‘Carol divides her perennials to continue the cost-effective stocking of her new beds.’
‘Monty Don shows what to do now to maximise next year’s soft fruit crop.’
‘Carol Klein is at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve; Joe Swift visits Marqueyssac in the Dordogne.’
This is genius. Gardener’s World is one of very few TV programmes that hasn’t changed in format since I was 10 years old, and it’s unique — here’s why.
You don’t have to watch much daytime television to see quite a lot of other shows about houses and gardens and other domestic projects, and most are pretty indistinguishable from each other. The thing that unites them is the way that each episode is a self contained hit of satisfaction. The investment, perhaps in the form of a randomly chosen envelope or a visit to an auction; the work (sometimes literally taking only a day, or otherwise presented in a time lapse sort of way to squeeze it all in); and finally the payoff — consisting of someone crying and surprised because they were out for the 8 or so hours during which their garden was ‘transformed’, or an estate agent valuing a house at £60 per person per week on the private rental market — are all contained in a single half hour slot. In that way, they’re pretty much the same as any drama or soap, as opposed to being truly non-fiction. Certainly, they’re not sold as sources of solid professional advice for landscape gardeners and property developers.
The reason Gardeners’ World is so different and, without its long history, possibly uncommissionable (?) is that the episodes are designed to be valuable and informative for people who actually are willing to go out in the Autumn to divide and re-plant something which won’t even come out of the ground until the next Spring. The format is ridiculously simple: it really is just people walking around the garden doing things, and talking about doing those things. Occasionally, there are inserts about famous big gardens that make me want to become a member of the National Trust. It’s calm and composed and makes almost no concession to the various trends in television beyond sometimes reading out electronic mail.
Even as someone who doesn’t have a garden, knowing that there are people around the place who care about watching this, and that the BBC exists to make it, is great.
In contrast, Autumnwatch Live is kind of shit and needy. The only bits that aren’t horribly cringey and suffused with badly-contrived sexual tension are the inserts, which aren’t live anyway. But again — at least they’re trying to make something based on a premise that we are interested in watching how the natural world around us changes over the course of months, rather than seeing a garden get obliterated by patterned paving slabs in half an hour.