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Stacey Solomon’s Renovation Rescue review – how is this mess Reese Witherspoon’s first UK TV show?
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Stacey Solomon’s Renovation Rescue review – how is this mess Reese Witherspoon’s first UK TV show?

In 2016, Michael Gove declared that “the people of this country have had enough of experts”. He was referring to Brexit projections, but he may as well have been predicting the state of Channel 4 television premieres in the spring of 2024. Stacey Solomon, the charming presenter, singer and former X Factor finalist, is now telling overstretched home renovators how to make the best use of their funds and commit to DIY on its fluffy new show, Stacey Solomon’s Renovation Rescue.

Solomon has some relevant experience in the field, having been at the helm of Sort Your Life Out, in which she helped families reorganise their homes. She also regularly posts online about her own DIY projects. But as the new programme features people with crippling debt and uninhabitable houses, you can’t help but wish Channel 4 was sending over an architect with a wheelbarrow of cash.

The show sees Solomon assisting people who have overstretched themselves on their fixer-upper homes or been ripped off by builders, which is a relatable conundrum. Personally, it triggered the dark memory of when workers took up my floor and revealed that my new home was being held upright on “hopes and dreams” (the bill to fix it, of course, was more tangible). Solomon attempts to assuage the stress of financial and emotional ruin facing these families, with some suggestions about DIY and design. Her “expertise” is then fortified by the reveal that Solomon is simultaneously renovating the palatial Essex mansion she shares with her five children and husband, former EastEnders actor and I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! winner Joe Swash. There’s an unintentionally laughable contrast between the subjects, who are facing bankruptcy due to unexpected building costs, and Solomon and Swash’s turmoil about the size of their at-home gym (in comparison with a room devoted entirely to fishing equipment).

The episodes largely focus on people whose renovations were ruined by unexpected twists, whether rot in their foundations or garden-variety cowboy builders. Solomon’s solutions include painting your own kitchen cabinets, combining Japanese and Scandi design around the home, or coaxing “a heroic effort from their mates, helping them save £750 in labour”. But it’s never really clear what services the programme itself is providing and she seems uncomfortable throughout, evidently unsure how her particular brand of wisdom can alleviate projects requirings tens of thousands of pounds’ worth of work. That this unremarkable show and familiar home renovation premise is Reese Witherspoon’s first UK project (it’s produced by her company Hello Sunshine) is equally perplexing.

Contestants Erick and Caroline with Stacey Solomon on Renovation RescueView image in fullscreen

None of this is to say that Renovation Rescue isn’t without its charms. Even though she’s a little more awkward than usual, Solomon is still a delight and her dynamic with Swash is adorable. Plus, there is the typical level of pure dopamine that comes from the kind of before/after makeover shots a show like this thrives on. For the most part, the subjects have impressively chic renovation plans and the end results are testimonies to their excellent taste. There is a genuinely impressive level of ambition at play, with these stretched families sometimes creating spaces worthy of Architectural Digest.

Still, the show ends up a peculiar mishmash of Grand Designs-esque dreams and Solomon informing children that they can paint their own walls. But the shoehorning in of the affable presenter’s home feels a bizarre concoction, clumsily conceived and edited. While Solomon’s pad is nice enough, it doesn’t scream passion for design – and many of the subjects seem more knowledgable about architecture and DIY than the “expert” herself. We’re never convinced that Solomon’s DIY and gym conversion-based pearls are the answers to their prayers – nor that until she appeared it never occurred to them to asks their mates round to do some clearing.

Renovation Rescue is the sort of easy fare that plays in the background while you scroll though memes, only lifting your head when they do the big reveal and you get to scope out the new kitchen cabinets. Solomon simply can’t offer the distinctive insight that comes with a Kevin McCloud, George Clarke or even Nick Knowles fronted show. The problems are relatable, and the renovations well conceived and deployed. But if you want audiences to focus, it may be worth recruiting an expert whose skills match the level of the challenge.

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Source: theguardian.com