When they’re done right, makeover shows can make for truly life-affirming TV. They have the power to transform people’s lives for the better, and bring some much-needed positivity into the world.
But if we’re being honest with ourselves, what most of us really enjoy, is when those transformations go horribly, horribly wrong.
There have been thousands of them over the years, but most makeover shows are basically all the same. Most revolve around some kind of self-described design guru, who proceeds to take a family’s dated house or tired wardrobe and transform them before our eyes like a magic trick. It’s not just home improvement shows either, with plenty focusing on the people themselves and taking them from drab to fab.
When it all works out, everyone’s happy. Some of the failures, though, are absolutely glorious.
It probably says a lot about TV audiences that most of us would rather see someone’s dreams dashed in front of our eyes than see them get, say, a lovely new patio from the Ground Force team. It’s cruel, it’s cringeworthy and we should all probably know better, but boy does it make for good TV.
With the king of British makeover shows Changing Rooms coming back after many years away, and more questionable transformations likely on the way, prepare yourself by looking at these crackers from down the years.
Changing Rooms’ teapot travesty
We reckon British TV might have peaked with this absolutely classic moment, and it would be wrong to start anywhere else.
We’ve got so much time for Changing Rooms’ Linda Barker, but her track record on the show wasn’t exactly flawless. In this memorable episode from 2000 when transforming the house of couple from London, she inadvertently destroyed the thing they held most dear – their antique teapot collection.
After putting up a hanging shelf, she returned the next day to absolute carnage, finding smashed pottery, disembodied handles and broken spouts all over the floor.
‘Definitely the worst moment for me has to be when I made a floating shelf unit, 14 floors up in a flat in Wandsworth,’ Linda said, looking back at the disastrous moment from the show. We forgive you Linda – too bad the teapot enthusiasts never did.
Your Home in Their Hands’s bedroom fail
There are two types of disappointed guests on makeover shows. The ones that nod politely and hide their disappointment, and the ones that absolutely kick off. This fuming bloke from the BBC’s incredibly dated Your Home in Their Hands definitely fell into the second category.
Things started off pretty well for John Geoghegan and his wife Rachel during their appearance on the show, with their living room tastefully finished by interior designer Celia Sawyer. However, things really took a turn when the couple saw the bedroom. After being shown the garish decor, which had seen the room covered in every colour under the sun, John didn’t hold back.
‘It’s too busy. I don’t like it,’ he said. ‘You’re supposed to be able to go to sleep in a bedroom and it’s like a kid’s play area. I think it looks horrendous.’
The show has a habit of disappointing its guests, installing what looked like half of Kew Gardens in this poor couple’s hallway during another memorable episode.
10 Years Younger’s unforgettable transformation
At its worst, 10 Years Younger was reality TV at its most barrel-scraping, but it still provided us with plenty of moments that are still going viral in 2020.
A comfy white cardigan and a Rod Stewart hairdo might not scream anti-ageing to most of us, but that’s what presenter Nicky Hambleton-Jones dished out to one nice lady during one memorable makeover.
She seemed pretty pleased with the results, but even a decade on from when it first aired, it’s being hailed as one of the most iconic naff moments of 00s telly.
Trading Spaces’ bonkers beach house
TLC’s Trading Spaces might have been inspired by Changing Rooms, but the US show took things to whole new levels of cringe.
There are dozens of truly awful transformations we could have chosen from the show. One of the very best featured a family who loved the seaside. Rather than merely take inspiration from the brief, interior designer Hildi Santo-Tomas turned their living room into an actual beach, complete with real sand, a huge plastic coconut tree and red and white striped walls – presumably to replicate a deck chair or a tent? Who knows.
When she wasn’t dumping sand in people’s houses, Hildi was leaving nightmarish reminders of herself for families to enjoy. In one episode, she decorated a feature wall with a huge six-foot self-portrait. Good luck trying to live your life with that thing looking back at you.
America’s Next Top Model’s pixie cut catastrophe
A staple of reality TV in the US for years, the drama in America’s Next Top Model takes place just as much in the salon as much as it does the catwalk.
Host Tyra Banks and the panel regularly showed what a good haircut can do for people, getting aspiring models ready for the world of high-fashion. Some looks though, have been a bit more problematic. One instance saw model Chelsey Hersley sent to the dentist to be given a tooth gap, shaving off enamel to accentuate a popular look at the time.
The worst instance, though, saw Cassandra Whitehead actually leave the show in season five after having her long hair cut off. Already unhappy with her pixie cut, the final straw came when Cassandra was told to trim another inch off her fringe during a shoot, with the model outright refusing and leaving the show as a result.
We have to blame Tyra for this one, we’re afraid. We were all rooting for you!
Chantelle’s Snog, Marry, Avoid nightmare
Snog Marry Avoid is like looking into a late 00s time capsule, with nostalgic fashion, a personality-squashing concept and unrivaled levels of cattiness. Most episodes saw eccentrically dressed men and women ‘made-under’ to show their natural looks.
Some of the transformations were genuinely impressive, but when the guests on the show already had relatively pared-down looks, the POD (the sassy so-called Personal Overhaul Device in charge of the makeovers) didn’t really know what to do with them.
One of the most memorable moments came during Big Brother star Chantelle’s appearance on the show. The stylists decided to give her a dated-looking dress, a Karen-style haircut, and decided to top it all off by popping a tea cosy on her head. Inspired!