Cheerful show with surprising depth
The latest in a seemingly never-ending line of Great British Bake Off clones, Netflix’s The Big Flower Fight brings the format not just to floristry, but to giant flower and plant-based sculptures. And it’s hosted by Vic Reeves and Natasia Demetriou. I think a few years ago this would have been called ‘bonkers’. The premise is so random, the presenters so unrelated to the field (not that that is really that unusual). But for all its apparent strangeness, Big Flower Fight is a show that works rather well.
Shows such as these live and die by their casting. It is not the challenges themselves that provide the entertainment and draw us in, but the stories of the people undertaking them. The people in this show bring a warmth, depth and character that is delightful to watch. From ‘dad and lad’ team Ralph and Jim, whose arc sees them tackle Jim’s experiences of mental ill-health, to artist and DJ boyfriend duo Andrew and Ryan – whose creations bring a level of depth and intelligence of concept I was not expecting to see on such a lighthearted show – each pair brings something of themselves, and some thought-provoking ideas. The unbeatably flamboyant Henck and Yan delve into issues of climate change and humanity’s negative impact on the planet, whilst maintaining a sense of whimsy and aesthetic appeal. I was almost always sad to say goodbye to the teams, who we grew to love across a surprisingly short amount of screen time. Londoners Raymond and Chanelle beautifully explored their interwoven identities through the medium of flowers, bringing an edge of haute couture to the tent. Trans woman Andi and her partner Helen (representing my home county of Somerset!) were an utterly wonderful presence on the show, and as the UK seemingly sinks further and further into outright transphobia, it was incredibly heartening to see her so unquestioningly accepted by the group, and the show as a whole. As a cis woman I obviously cannot speak for the trans community, but this kind of matter of fact representation I think could do a lot to make people question any prejudices they might pick up from mainstream media about trans women. One guest judge did come across as targetedly hyper-critical of Andi in a way that did give me transphobic vibes, but seeing her fellow competitors rally around her was cheering. Each pair, if you will pardon the pun, blossomed as the show progressed, and it was great to see them put their new knowledge and relationships to use to create ever more imaginative designs.
Main show judge Kristen Griffith-Vanderyacht was a delight, providing wit, humour and knowledge on a subject that I can only imagine most viewers (myself included) are unfamiliar with. I can’t have been alone in not having heard of any of the guest judges (although I had seen some of Yan and Henck’s work on Instagram). With a few exceptions (I will say nothing about the Instagram model ‘houseplant consultant’) , it was really lovely to see the teams grow in knowledge and ambition as the weeks progressed. The sense of warmth and encouragement carried through the judges and presenters, with Natasia and Vic offering amusing commentary without the slightest hint of barbed critique.
Making me long for summer days in the English countryside, Big Flower Fight achieves a sense of character and individuality in a rather crowded field, and embraces the complexity and experiences of its contestants. I think it has succeeded in knocking Blown Away off the top spot (or rather, second to Great British Sewing Bee spot) in my estimation.
If you want a show with a diverse set of truly interesting people being given the space to indulge their creativity and develop interesting ideas, Big Flower Fight is the show for you.
What did you think of The Big Flower Fight? Where would you rank it in a list of GBBO type shows? And which show do you think I should try next? Let me know in the comments, and, as always, thanks for reading!