Ren­o­va­tion key to SUC­CESS

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - TV Guide - - Cover Story - – An­drew Fen­ton House Rules ● Tues­day, 7.30pm, Seven

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.”

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