Weaver's Week 2019-07-28

Last week | Weaver's Week Index | Next week

Anyone for ice cream?

Celebrity Craft Masters It's paper view.

Kirstie's Celebrity Craft Masters

Celebrity Craft Masters

Raise the Roof Productions for Channel 4, 1-19 July

New to teatime in early July was an hour-long show. It's from one of Channel 4's most recognisable stars, Kirstie Allsop. An art historian by initial training, Kirstie came to fame through property show Location Location Location from 2000. She branched out into homemade crafts through Kirstie's Homemade Christmas (since 2009), and is able to talk about expensive houses and their cheap contents. She's been a regular on Channel 4's entertainment shows, and is one of the network's biggest and most popular names.

Hosted from what looks like her own front room, Kirstie introduces the day's two celebrities. The intros are brief, we don't need to spend ages recapping the career of Susan Calman or Natasha Kaplinsky. We do need to hear the warm tones of Julie Hesmondhalgh, narrator for the filmed inserts.

Celebrity Craft Masters The brightly-decorated room: celebrities to the left, judges and concealed creations on the right.

Also in the room are the two judges, Polly Macpherson and Piyush Suri. Polly is an associate professor of Design from the University of Plymouth; Piyush is a designer with a long reputation, his company is "Handmade in Britain".

Before the celebrities came to visit, Kirstie sent them a care package, with lots of craft materials – clay and card and glitter and hot wax stamps. Delivering the package was a craft expert, someone who would help the celebrity to make some spectacular creations.

Celebrity Craft Masters Laura Hamilton (right) is joined by expert Nicky McWilliams.

In the first segment of the show, we see each celeb – under the guidance of their expert – complete a particular brief. "Make a vase," Kirstie's original challenge. It's open to lots of different ideas and interpretations – one might throw a clay vase of a particular style, another might create a vase out of stiff card. Neither is wrong, the works will be judged on their technical merit and artistic fair.

And judged they will be: the critics say what they like, and explain why they dislike other pieces. Punches are thrown, not pulled. There is always a justification, from the factual "this fell to bits" to the opinion "I really don't like pastel colours". We viewers can decide ourselves if the judges are being unreasonable.

The second part of the show is very similar to the first – Kirstie tells us about a challenge, we see how the celebs and experts took it on, and then there's a critique from the judges. This is an informal contest – nothing so concrete as points – but Kirstie drops very clear hints of who won each round.

Celebrity Craft Masters A table full of knick-knacks poses with Kirstie.

All of this sets us thinking, what point is Kirstie making in this show? Our takeaway: crafting is easy, or easier than we might think. That with the right guidance and support, even a bumbling amateur can produce something that looks stylish and fashionable.

In the best way, we're reminded of the Blue Peter make. Sarah Greene shows how to manufacture a Christmas card out of last year's wrapping paper, Tim Vincent works with milk cartons to make a bag, Andy Akinwolere turns a sock into a fearsome monster. Your efforts at home won't look quite as good as the ones on screen, what we're seeing is a target, something to aim for.

And again, we're frustrated that Channel 4 hasn't included any instructions on the website to replicate what we've seen on screen. Want to make a vase like Cheryl's? Tough; you'll have to figure it out yourself.

Celebrity Craft Masters It'll be lemonade 'n' stuff next.

Part three is an "upcycling" challenge, breathe new life into an old and unloved object. A bit like this show tries to do for its contestants, badum'tish!? Here, the celebs are given help and materials to transform their old furniture until it looks new, or take the raw materials and turn it into something novel. For our money, it's a challenge out of kilter, just slightly away from the main thrust of the show.

The final challenge is a surprise, one the celebs don't know about until it happens. They're given a limited amount of time to complete a simple craft task, after seeing a short demonstration first. To complicate even further, Kirstie and the judges keep badgering our players for an update. Who can work best under this pressure?

Eventually, the judges retire and go over everything they've seen on the show. A winner is declared, and they get a small trophy as a prize. The real reward is the skills learned and the friends made.

