Renovation key to SUCCESS
Johanna Griggs faced a tough choice when she was offered the job hosting new state-versus-state reality renovation show House Rules.
The challenge of fronting an untested format was daunting. Not only is Griggs inexperienced in the reality genre, but the wrecks of similar shows such as The Renovators litter television’s graveyard.
Taking the job also meant giving up her 15-year stretch covering the Australian Open. And, on a personal level, she knew trying to combine the show’s intense workload with presenting Better Homes And Gardens and helping husband Todd Huggins run their construction company would put a big strain on the household.
“It came down to a family decision,” says Griggs of sitting down to discuss the opportunity with Todd and her two teenage sons, Jesse and Joe, from her marriage to Gary Sweet. “We knew there would be a lot of travel. How did they feel about me being away a lot? And would Todd be able to cope with that?”
Three years earlier, Griggs quit her job presenting sport on Seven News in Sydney to have more time to look after the boys, then aged 15 and 14.
“They were just wanting to live a life they really weren’t old enough to understand,” she explains. “I was working seven days a week and we just went: I need to take a step back, I need to be there for the phone calls, I need to be there for the pick-ups and the drop- offs until we get them to a bit more understanding of where they are.”
With Jesse in his final year of school and Joe beginning to learn an electrical trade, the family collectively decided the time was right for Griggs to go for it.
“Ultimately, the four of us all went, yep we are in a different place to where we were in 2010 and it felt right.
“Todd felt that if I didn’t say yes to this, then another opportunity may not come up. And the boys were all for it. I think it might possibly be the only thing I’ve ever done that they’ll watch!”
Built from the ground up by the makers of My Kitchen Rules, House Rules sees six teams from each state in Australia hand over the keys to their home to let the others renovate it.
Each week the teams remake and remodel a room in a new house, with the results judged by architect Joe Snell and Home Beautiful editor Wendy Moore and, in a neat twist, by the team who owns the home, unaware which of their
There is not a chance on earth I’d be able to trust [my own home] … to a bunch of people you barely know
competitors is responsible. One of the key factors in the success of My Kitchen Rules has been its focus on casting, seemingly at the expense of actual cooking ability. So will its sister show put the emphasis on the people or on the work?
“The similarities between MKR and House Rules are simply that teams from each state compete against each other – and that’s about it,” Griggs says.
But with rival Nine’s The Block due to drop into the schedule, the program’s makers clearly hope House Rules will be able to emulate MKR’s success in knocking off the reigning champ ( in that instance, MasterChef).
But as The Renovators’ ratings demonstrated, just because a subject is popular, it doesn’t mean anyone can make a go of it.
Griggs says The Renovators was set in a warehouse and didn’t leverage off the emotional investment people have in their own homes. But in House Rules: “This is where they’ll live for a long time after the show is finished, and the emotional attachment they have because of that just adds a big element to the competition.”
She adds it’d be a bridge too far for her, personally. “I’ve thought about it a great deal and there is not a chance on earth I’d be able to trust those decisions, and the biggest thing you ever invest in, to a bunch of people you barely know.”
Griggs says the sheer scale of the production – six houses renovated in six weeks – was a “bigger beast than anyone realised”.
“It’s outrageous the scale of this show,” she says. “The second last house we did, we got to the end of it and they were just broken. It was like: ‘You guys need to rally as we’ve got one more left to go’ and they just had nothing left to give. Physically, it has been hugely demanding on them, and mentally, it has been a harder journey for a couple of them than the others.”
Although a newcomer to reality television, Griggs’ building and renovation experience makes her a more than fitting choice as host. She’s renovated four homes with Todd, and in the down time between TV jobs, you’ll find her driving trucks or knocking down walls on his construction sites.
“If I’m not working in television I’m labouring for my husband, and I can tell you he’s a much harder boss than any television boss I’ve worked for,’’ she says. “He’s sacked me twice for being lippy with him! He’ll be like: ‘Get off my site, you’re a worker and you don’t speak to me like that when you’re at work’.”
She laughs that it never takes long to get rehired. “( It’s) not long because I do all the cooking.”