Mark Durden-Smith


Twofour for UKTV Style, 15 December 2008 (pilot)

Home, 4 May 2009 to 11 January 2010 (2 series)


An imaginative attempt to bring a "shock TV" aesthetic to the decluttering sub-genre of lifestyle shows, a sub-genre normally associated with gentle lunchtime non-game shows such as Flog It!, Cash In The Attic and so forth. The show is more interesting for what it overtly doesn't achieve than what it does and the way in which it remains in good taste while flirting with something quite radical and nasty.

A contestant with a cluttered house, largely taken up by a collection of collections, is nominated by a friend; the contestant is told that they're going on a makeover show, but not the nature of the show on which they will appear. The contestant is walked, blindfolded, into their own house; the blindfold is removed to reveal that all the contents have been removed, leaving only fittings and fixtures. A team of movers has boxed it, packed it and catalogued it carefully.

The premise of the show is that the contestant is asked to remember all the things they own. If they don't remember what they own, they don't need it, whatever it is, and they get rid of it. Thankfully, in practice, Gutted is not quite the All-New Star-Studded $25,000 Lose Your Stuff! that it might be, by virtue of a very softly played and correctly consensual approach to the premise. Even before the very start of gameplay, the nature of the whole game is explained to the contestant, mostly off-camera, and we see the contestant and their friend consulting over whether to go ahead with the whole exercise or not. We'd love to know how many contestants say "no, bring my stuff back in right now and if there's so much as a scratch on it then I'm going to sue the pants off you, you, you and you". One might cynically suppose that the whole exercise is not quite as spontaneous as the show makes it appear, because a high proportion of wasted enterprises resulting in not so much as one game arising would be prohibitively expensive for a channel that is not known for its considerable programme budget...

Round one sees a dozen large red crosses dotted around the house and the contestant asked to identify the items that once stood there. Each correctly-identified item is returned to the house. A gentle start, not least to make sure that contestants (broadly) don't lose furniture broadly considered essential such as tables, chairs, sofas and beds. Incorrectly identified items remain in the van, to be sent off to auction.

Round two considers the contestant's collections, one at a time. In turn, a fairly exacting question about one member of each collection is asked; a correct answer sees the cherished collection returned to the house - though a contestant committed to decluttering might choose to auction the collection, or some of it, rather than bringing it back into the house. Incorrect answers see the collections remain en masse in the van. (A tweak sometimes sees contestants play for parts of a collection with each question, and collections partly retained through a mixed success rate are often consigned to the van by choice. If you're a collector, why would you get rid of part of a collection? Keep the lot or keep none.)

Round three is a three-minute sweep around the house, in which the contestant is asked to name every item not yet saved. Named items come back out, forgotten-about items remain in the van. The contestant then gets to think overnight and pull three items back from the van about which they had forgotten, in case they had managed to forget about anything important like, say, their television.

All remaining items in the van then go off to a local auction-house, with collections sold off as single lots and other items sold individually. It is remarkable how little many of them go for, which may illustrate unintended morals of the show: local auctions are terrible ways to sell your property, and your collections really aren't going to be worth much to people who aren't you. However, it is known by all parties involved that all sales are not final, because of the big question at the end of the show.

The final question to conclude the show is whether the contestant chooses to take the money they have raised by selling items at auction, or to take all their items back into the house. In an episode we saw, possibly incentivised by the poor returns on offer, our contestant chose to keep her collections, which was a tremendous relief of stress for the viewer. The true reward comes when we come back a month later to learn that our contestant has been shocked into action, hasn't unboxed some of her collections and really has started to declutter of her own volition - quite possibly getting far more for her goods, at the bay of E or otherwise, than the local auction would have done. A happy ending, particularly considering that the experience is the only prize that the show has to offer.

Mark Durden-Smith walks the tightrope of taste, isn't afraid to take himself less than seriously and remains supportive throughout, though the whole show is based on foundations of having contestants who genuinely want to declutter and who appreciate the heavy nudges that the show provides. The experience may, in fact, be hardest on the friend who nominated the contestant in the first place, and the show isn't above showing people taking the rather extreme turns of events badly.

A show which bullied an unprepared contestant into selling their cherished goods, potentially for very little money, would be a really nasty show. Gutted, very thankfully, isn't that show, though it's not above pretending that it is.

Web links

Official site, via the Wayback Machine

Comment from someone unhappy, claiming to have been a contestant


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