Anthea Turner: Perfect Housewife Review
No matter how long it might take to climb the ladder of success in the first place, climbing it a second time isn't just a more lengthy affair but requires a certain desperation to stop oneself from slipping the way down again. Anthea Turner had once done well enough to have OK magazine pay for her wedding but being accused of stealing another woman's husband and the Snowflake affair - Turner and her husband were pictured eating a chocolate bar during her wedding just before its launch - saw Turner falling out of favour at the BBC, ITV and even audience-of-two-lonely-housewives satellite channel to be very alone in a mansion with nothing to keep her company but an afternoon G'n'T.
It couldn't have happened to a more awful person. Granted, she's not guilty of genocide, hasn't hacked down children with a machete or hung cats from the branches of trees until they were dead but Turner has always had a steely determination to succeed, bouncing from Blue Peter and Up2U through Top Of The Pops, the National Lottery and Wish You Were Here...? before landing on the GMTV sofa. There, Eamonn Holmes gave its producers an it's-me-or-her ultimatum. They sacked Turner. Do anything and appear anywhere. That was the Anthea Turner manifesto and all right-minded members of the public curled their top lip back in distaste at seeing her appear on television. In 2003, she was voted fifteenth in a poll of the 100 Worst Britons. Turner almost being blown up by a pyrotechnic was a widely-passed on video long before virals were commonplace. And now, with nowhere else to go, BBC3 would have us believe that she has a love of housekeeping.
Turner opens Perfect Housewife by putting away the freshly ironed clothes of her stepchildren. As one who does this for three children (and a wife) four times a week or thereabouts, this job is about as enjoyable as sifting through maggots in search of rice but looking all the while as though the director is reminding her that the bell for last orders is ringing for her at the last chance saloon, Turner grins and bears it. From there, she takes two women into her home and harangues them on their cleaning, cooking and homemaking. None of the women featured in this show are particularly awful. Their homes may not be that tidy but neither are they, unlike the people featured in How Clean Is Your House?, sleeping in cat pee, amongst cartons full of curdled milk and beside the body of their dead husband.
Turner’s intention behind Perfect Housewife, other than trying to resurrect her career, is to convince these women that they can keep a cleaner home. No groaning piles of towels in a hot press for Turner when they can be neatly stacked on a shelf that is labelled TOWELS. Or TOWLS as it appears here. She breezes in to Anne-Marie’s home to tell her that it is possible to do both children and housework while she suggests to Kate that amateur dramatics and ironing are not mutually exclusive. Later episodes find Anthea working with ex-City Girl Hilary who is mother to - good Christ! - Raif and Lily who can't give up her power suits even after moving to the country and Jayne, who spends her free time in the afternoons watching television. Stay at home mum Jo-Ann has got lots of free time but doesn't do very much with it while the garage floor in Suzanne’s house is covered in dirty clothes. When she wants to wear anything clean, she buys something new. Stay-at-home house-husband Steve would rather spend the day on the golf course than cleaning his home while Lisa struggles with housework what with a full-time job and leading a Weight Watchers group in the evening. Finally, it’s the turn of Tamara and Liam. Tamara used to be a forensics officer and is now a housewife while Liam works part-time as a lecturer. Both have young children but can't seem to find the time to clean their homes. Anthea claims to come to their aid.
Other than allowing Anthea Turner onto our television screens once again, the greatest crime committed by Perfect Housewife is in claiming that there’s something difficult about housework. On the contrary, with some thought, a bit of effort and a certain ruthlessness as regards clutter, keeping a house clean and tidy is remarkably easy. That the people featured in Perfect Housewife fail to do so leads this viewer to assume they are simply very stupid, very lazy or both. Kate wonders where the time goes between dropping her children off at school and picking them up again. A presenter with less arrested social skills, a Jeremy Kyle for instance, might have said that most of those six hours are spent sitting on her arse with nothing more to show for them than an expanding waistline but Turner, all too aware that it’s Perfect Housewife or bust, says nothing of the sort. Steve can't believe how much work is involved in keeping a clean house. Anthea rushes in with the kind of advice that is very far from being important, including the best way to wrap a present, how to fold a towel, how to host a cheese and wine party - what is this? 1986? - and an easy way to wash dishes. Like there’s more to it than hot water, a sink, some Fairy Liquid (or own-brand equivalent) and a scrubbing brush.
I’m not one to hark back unnecessarily to the past but I would imagine that the housewives (and husbands) of fifty years ago would give the useless examples of housewifery in this show short shrift. Personally, I would rather have a show that, disregarding advice on the best way to clean bathroom grouting or dust behind a picture frame, shipped Tamara, Kate, Steve, Hilary and Jayne off to cripplingly poor part of the world for three months to give them some perspective in their lives. They might be too dim to actually take anything away from the experience but it could shake them out of their pathetic wailing about how they don't have enough time in a day to wash, iron, clean and cook. Indeed, it might give them the very thing they need, which is a firm kick up the arse.
It's hard to think who this show is for. Nearing fifty, with the same haircut that she's had since first appearing on Sky and with as much sex appeal as the bedsheets and towels that she tries very hard to appear to enjoy folding, she certainly does little to appeal to the male half of any household. Although, with an idea of housewives that begins with the saucy poker players of Mr Mom and ends with the Confessions... films, perhaps that's just me. Turner certainly doesn't fit into that mould, choosing not to spend all day lounging about at home wearing a babydoll nightie. That's probably a good thing. On the other hand, she won't appeal very much to women either. Her home - this show makes much of the tasteless Bovey'n'Turner mansion - looks as lived-in as a crypt while she has a dreadful, nagging style of presenting that would have most actual housewives feeling as though they have somehow failed in their building of a happy home and, from there, believing they were also failures in marriage, in motherhood and in life.
However, one never gets away from feeling that Perfect Housewife is a gigantic con. Anthea Turner might well swan about her home stacking towels in a neat little pile but, like most people, this viewer suspects an entire team of cleaners, nannies and other servants are bustling away in the nooks, crannies and utility rooms of those parts of the mansion that we don't get to see. After all, who looks after the children or does the cleaning when Turner is in London at some dreadful meeting with her agent bitching about not getting the Ocean Finance gig. But the show’s most tasteless moment - there’s much competition for that award - is when Turner presents the less-than-perfect housewives with a video reel of their messy homes. Trinny and Susannah might have portable video players. Kevin McCloud probably has a zoetrope made of rosewood and silver. Turner uses her private home cinema. Unlike your home cinema or mine this is a swishy red-curtained affair that lacks for nothing but a chap ascending from the orchestra pit playing a Wurlitzer. It is an awful we-really-are-considerably-richer-than-you! moment and tells us that Perfect Housewife, no matter it's letting ordinary (and useless) members of the public onto the screen, is really all about Anthea Turner. And there can be few more unpleasant thoughts than that.
First shown on BBC3, Perfect Housewife is anamorphically presented in 1.78:1 over two discs. Each disc contains four episodes and the set generally looks exactly as it did on television, really no better but no worse either. The picture is soft, interlaced and lacks detail but so long as one isn't fussy - and you wouldn't need to be what with intending to watch this - it can look acceptable on a small television. However, a big screen, like the one that Anthea and Grant have in their huge mansion, causes it to look so bad that you'll be poking at the disc to see if a VHS tape will fall out of it. The DD2.0 audio track is much the same in that it does the job but doesn't really sound that impressive. However, you can make out what it is that Anthea Turner is saying, which is not a good thing.
There are no extras on this DVD.