House Rules

2013-05-01_2215Seven is the last (commercial) man standing to jump feet first into the renovation genre.

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.


  1. Seven is all out parading how unprecedented the House Rules concept is, but In homeMADE the two teams of designers made-over two entire houses per week, having to abide by their clients’ requests (or ‘house rules’). Apart from the couples letting the others renovate their own home, nothing is new. The promos make the show look bland, production values don’t seem great and now The Block will have a head start. Will watch, but the future doesn’t look too promising for House Rules.

  2. paddock boy

    cracks are starting to appear in channel seven’s previously impenetrable ratings fortress. With House Rules I fear they have finally ‘jumped the shark’

  3. bettestreep2008

    So there are 6 teams from 6 different states. 5 of them are Caucasian yuppy couples and the 6th appear to be Greek/Italian brothers from Collingwood?

    First week has 5 of the couples renovating one room each of the 6th couple’s house.

    I’m guessing Seven will screen this between 7.30pm and 9pm 4 nights a week – Sunday to Wednesday?

    So it really should be finished withing 6 or 7 weeks – unless they bring in a few bitchy female – preferably Asian – gatecrashers to extend it to 16 or 17 weeks?

    They did this with MKR and it didn’t hurt the ratings one bit.

    It will be interesting to see which reno show wins the viewers. I’ll be watching the ‘girls vs the boys’ over at MCA though.

  4. This show sounds like Changing Rooms, but on a larger scale, so a variation of this show has most certainly been done before. It sounds like a hybrid of Changing Rooms/Domestic Blitz. Also, is that bit about them redoing a whole house in a week a typo? Wouldn’t it be one room per week? I don’t think it is feasible, nor do I think it would satisfy local council planning requirements, not to mention safety requirements, to do an internal knowdown/rebuild in just seven days. I am very curious as to how this is possible.

  5. Be it Arrogance or Ignorance, but regardless if it’s either, after watching network 7’s latest promo that tells us Not To Miss The First Three Minutes of House Rules,I have just one bit of advice for network 7, if it is as important as they claim, “Start the F’n Thing on time”

  6. Well if it has more renovation and less Scott Cam and advertising for Mitre10 then count me in. I love renovation shows but i hate The Block. The Block is probably one of the worst ones out there.

    I do like the idea of renovating a house in a week. Will see how it shapes up. I hope it beats The Block.

  7. Glory Days

    I wish the promo did not assume we could not possibly guess why they immediately had to shut down one of the worksites, after contestants had smashed through a wall. Hmmm!

  8. “Why watch a knock off when the original is so much better…The Block will always rule in my house…Seven needs to get some original ideas…”

    You know Maxxdude, you’ve said the same thing twice just this week alone. I can pull out a dossier that contains actualities of Nine’s barefaced plagiarism.

  9. wintermute

    No doubt it’ll take the interesting format points from a swathe of other, better produced shows and call it original. And it’ll probably work. They’re not very clever, this MKR bunch.

  10. @Bruce Banner – “no sob stories”. Eh? You haven’t seen the promos? Or the one promo they keep running. “We had everything, the company went bankrupt (she means “into receivership”), we lost everything, the walls…” etc., etc. Cue no makeup, unshaven shots.
    As MKR morphed into MChef, this sounds like a clone of several past shows – Domestic Blitz etc.

  11. Why watch a knock off when the original is so much better…The Block will always rule in my house…Seven needs to get some original ideas…

  12. Bruce Banner

    I’ll have a look at this. It’s kind of like 60 Minute Makeover on steroids and no sob stories (rare for a “reality” show). I wonder what the premise of the show is… just to renovate a house, or are there prizes to be won? Money to be made?

  13. I hate The Block. But i liked The Renovators. I thought the format was so much better, the casting was good, there was just some minor format changes that needed to happen, and the real problem was Ten’s programming decision which burnt it from the start. Not the quality of the show.

    I just don’t get House Rules though. A whole house in a week?? What’s the final product meant to be?

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