Nine’s had big success with The Block / Changing Rooms / Domestic Blitz. TEN got burnt by The Renovators. Foxtel has the best batch of the lot with Grand Designs Australia and Selling Houses Australia.
It’s a genre that can bring big rewards in terms of both audience numbers and sponsor interest, but TEN’s experience reminds us all how easy it is to be stuck with a turkey in the schedule for too long if it doesn’t fire. For that matter there was also Nine’s Top Design.
Seven has turned to the producers of My Kitchen Rules, a Seven internal production, for House Rules.
The pitch is relatively simple. 6 teams from 6 states will hand over the keys to their homes to be renovated by their competitors. That’s certainly a unnerving premise, as teams have no idea who these strangers are. It also contrasts with most renovation shows where contestants are making over their own homes.
House Rules begins in Melbourne as teams make their way to Home Base, a shiny floor studio not dissimilar to Kitchen HQ or the MasterChef kitchen. Host Joanna Griggs welcomes the teams and explains the gameplay.
The group will only have one week to renovate an entire home, which is divided into various zones such as Kitchen / Dining, Master Bedroom / Ensuite etc. A budget is allocated for each zone, which is assigned to each team.
The cast is mostly youthful, and like The Block, very caucasian. Of the 6 couples, 1 pair are brothers and the rest are partners. That said, one couple has been married for 27 years. But like an MKR cast, they are well-coached in giving us big reactions to big news.
The scoring for the show will come from judges and from rival teams themselves. Griggs does not reveal what the “life-changing” prize is.
Before long we are whisked across to Perth for the first home renovation, belonging to a couple named Jemma and Ben. They own a large but ugly home built in 1958. With a bathroom in the middle of the house it’s woefully dysfunctional.
As Griggs coaxes them into handing over their keys, Jemma pleads to the teams, “Please move our bathroom.”
Driving off in their car, Ben admits, “Pretty nervous, ay.”
Like The Block there are allocated cars and various power tools supplied to each team. I’m pleased to say that across the hour there was far less product placement than Nine’s series.
Jemma and Ben also left 5 house rules that must be observed in design, such as “No bright annoying colours,” “Make it feel now -with an edge.”
Teams began destroying the rooms turning the home into a disaster zone. Sorry, a construction zone. These couples were a pretty cheerful bunch, even when they were arguing within their teams. I guess it’s preferable to feigned bitching.
Carpenter Chester Drife (love that name) is site supervisor and designer Carolyn Burns-McCrave gives progressive advice. She’s not afraid to give an opinion.
There was also tradesman assistance. I’m not sure if the exterior gets the makeover too. It needs to.
There’s also a pop tune soundtrack (I even heard MKR‘s “Best Night”), more relaxed narration than MKR, the compulsory ticking clock and a dramatic endpoint to the first episode. I presume there is a mid-season twist in the format at some point but no auction….?
The key to any successful Reality show is casting, casting, casting and on that front Seven has a genial, jovial bunch here, probably reflecting the typical Seven viewer. After the way Asian couples were depicted in MKR maybe it’s just as well this lot are Caucasian (the brothers are Greek-Australian).
But it will take a lot to unseat The Block. Nine’s keep-it-simple-stupid premise works well in its simplicity, and has attracted a lot of younger viewers who seem to delight in watching adults mucking up. At first glance House Rules may just tip the scales in terms of renovation content, rather than off-site challenges. But it’s early days.
The risk in these shows is always that the competition element swamps the focus and storytelling of genuine renovation. Exhibit one: Grand Designs Australia.
I’m not seeing this as igniting the same brushfires as My Kitchen Rules but hey, it gets the job done.
And besides who doesn’t love a good makeover reveal?
House Rules is coming soon to Seven.