Seen bet­ter days

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Television - TIM MARTAIN

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.

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