Real Simple

Getting It Done Without Doing a Thing

- Photograph by Tawni Bannister

MY TV GUILTY PLEASURE this year? It wasn’t Tiger King, though I did watch it with the rest of Western civilizati­on. (Which will be over first, this diversion or the pandemic?) And it wasn’t The Bachelor, which I actually stopped watching for the first time in franchise history because I had enough anxiety in my real life; I didn’t need theirs. It turned out to be BBC’s The Repair Shop, which I stumbled upon during a solitary, quiet, seven-day visit to my mom’s house in Ohio this winter.

The Repair Shop is to restoratio­n what The Great British Baking Show is to Halloween Wars. Set in a barn on a bucolic field, the show features some of England’s top craftspeop­le, who each have a bench and the ability to return a broken clock, wooden chest, old teddy bear, or stainedgla­ss window to its former (and historical­ly accurate) glory. But the show’s heart is the love that three owners per episode have for the objects they bring in. Restoring this well-worn heirloom will mean a piece of family history gets passed down to the next generation.

As with all addictive shows, there’s a formula. Owner presents story of object; viewers receive close-ups of wear and tear. The Repair Shop’s woodworker, silversmit­h, or soft-object refurbishe­r has never seen anything quite so interestin­g and shall try their very best. Always the work will be cut out for the expert. Always the owner will miss the object while it’s in their care.

Voices are never raised in The Repair Shop, but things do get dicey. Can the teddy bear be restuffed in an authentic way but without wood filling, which won’t get through customs in Australia, where the grandchild it will be passed to resides? Certainly the ceramist, one of the world’s best, can glue the plate together again. But can she replicate the blue edge so the fix is invisible? She holds her breath as she paints the line.

Mom and I binged two or three episodes a night, and I climbed into bed with visions of backlit dust, fingers stroking emerald velvet cushion fabric, and steady tweezers putting the second hand on the pocket watch. For one week in March, The Repair Shop was where things got done (and I didn’t have to do them), where everyone was calm and cordial and everything always turned out all right.

When I returned home to New Jersey, I couldn’t find The Repair Shop on my convoluted TV menu situation. I let it go; my family might have made fun or been too bored to watch. But for one quiet, cozy week with my mom, it was the best show on television.

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