ABC once had a rule of no international formats, which was good for the independent sector. In recent years it has abandoned that and quietly increased the number of adapted formats.
The latest is Escape from the City, based on the UK’s Escape to the Country (seen on 7TWO). Originally planned for a stripped 6pm weeknight slot, ABC has rethought those plans meaning it will screen most of the year in a Thursday slot (presuming it rates).
There are 5 presenters: Simon Marnie, Bryce Holdaway, Del Irani, Dean Ipaviz and first cab off the rank in Jane Hall (pictured second from left).
Week 1 we are in the chill-out arty town of Bellingen, just south of Coff’s Harbour. And why wouldn’t you want to move there?
“How’s this for a view?” Hall asks (although it is unavoidably wet for the 2 days our crew are in town filming).
Maroubra’s young family of 5, headed up by parents Brad & Monique, are hoping to slow down their pace, spend more time together and maybe attempt a little “off the grid” sustainable living.
Hall’s primary experience in property appears to be having undertaken her own tree-change, yet here she will become ABC’s answer to Shaynna Blaze, guiding buyers and viewers on acquisitions nudging a million dollars. As it turns out, she manages to do that just fine, presumably supported off camera by a surefire research team.
We visit 4 local properties for sale, all of which tick various boxes meeting our buyers’ ideal purchase. For Brad & Monique these include central location, houses with character, a decent yard, some adult space for yoga and music, and room for starting organics. The ‘sticky-beak’ factor never disappoints for viewers, some of whom will be aspiring for their own sea / tree-change.
“I don’t think you would ever have to leave,” Monique will sigh at one property.
One of the 4 properties is a “Mystery House” (aren’t they all sorta mysteries?) which appears to be a wildcard idea, in this case a rustic, farm-size property that allows for major self-sustenance.
At each location we also get to play “guess the price tag,” ….bound to have Goggleboxers in a twist.
“I didn’t think it would be possible for somebody like me to own something like this,” a shocked Brad says at another site.
It’s hard to ignore that the premise is not new (Location Location Location Australia and Buying Blind for example), but it matters little. ABC makes this show their own thanks to some serious planning and presenters such as Hall, whose annunciation is as clear as a bell.
“How often do you say ‘I own a lake?'” she asks.
There are two indulgent sequences, visiting locals who specialise in making Chai Tea and Smoked Fish which feels a little like we are dragging this out to fill an hour, and there is a disconnect in regards to whether a property is actually purchased or not. Given the amount of production time that has lapsed that strikes me as a unfortunate misstep. I was actually expecting follow-ups on how our family adjusted to the big move.
This aside, Escape from the City is a leisurely couch-escape produced by Fremantle which, at first glance, has been worth the wait.
2019 looks like being a big year for Seachange TV.
Escape from the City airs 7:30pm Thursday on ABC.