TV Review: The Renovation Obsession

TV Review: The Renovation Obsession

Why do we love the reno shows?

By Mark HadleyWednesday 29 May 2013TV and StreamingReading Time: 3 minutes

Rating: PG
Distributor: The Nine Network/The Seven Network
Release Date: Weeknights, 7:00 PM/Mon.-Wed. 7:30 PM & Thurs. 8:00 PM 

As the ratings war intensifies
the Seven and Nine Networks have gone head to head with home renovation shows. But are these programs more about deconstruction than construction?

Networks Seven and Nine crowd our screen with the next renovation incarnations 'The Block' and 'House Rules'?
Capitalising on the success of The Voice, the Nine Network has introduced Australians to the latest version of its Logie-winning series The Block. The sixth celebrity season that aired earlier this year failed to gain traction but viewers aren’t showing any fatigue with the seventh Sky High series. More than 1.3 million tuned in to see five couples each assigned the task of turning an entire floor of a dilapidated hotel into a luxury apartment. Working to pre-prepared designs, the competitors have to complete five bathrooms each, along with a collection of bedrooms, kitchens and dining rooms. As usual the winner will be the pair that manages to return the greatest profit when their pad goes up for auction. 

Meantime, a week into the competition, the Seven Network introduced its own renovation show in the hope of hijacking another genre from Nine. However House Rules introduces a few concepts that will be new to the televised building game. To begin with the six couples competing are working on each other’s houses. While one pair go on an enforced week-long holiday, the other five set to work on demolishing the interior of their property and each recreating a room they hope will impress both judges and owners. Another clever twist is Seven promising to pay off the series winner’s mortgage – a grand prize that could easily double what Nine has on offer. Viewers were slow to respond with only 800,000 tuning in to the first episode. However numbers have already climbed over the million mark, meaning the Network is definitely in the game.

Of course for every difference The Block and House Rules offer there are some predictable similarities. Both programs operate within crushing time limits, require contestants to take on jobs way outside of their comfort zones and are judged by the usual array of architects and style moguls. Most of all, the drama depends on the teams losing their patience with their partners and each other. It’s ironic but reality television turns on creating unrealistically stressful environments. No builder would attempt to renovate an entire home within a week, or build a bathroom in 24 hours. But the truth they’re hoping to display is the truth within – what sort of people are we when the pressure is on?

Both The Block and House Rules deliver realistic impressions of the people competing. It’s clear from watching both that Bunnings might be the source of every building material but our hearts provide the majority of faults, especially the words we say. As Jesus puts it,

“The things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.”  

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– and for PG programs there’s certainly no shortage of beeped-out words. But the more dangerous problem is the object of all this anxiety. Both The Block and House Rules aim to raise our expectations about what a person can achieve when it comes to building a home and, indeed, what they deserve. A little more attention to Jesus’ wisdom and they’d discover that building for this life alone is actually not the best investment an Australian could make. The Gospel’s rich man who finally gets all the storage space he could require, but dies a pauper towards God is actually judged a fool. I think it’s not a bad illustration that the first luxury home the House Rules teams come to build actually turns out to be resting on a foundation of sand.