Kirstie's Celebrity Craft Masters takes something of a scattergun approach to crafting. The skills tested are wide and varied, though there's usually a loose theme somewhere to be found. The selection of celebrities is tighter – 80s stars Anneka Rice and Cheryl Baker...

Celebrity Craft Masters ... comedians Susan Calman and Mark Dolan.

The atmosphere is relaxed and supportive – Kirstie delivers many of her chats while clutching a mug of tea, and the contestants talk to each other while out in the back garden. It's informal and pleasant, and the competition is not the show's focus. Some of the press suggested it would be the Strictly Come Dancing of craft: it's not, the show doesn't try to be the biggest thing on television, and succeeds by limiting its ambitions.

Why watch this show? A few people will come for the crafters, large stars in relatively small ponds. More people will watch for Kirstie Allsopp, a familiar and reliable figure on Channel 4. Others will be interested by the celebrities, can they get Anneka Rice to sit still for a minute? And others will want something relaxing, less frenetic than 5pm rival The Chase and more creative than Pointless.

Was this column inspired to try and replicate some of the items on display? Truth to tell, we weren't, but that's because we don't need another vase or a pinata in our life, and we'll leave small stuffed alpacas to Alpaca Queen Lindsey Russell. We can imagine that other episodes would contain makes we could want to do.

And that, perhaps, is the mark of a successful show. If this column, craft-averse since childhood, is interested in the makes, anyone could be.

This Week and Next

Got Talent has been cancelled. "Logistical and scheduling conflicts" are blamed by Virgin Media, who will not make a third series of the talent franchise for viewers on Ireland. The series was scheduled early in the year, climaxing in late March. Got Talent proved less popular than Dancing With the Stars on RTÉ1.

A major shake-up for Masterchef Down Under, the Aussie version of Masterchef Goes Large. Long-standing judges Matt Preston, Gary Mehigan, and George Calombaris will not return for the next season of the show. The decision, by the commissioning station Network 10, is not believed to be linked to George Calombaris systematically underpaying his restaurant staff. The news broke on Tuesday, just hours before the series final aired. We'll not spoil the result, as Masterchef Down Under will air on the W channel from next week.

Good news for Love Island fans, ITV2's hit show will be back for a winter series. They've tried to replicate the summer hit during cold snaps before (Survival of the Fittest from eighteen months ago), and not succeeded, so we'll have to see how this pans out.

BARB ratings in the week to 14 July.

  1. In a quiet week, Coronation Street reclaims top spot (ITV, Wed, 6.6m) from tennis at The Wimbledon Rainwear and Umbrella Exposition (BBC1, Sun, 6.1m). That's sport, so we declare the top game show is Love Island (ITV2, Wed, 5.95m).
  2. Other podium positions were The Chase (ITV, Tue, 3.15m) and Pointless Celebrities (BBC1, Sat, 2.95m).
  3. The Taskmaster final attracted 1.17m (Dave, Wed). The Great Gardening Challenge (C5, Tue, 975,000) held on to last week's viewers; we expect to review next week. QI scored 950,000 (BBC2, Fri).
  4. A rotten score for The Crystal Maze (C4, Fri, 850,000), perhaps they might not like to invite so many bigots onto the show. The programmes after Love Island continue to do reasonably, Celebability (Wed, 570,000) and Hey Tracey (Mon, 505,000).

It's the final of Love Island (ITV2, Mon), where we find out if they're going to share or... er... haven't they already..? Never mind. On Radio 4, a new series of Gaby's Talking Pictures (Wed), a panel game about movies. Eurovision Choir of the Year looms, BBC Alba nips in to profile their contestant (Thu), and the live final next Saturday (S4C, BBC Alba, eurovision.tv).

Photo credits: Raise the Roof Productions.

To have Weaver's Week emailed to you on publication day, receive our exclusive TV roundup of the game shows in the week ahead, and chat to other ukgameshows.com readers, sign up to our Yahoo! Group.

Last week | Weaver's Week Index | Next week

A Labyrinth Games site.
Design by Thomas.
Printable version
Editors: Log in