Seen better days
EVERY Australian TV viewer must be a Better Homes and Gardens viewer, I’d say. I mean, surely we all must be, since it’s getting harder and harder to avoid and the Seven network has a way of wedging it into the most obnoxious timeslots – like mum trying to force you to eat your brussels sprouts.
Even if you haven’t tuned in to watch it specifically, you’ve probably had to watch it accidentally when you were waiting for something else to start.
When Seven’s Better Homes and Gardens first hit our screens in 1995, it was an hour- long lifestyle show that followed travel series The Great Outdoors and struggled in the ratings for many years.
When it was moved to Saturday nights, it started to flatline as viewers were watching sport on other networks.
From 2007 to 2011 it was shifted to Friday nights and stole a huge chunk of viewership in its 7.30 timeslot, finally becoming a popular show.
Unfortunately, Seven opted to delay its broadcast of Friday night AFL by an hour, shifting the footy back to 8.30, to accommodate Better Homes and Gardens and, as you can imagine, footy fans weren’t happy.
Seven mostly didn’t care. That timeslot rated well, so Better Homes stayed where it was and the footy remained on delay ( apart from occasional big games) until this year’s AFL broadcast deal forced the network to show the Friday night games live. I know, shocking, right? So this season Better Homes has shifted to 7.30 Thursday nights to keep it clear of the football. But now there’s a new tactic in play. Bloating.
We saw this phenomenon some years ago with the once mighty news- based comedy panel series Good News Week.
Once Ten realised what a hit show it had on its hands, it set about exploiting its new cash cow as heavily as possible.
It started life as a punchy, incisive little 30- minute ripper of a show but was progressively turned into a waddling, bloated, wheezing whale of a show that sometimes ran for two hours, padded out with uninteresting special guests, musical numbers and utterly revolting cross- promotional segments.
This way Ten could fill a maximum amount of time with an already popular show for very little effort and just bleed it out until the ratings finally died.
Which brings us back to Better Homes and Gardens.
Exactly why a series about arts, crafts, carpentry and pet health needs to run for 1 ½ hours is entirely beyond me.
But, even worse, it routinely runs overtime, sometimes edging uncomfortably close to the two- hour mark.
This becomes more inconvenient due to the fact that Thursday night is a bigticket night on Seven/ Southern Cross.
Traditionally it is Desperate Housewives/ Grey’s Anatomy/ Private Practice night, three big- rating series with strong fan bases.
Desperate Housewives has now been replaced by Criminal Minds but the problem remains: a string of three popular, M- rated series pushed deep into the sort of late- night time slots that tend to kill viewership.
Meanwhile, Better Homes and Gardens keeps winning Logies and scoring highly in the ratings, so no doubt Seven will keep doing what it’s doing because, sadly, it appears to be working.
By this time next year I’m anticipating Better Homes and Gardens will still be on Thursday but will run until Saturday morning featuring vapid interviews with visiting celebrities and humorous news commentary from some washed- up comedian nobody likes any more.