My partner recently introduced me to Channel 4’s Restoration Man, and in return, I introduced her to Channel 4’s Time Team. It was an interesting trade. Restoration Man plugs neatly into my love of Grand Designs-style building shows, with a neat historic element. The GF was a little more suspicious of Time Team, arguing that it was slow, and uninspiring.
Frankly, this was unacceptable. I have lived in houses where Time Team was the regular evening viewing. I’ve dug on one of their sites. I have friends who were tutored by show veterans. When it was finally cancelled, after 20 seasons, we were in mourning. Hell, some of my favourite Twitter conversations have been with an anthropomorphized trademark item of sweat-encrusted headgear (with over 5,000 followers).
Hat likes you lot; you ent a bad bunch!
— Phil Harding’s Hat (@TheHardingHat) February 8, 2015
So yeah, you could say I’m an advocate – probably even a fan – and I’m certainly not alone.
How do they compare?
The surprising thing about both shows is that they can both end pretty unsatisfactorily. Because restorations can take several years to complete, Restoration Man rarely sees the end of a project in a single season. Shows end without really explaining the final outcome for homeowners.
Likewise, Time Team can spend three days on a dig and come away with little more than a few animal bones and a few hasty CGI animations of what they *might* have found if they’d had more time. Despite all this, the stories really do draw you in. Hell, it might even be the un-polished nature of the shows that makes them that much more believable.
That’s not to say they don’t deviate from this for the sake of narrative. The Restoration Man has a ridiculous over-acted scene every episode where he retreats to some library to research the building in question. Doubts about the project are over-egged for the audience’s sake. Likewise, the three-day time frame for Time Team’s digs adds a weird sense of urgency. Will they uncover the whole story by the end of the episode?
Which is better?
I never promised to be objective here, but Time Team still holds that special place in my heart. It trumps Restoration Man by the fact that it has so many more experts involved. The fact that it only takes them three days to film an episode (instead of three years) makes a big difference too.