Baz Ashmawy’s supercharged zippiness isn’t for everyone. His Sky series 50 Ways to Kill Your Mammy could have been called 50 Reasons to Change the Channel. Encountered at the end of a long day, all that enthusiasm can be soul-sapping. But he’s the perfect presenter for DIY SOS: The Big Build Ireland (RTÉ One, Sunday, 6.30pm), a feelgood show that requires a feelgood presenter.
The premise of The Big Build is a lot more straightforward than its mouthful of a title. In each episode an army of volunteers descends on a household in need of architectural assistance and gets stuck in. This week the setting is the northside of Cork city, the milieu of Young Offenders, Roy Keane, Frank O’Connor and the bells of Shandon.
Ashmawy is there to visit Adam Drummond and his parents, Brian and Mar. Adam was a promising basketball player whose world was upended when an accident left him unable to walk. Twelve months on from that life-changing event, he and his family hope to make their home, in the suburb of Blackpool, wheelchair accessible. It’s a big ask. Cork’s northside is notoriously higgledy-piggledy: the steps leading down to the Drummonds’ front door contain more pitfalls than the Aztec temple at the start of Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Ashmawy’s duties involve waxing enthusiastic and cheering on the volunteers. It’s a trickier job than you might think. He has to empathise with Adam over his disability and be an understanding listener when Mar bursts into tears recalling the first time she saw her son in a wheelchair. “I didn’t know what community meant until the accident happened,” she says.
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The challenge for Ashmawy is to be genuine without condescending to either the Drummonds or the audience. Crocodile tears or fake sincerity would stop the show dead in its tracks, and it is to Ashmawy’s credit that he avoids both. “You’ve got me lost for words,” he says as the crew install a chairlift and remodel the garden. “That’s an achievement on its own.”
He returns to the airwaves after revealing that after the DIY SOS Christmas special, in which volunteers provided accommodation for Ukrainian refugees, he was followed and abused by a group of protesters. That incident paints an ugly picture of intolerance in modern Ireland. But the latest episode delivers a very different portrait of a community coming together and making good things happen through determination, hard work and optimism. It adds up to wonderfully feelgood television.