I have a bit of an obsession with the houses I see on TV. Not the real ones on make-over shows or reality TV. The pretend ones, in TV dramas and comedies. I find myself easily distracted by thoughts of how lovely it would be to live in house that I know, in reality, is just a three-walled set. I’ve been like this since I was a child, and it can be terribly distracting when I am trying to focus on a TV show or movie.
I can be sat watching a frightening scene in a murder mystery, where a knife-wielding killer is chasing their victim through a crumbling abandoned mansion, and rather than hide behind my cushion, I’ll be saying to be husband; “Ooh, I'd love to have a staircase like that.” I've had to accept this is just how my mind works. So, I’m embracing it and in the spirit of my newfound acceptance, here (in no particular order) are the top five TV homes that I would most love to live in.
Jessica Fletcher’s House
(Murder, She Wrote)
Now, I know that moving to Cabot Cove carries a great risk of being murdered. But since I was a teenager, I have been in love with the fictious small fishing town that was home to amateur sleuth and bestselling murder-mystery writer Jessica Fletcher. Cabot Cove offered stunning sea views, beautiful Victorian architecture and street after street of well-tended gardens, lined by white picket fences. It was the sort of quaint and friendly town where you could leave your back door unlocked and feel assured your house would not be burgled (although, as mentioned, you might get murdered). Jessica’s house was particularly lovely, starting with its front garden where Jessica was regularly seen tending her forsythias or finding corpses.
The inside of Jessica’s house was most definitely not extravagant, particularly for a multimillionaire author. Instead it exuded class and old-world elegance. Of course, this was years before every property show on TV told us to knock down all our walls for open plan living. Jessica had an entrance hall, living room, dining room and kitchen. And it was the kitchen where most of the action took place. Jessica always seemed to have a pot on the stove and, being a fishing town, she was typically preparing something like clam chowder or lobsters with a white wine sauce. The kitchen was where Jessica wrote her bestselling novels and could also be seen solving the latest Cabot Cove killing. It just seemed the loveliest of lifestyles, and even the risk of murder doesn’t put me off. Jessica’s house in Cabot Cove remains one of my favourites.
Edina Monsoon’s House
(Absolutely Fabulous) Absolutely Fabulous was first broadcast in 1992, when I was 22 years of age. At the time, I was in lodgings and although I was living in a lovely house and a great landlady, I was beginning to wish that I could afford a place of my own. Much of the action in Ab-Fab is based at Eddie’s extravagant house in London’s Holland Park and what was most fun was the idea that Eddie had pots of money but didn’t ever really go to work. She had a business that seemed to run itself and occasionally organised a PR launch for something or other (Pop Specs, anyone?) but in reality, she spent the majority of her time at home, drinking champagne and stomping about in high fashion.
What I loved most about Eddie’s house was the amazing kitchen, reached by walking down a flight of stairs from the entrance hall. In the first few seasons, the kitchen was very much that – a place to prepare food and eat. But as seasons went by, and Eddie endlessly re-imagined her home, the kitchen was transformed over and again until it became something more like a self-contained flat with a spacious seating area, huge champagne fridge and easy-to-reach panic room.
But I think I still prefer the kitchen from season one, because as a young adult I was just learning the skills to host friends for dinner parties, and Eddie’s kitchen/diner with its dramatic entrance staircase always seemed like a good time just waiting to happen.
The Carrington Mansion
Yes, of course, it’s mostly about that staircase. I could lose entire days just swanning up and down those stairs with the Dynasty theme tune playing on repeat in the background. And what a great way to make an entrance at any parties or family get-togethers. But my love for the Carrington Mansion is not only about that staircase. The aim of this 1980s soap opera was to let the audience lose themselves, for an hour each week, in the lives of the super wealthy Carrington family. And the Carrington mansion was the first TV house I really fell in love with. The entire building was impeccably decorated with panelled walls, huge paintings, statues and vases and each bedroom had its own walk-in wardrobe and en suite bathroom. There seemed to be a roaring fire in every room, and even though the mansion itself was enormous, each individual room - although large – felt snug, in particular Blake’s wood-panelled study. Add to this the Carrington Mansion grounds including the pool and the duck pond (the perfect place for your wife and ex-wife to punch it out) and you were left with a true sense of what sort of mansion a multi-millionaire (with taste) could own.
What was interesting about the Carrington Mansion is that the whole family lived there. This was a family of multimillionaires who regularly hated each other and, on occasion, even tried to kill each (poison paint, anyone?). And each of them could easily afford a mansion of their own. And yet they all chose to stay together, living under one roof. And as bizarre as that scenario clearly was, I think it was a key reason why I loved the Carrington Mansion. Because so many people lived at the mansion, it never felt overwhelmingly huge. The breakfast table was always well attended, as was dinner. And each evening the family would gather in the same room, around the same fireplace, and the sort of family arguments would ensue that we would all find very familiar. You know, arguments like, “Did you steal my oil leases?”, or “Why won’t you believe that I was kidnapped by aliens?”. Yes, in reality, the Carringtons were just like us!
Sarah Jane Smith’s House
(The Sarah Jane Adventures)
Sarah Jane Smith was a former companion of the mysterious time travelling hero known as the Doctor. After many years travelling with him through time and space, she was left behind on earth. But she continued to investigate strange goings on, and eventually started to battle alien invasions from her home at 13 Bannerman Road in Ealing. Her attic housed a supercomputer called Mr Smith, and she also had the help of robotic dog called K-9 as well as numerous alien artefacts she had picked up along the way, including a very handy sonic lipstick which was a parting gift from the Doctor.
The Sarah Jane Adventures first aired in 2007 and I remember immediately being taken by her home, an attractive three-storey detached property with off-street parking (a very important selling point, when you are older) and a small garden. Inside, her tastefully decorated home included pictures from her life (including a few from her travels with the Doctor) and artefacts from around the world, and possibly a few from other worlds. And apart from the fact her house was regularly attacked by powerful aliens, happy to smash down the front door or transform the occupants into living stone, it is certainly a bit of dream home for me. I mean, apart from the lovely house itself, who wouldn’t want a super computer in their attic?
Blanche Devereaux’s House
(The Golden Girls)
Yes, of course Blanche’s house is on my list! What sort of gay man would I be if it wasn’t? The Golden Girls first aired in 1985, and I remember watching it with my mum and two older sisters every Friday evening on Channel 4. Blanche’s house was large, colourful and sunny, offering the perfect backdrop for the weekly shenanigans of Dorothy, Rose, Blanche and Sophia, four older female characters living together in Miami.
The most seen areas included the large living room and the lanai, but it was the kitchen where most of the really famous conversations took place, typically over a slice of cheesecake and often in the middle of the night.
And each of the girls had their own large double bedroom, some en suite and some not. If you want to get into the science of Blanche’s house, then I will admit that logically it does not make sense because many of the rooms overlap. If you follow the corridor off the lounge to Sophia’s bedroom, for instance, then technically you would be back in the kitchen. But if you are willing to overlook this one weird issue, the house provides a fantastic environment for four busy people living together.
And what a life they led, with their home the setting for countless charity events, political fundraisers, soirees and a seemingly endless list of visits from relatives and friends. It was filled with life and laughter, and there was always something happening – a romance that was doomed to failure, or a hurricane, a wedding, a surprise birthday party or the launch of a new business idea that was clearly never going to work out.
And I think it was that busyness that I like so much, and that sense that if any of the girls needed to chat, there would always be someone there.