Last Night’s TV – Kevin McCloud’s Grand Tour of Europe

by Lynn Connolly

kevin mccloud

You know how Kate Humble followed the Frankincense Trail? Well, now we have another TV presenter on another trail. This time, it’s Kevin McCloud – of Grand Designs fame – trekking around Europe for Channel 4, supposedly following in the footsteps of the upper-classes in days of yore. Well, more specifically, the 17th and 18th century, but I just like the word ‘yore’.

Kevin described his trip as, “history’s equivalent of the gap year”, and for those long gone foppish young rogues and new romantics, it was a trip that involved a great deal of ludicrous clothing, womanising – and catching all manner of embarrassing diseases for which they had to See Phyllis or someone said, “We’ve got a goner ‘ere” – drinking themselves insensible in inns and taverns and sketching grand buildings and monuments all round Europe.

So basically, it’s perhaps analogous to a bunch of lads taking a trip to Ibiza in this day and age. In that regard, not much has changed except today’s young adventurers only have a couple of weeks in July and use the camera on their phone to capture the sights, if they bother to go and see any.

However, Kevin McCloud isn’t of the Benidorm ilk and is a bit posh himself. He’s also very good at waxing lyrical and rhapsodising poetically over buildings, so arguably, he was the right man for the job of wandering lonely as a cloud round Europe while commentating on what might have been better entitled, These Were Grand Designs.

And all of that’s fine, but, must we, yet again, lob a TV presenter into a show that bears some similarity to what he/she is famous for – in order to set the ‘ground rules’ for the viewers – and make them ‘experience’ things?

Wouldn’t it have been sufficient to just have Kevin going round Europe sighing and narrating about architecture without having him talking about prostitutes and cheese? Not in the same breath fortunately, but you get the gist.

Why is it that TV show presenters can’t just either stick to doing what they’ve always done or simply admit they’re doing something new? Why hide behind the skirts of architecture when what the show really is, is plain and simple watching Kevin on his travels?

The fact that Kevin of course has an interest in buildings and the designs thereof would’ve been good enough and would’ve had like-minded viewers tuning in, but why confuse the issue by selling it as some kind of travelogue or history programme?

And it got off to something of a shaky start for me when, if Kevin was seriously trying to follow in the footsteps of our “gap year” posh ancestors, he boarded the Eurostar train. Was that really the way to go? Why not have him travelling on boats and steam trains and the like?

Overall, this was a show that simply didn’t know what it was; was it a trip around Europe’s architecture? Was it just a travelogue? Was it a history lesson? I don’t know, but, despite the fact that I really do like Kevin – I could listen to him describing a floating staircase for hours – I got the feeling that he wasn’t entirely sure what his remit was either.

Let’s just either leave him alone and let him talk us through Grand Designs as he’s always done, or, if he must go on his hols with a camera crew, let him do that without giving him a blueprint to work from and from which he has no real chance of building a solid show.

Lynn is an editor and writer here at Unreality TV and is trained psychotherapist and the author of two books. She's addicted to soaps, period drama and reality TV shows such as X Factor, I'm A Celeb and Big Brother.