Back in 1998 Changing Rooms, hosted by Suzie Wilks and co-produced by The Block‘s Julian Cress & David Barbour, was a half hour weekly show. Based on a UK format it was so successful it ran until 2005.
In 2019 it’s now on 10 as a 2.5hr offering across two nights, hosted by Natalie Bassingthwaighte. It seems networks are constantly tempted to stretch and strip their content in the ongoing battle against streaming, bingeing and Pay TV.
I’ve often wondered why 10 isn’t more in the property space given the successes of The Block, House Rules, Selling Houses Australia and Grand Designs Australia. They are also favourites of advertisers. But 10 was burnt badly by The Renovators in 2011, so it has largely been left to Baz on The Living Room.
The format sees two families swap keys and renovate three rooms each, joined by expert renovators and designers, on budgets of $20,000 each. “What could possibly go wrong?” asks Nat Bass.
In the first two episodes -the same cast appear on consecutive nights- we meet Sydney couple Adam & Renee (Team Yellow) and their neighbours Virginia & Glen (Team Blue). They’ve only been neighbours for 12 months after Adam & Renee bought a big “soulless” ’70s style home that makes them “depressed.” I guess they haven’t seen Filthy Rich & Homeless?
Interior Designer Tim Leveson takes charge of Adam & Renee’s renovation, and he has big ideas for their large L-shaped family room, a TV room with a bar, and a bedroom. Aside from the bushy views, none of them have much going for them.
Meanwhile Designer Jane Thomson is reeling from the equally-’70s home next door, with ugly exposed brickwork dominating the kids playroom, laundry and something resembling a man-cave.
The risk element of the show is rather fun, if utilised by other reno shows: : handing over your keys and hoping your castle isn’t bastardised with gaudy colours and bizarro ideas.
When each of the couples roll up their sleeves to begin work next door (no peeking over the fence!) their respective designers get them to work on painting and schmearing brickwork. At this point it dawns on me that none of the key decisions are made by the couples. I can’t remember if that’s how the original series also worked, but in 2019 other shows see a lot of decisions out of experts hands. It also helps ramp up the conflict when couples bicker.
Changing Rooms adopts a lighter touch than fiery reality shows with hissy fits and walk-outs, but at times it could probably be renamed Painting Rooms. While couples are worrying over the “on-trend” green or the angular wall-art they are creating, nameless tradies are doing the heavy-lifting. Still, we know The Block is never a 2 person reno, either…
Bubbly Nat Bass drops by to check out progress and happily picks up some tools to muck in. Her hosting may not carry the doom and drama of other reno shows but she keeps the ball in the air. Experts Tim and Jane are also very comfortable with their on-camera presentations, and look like they know their stuff. 2 others, Naomi Findlay & Chris Carroll, will presumably lead other renovations.
The all-important room reveal happens first with host Nat Bass who can’t believe the transformation of rooms she has probably only seen once, before she returns with the home-owners themselves. Cue the “OMG!s” and the tears. Half the appeal of this genre is right here. Thankfully the results are good, if not stark, on their limited budgets (not including labour).
I won’t spoil the fun as to whether they love or hate them….
Two rooms in each home are completed in the first 90 minute episode, while 1 room each follows in the second 60 minute episode. For my money that’s too long when TV already has too many shows I can’t accommodate. I would also like to see the kids involved more in the show, if only in the before & after segments -maybe that will come in subsequent eps.
With so many reality property shows around Changing Rooms takes a safer, lifestyle approach, dispensing with hysterical bitch-fights and a habit of eliminations. Thank goodness.
Just make sure before you hand over your keys, or your 2.5 hrs, you know what you’re signing up for.
Changing Rooms airs 7:30pm Wednesday & Thursday on 10.