Grand Designs star Kevin McCloud: I'm proud to buck cruel reality show trend


Grand Designs star Kevin McCloud says he is relieved to have avoided being cast as a reality show villain and to have steered clear of "ghastly, vicious and exploitative TV".

Kevin, who has fronted the show since it first aired in April 1999, said he faced overwhelming criticism when it started because it did not conform to the reality show standards of the time.

Ahead of the 16th series starting this week, he told the Press Association: "I'm very lucky that I haven't spent 20 years making ghastly, vicious, exploitative TV that has blackened my soul. I'm not a villain.

Grand Designs: Episode 1
Kevin McCloud on Grand Designs (Paula Beetlestone/Channel 4)

"If it was I would have given up but TV was a negative place when we started and we were vilified for making TV that was celebratory. We were slammed for not taking the piss out of things. There was a fashion for exploiting and taking the piss out of contributors."

The show has aired on Channel 4 since it first started and another celebratory reality show will soon be joining it on the listings when The Great British Bake Off decamps from BBC One.

Kevin, 57, said: "It's a very big stable. I think what is interesting for Channel 4 is the way they remake themselves and revitalise themselves.

"I'm excited to see how they make it their own. It will be different, it will be its own creative thing.

Kevin McCloud
Kevin McCloud (Paula Beetlestone/Channel 4)

"I can't imagine Grand Designs going anywhere. I was listening to the radio this morning when they were talking about Bake Off and I felt good to be associated with Channel 4.

"It's not the coolest, hippest thing, it's been around the block. I'm very pleased and feel very chuffed to be associated with the channel."

Grand Designs has collected its fair share of celebrity fans over its years on the air but Kevin admits he is never convinced the stories of their appreciation are true.

"Meryl Streep is (a fan), apparently," he said.

Meryl Streep
Meryl Streep is a Grand Designs fan, apparently (Evan Agostini/AP/PA)

"But I hear these stories and write to them and say 'thanks for watching' and don't get a reply. I'm still waiting for the word from Meryl."

The show has taken him all round the country to follow individuals trying to design and build their dream home, from tree houses to mansions, but Kevin said he rarely ended up coveting the property he featured.

"The weird thing about architecture is it seems like an intrusion to imagine living in someone else's house," he said.

"Very rarely do I feel it. I'm bound up in their story. It would be unprofessional and exploitative. I got the window shopping out of my system in year three."

However, the show stills feels fresh to him, even after so many episodes and he jokes: "I suck energy from people like Voldemort.

Kevin McCloud
Kevin McCloud (Ian West/PA)

"You turn up and every day is a different location and the trick is to not be too prescriptive, enjoy the energy of the day, don't try to force it, find some poetry, some energy in it.

"You capture what is there, it's a very old-fashioned way of film making. Everyone wants reality to be constructed but we aren't like that.

"I'm a lot older now but the show hasn't changed. We are just more relaxed."

The new series of Grand Designs starts on Channel 4 on September 21 at 9pm.