The Living Room is back from the brink -and in a major format twist will feature one family, one story per episode.
Gone are the unrelated lifestyle stories linked by hosts before a studio audience.
Instead the show is filmed in a warehouse ‘home-base’ with the hosts helping out a hero family each week. No longer produced by WTFN, the show is now in-house at 10 under new executive producers Sarah Thornton and Caroline Swift.
As Amanda Keller tells TV Tonight, “(Caroline) did a lot of thinking and spoke to a lot of people about what Friday night viewing should be, what our strengths were, and what our point of difference could be. And that’s why the show, I think, is slightly different this time around.
“We take one family or one couple, one story, for the hour, and we film and do offshoots from that. But rather than all of us doing disparate stories and just linking them in the studio, we go on a journey from beginning to end.
“There are stories with heart, there’s still lots of laugh”
“There are stories with heart, there’s still lots of laughs and we merge lanes a little in that Chris (Brown) might be there to help Barry (du Bois) with a renovation -with disastrous results usually- but we all kind of pitch in around each other. So we’re not just filming in isolation, we’re with each other as well, a lot of the time.”
So does that make the show Backyard Blitz or even Ian Thorpe’s Undercover Angels?
“If I could remember how Thorpie’s Angels went I could actually answer that!” laughs Keller.
“I remember the the imagery of it but I don’t even know how the show worked? But no, it’s not Backyard Blitz.
“It might be more those shows meets Queer Eye”
“It might be more those shows meets Queer Eye in that we set out on a vision. We’re not just making over someone’s backyard, we’ve asked people to come to us and say ‘What is it you need?’ Some people need a rev up in their lives. Some need a new kitchen. Some are empty-nesters whose kids have grown up asking, ‘What do we do now?’
“We look at various aspects of their life. It’s not just as simple as coming in and fixing up a house. We come in and chat to them find out what we can do for them, what our various skill sets can bring them.”
Together with Miguel Maestre, the show retains the chemistry for which is has become famous. Keller promises it will still allow for humour and spontaneity, if filmed on location in daylight.
“We always felt that The Living Room was part-Tonight Show. So we sort of have our own stupidity within those elements in home base, as well.
“I think we are show where we can laugh and cry in the same sentence”
“We’ve tried to give breathing space to how we interact with each other. I’ve said before I think we are show where we can laugh and cry in the same sentence.
“We rip each other to shreds but love each other, like families do.”
The new home-base is a converted warehouse in Newtown in inner Sydney.
Filming during COVID restrictions means there is naturally less travel, and for now the hero families are Sydney-based.
“It’s been hard for the production team who have been trying not to be siloed with everybody working from home. We’ve been filming stories, using social distancing and following all the rules,” she continues.
“We started doing our home base recordings a couple of months ago, maybe six weeks.”
But the promo sees the ‘fab four’ ignoring social distancing?
“We’ve been in a bubble with each other”
“That’s because we’ve been in a bubble with each other. We film with each other in the same way your family has a bubble, and certain friendships can have a bubble.”
10 announced the show’s return after a deal with former producers WTFN, who retained rights in the format and all international rights. This enabled 10 to stick with the title despite previously confirming The Living Room would not return.
“We knew we were coming back”
“We knew we were coming back. We didn’t know if we’d still be called The Living Room, which is probably what that was about,” Keller explains.
“We were always assured by Channel 10 ‘There will be a show on Friday night for the four of you.’
“So yes, we’ve had a lick of paint. We’re now being made by in house by Channel 10 and we’ve had a renovation, I guess.
“It’s been so strange being off air for this period of time, but we don’t have an audience and I think that we wouldn’t have been able to anyway.”
Keller doesn’t weigh into why the revamp led to the exit of the original production company WTFN, which has also not commented directly.
“I assume there were tensions”
“I assume there were tensions in there, or else why would we be where we are? But I would just turn up and do my job,” Keller continues.
“There wasn’t any particular personnel, and I can say that hand on heart, that’s led to any of this. I think it was probably just that after 7 years they wanted a refresh and they felt they could do that themselves.”
And after 4 Logies the taste will be, as they say, in the pudding. Keller and her team are optimistic viewers will want a large, second helping at their new home base.
“It’s a fantastic space”
“It’s a fantastic space. There’s a pool, there’s a working kitchen, a fireplace, a lounge room… it feels like a home. What I love about it is they actually came to see my home and they’ve painted some of the walls like my place. They’ve got some of my husband’s artworks on the walls. We’ve all brought in bits from our own home.
“It feels like ours.”
The Living Room returns 7:30pm Friday on 10.