, places and foods of Cambodia and Thailand.
Tuesday 4th December
Lockerbie: The Unheard Voices, 9pm, Channel 5: Unbelievably, the Lockerbie disaster took place 30 years ago. Now, this feature-length documentary tells the story of that fateful day, featuring interviews with witnesses, rescue workers, and those whom fate intervened to save.
Thursday 6th December
The Supervet at Christmas, 8pm, Channel 4: The genius vet, Noel Fitzpatrick, does some more genius vetting. Presumably in a Santa hat, or something, to make this Christmassy. Even though it was probably filmed during a heatwave in July.
Escape from Dubai: The Mystery of the Missing Princess, 9pm, BBC Two: In February this year, Princess Latifa, the 32-year-old daughter of Dubai’s ruler, left the country to embark on a new life in America. But her boat was stormed by Indian commandos, after which she has not been seen since. This documentary examines what may have happened to her, in a labyrinthine and depressing tale of intrigue and abuse.