The Diamond Jubilee has achieved two things it seems: firstly, it has temporarily reclaimed the union flag from militant racists, and secondly, it’s made an uncomfortably large portion of the population obsessed with campy British nostalgia. But honestly, it was much better back then in — I don’t know — the ‘50s or something, wasn’t it? When we used to gather outside, in the street, singing songs and raising mugs of OXO in celebration of Her Majesty.
Of course, it’s different now, what with Will.i.Am and knife crime. That’s why it’s so nice to be pandered to by the TV channels, who can’t produce shoestring budget nostalgia fast enough. The programme in question here is The House the 50s Built in which Professor Brendan Walker turns a completely unspectacular, bland-looking house (aptly named 21 Coronation Close) into a 1950s wonderland. This first episode is devoted entirely to 1950s kitchens and a series of technologic advancements that made cooking in the decade much easier than it ever had been before.
It sounds face-meltingly boring, admittedly, but it’s not completely. The parts of the programme that examine the science behind materials like melamine and PTFE (Teflon) are pretty interesting, as are the parts about ‘50s design and the theory that the invention of a more streamline kitchen helped the 1950s feminist movement, which, we’re told, gave women more time to speak out about their lack of political, economic and social rights.
It’s a theory that’s likely to fuel the minds of thousands of misinformed obnoxious lads up and down the country, although perhaps it’s supposed to be nostalgically sexist, not like the sexism we have these days! Bizarrely, as we’re told this theory, the programme remains strangely cheerful and light-hearted, as if the invention of the twin-tub genuinely was as important as Edith Summerskill in the fight for women’s rights.
Nevertheless, with contributions from Maureen Lipman, Fay Weldon, Kevin McCloud, Wayne and Geraldine Hemingway, The House the 50s Built isn’t a complete waste of time—although I can’t help thinking that the series will improve with future episodes. A whole episode on 1950s kitchen technology does begin to drag towards the end. Fortunately episode two sounds like more fun: a look at 1950s living rooms and television, in a pre-Channel 4 age, imagine that.