Medium-density fibreboard. Oranges and Blues. Broken teapots. Floppy Cuffs.
What do all these things have in common? Yes, you guessed it:
they are all slang names for venereal diseases Changing Rooms!
Now, my job as a semi-professional YouTube spiraller is to root out videos from way back when and make an arbitrary judgement call on how culturally important they are. And while Madge and Brit’s kiss takes fifth place, Sarah Harding’s bum note is fourth, third goes to that lady who put a cat in a wheelie bin and first alternate, of course, goes to Katie Price’s raw vocals on her and Pete’s "A Whole New World", the most seismically important video footage on the internet is, in fact, the Changing Rooms teapot disaster.
Have you seen it? If you haven’t, are you even human? No. Do you deserve to vote? No. Do you deserve to lead a happy and full life? No.
In this video, the Magnum Opus of British Broadcasting, Linda Barker — everyone’s third fave in-house interior designer after Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen and Anna Bought-A-Nature-Park-And-Got-Fined-£100k-For-Health-And-Safety-Violations-Ryder-Richardson – has the fab idea to take a vast collection of very precious vintage teapots and hang them, with the help of the now-untraceable Handy Andy Kane, on floating MDF (quelle surprise) shelves. After the group has finished gently placing the teapots on these wince-inducing shelves, they leave their neighbour’s room for a much deserved tea break, upon which they hear a crash. And lo and behold, this MDF-fibre-optic masterwork has collapsed, shattering the teapots of that poor lady from Wandsworth and thereby encompassing the perfect metaphor for the futility of the human condition/the government.
Of course, Linda swept up like a trouper and said, in her gorgeously patronising way, things like "You wanted a corner cabinet. I gave you a nice, hanging, modern shelf," and "Yeah, we definitely shouldn’t have put the books on the bottom," as the two women who had to live with this disaster on their doorstep weep on camera. In one instant, not only were the teapots gone for good, but it was officially confirmed that no matter how hard you try, no matter how much you care for and treasure something, powerful people will always come in and fuck it all up.
Let’s zoom in on this more closely by looking at other examples from the show.
There was that one episode where the mum said she liked "smooth edges" so the Changing Rooms theme-obsessed team made everything inside the family living room circular and (no joke) added in actual silver rubber rings as decor. Decor. DECOR. Decor. D-e-c-o-r. The mum wept on camera and audibly said: "I said smooth not circles. I hate circles." And so her home was ruined. Metaphor: Housing Crisis.
There was that other episode where the neighbours had no idea what their neighbours liked, but found a Greek tourism guide in the bookshelf and so made the room semi-Greek-more-Roman-themed by glue-gunning fake Roman torso statues made from MDF onto their antique four-poster bed. And so their four-poster bed, and most probably their wanderlust for Greece, was ruined. Metaphor: Brexit.
There was that incredible episode where Anna Ryder-Rich put French undies all over a couple’s room and the woman came in and screamed: "Why would I want this shit in my room?! I’ve got children." And so her children were ruined. Metaphor: Regressive Sex Ed In The Curriculum.
There was that other time when that potential Tory MEP and the Lib Dem councillor for Alnwick went head to head and the Lib Dem went fucking off and made a new presenter cry upon seeing their new room. I googled it and here is a quote: "The design was stark, unattractive and cold. John said that if he had been marking it for GCSE art, he would have given it a D. I remember summing it up in one word – 'crap'. I think I repeated that a few times. It may not have been polite but it perfectly summed up how I felt." Metaphor: Underfunding Of The Arts In Schools.
Now, in this age where reality TV has eaten itself, we can’t ever hope to recreate such groundbreaking, life (room)-changing work on television. Frankly, this was the peak of British culture: sadistically watching, week on week, as this team of terrible designers wreaked havoc upon perfectly fine living spaces by taking us to space, to ancient Egypt, to 'Africa', to anywhere that could be built out of MDF and broken dreams.
It was pure '90s-thru-'00s ecstasy that really defined a generation. It spoke to both our inner dreamer and inner cynic and even though many other shows tried hard — remember DIY SOS, 60 Minute Makeover? — none of them was a patch on this patchy, niche home makeover show which bred a whole host of millennials who know never to touch MDF, never to mess with their neighbour's antique teapots, and never to trust a man with floppy cuffs and an obsession with animal print (although now I’ve written that, is he me?).
While millennials are constantly lambasted for spending too much money on dildos/avocados/nachos/huevos rancheros/you get the gist-os, what Changing Rooms gave us was, actually, a savvy sense of how to avoid wasting our money on bad, quickly dateable interiors. I’ll settle for a gorgey feature wall, one of those wood-crackle-wick candles and a roll in the hay with Mr. H. Andy. Tories out! Carol Smillie for PM.