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Formats Unpacked: Your Home Made Perfect
How VR and TV came together to create a new home renovation format
Here’s an interesting experiment for you. Type “VR will replace…” into your browser and see what suggestions are offered. It goes without saying that VR has neither replaced travel, games consoles, or TV.
I’ve never been a fan of “X will kill Y” forecasting. When something new comes along I’d rather ask “How will this help” rather than “What will it kill”. I joined the BBC just as it was launching its first websites, then spent 15 years helping the organisation think of smart ways digital could enhance programmes in creative ways. So I’m always interested to see how new tech is used in programming.
Today’s format uses VR but instead of using it from a consumer perspective, it’s used within the show in a really simple but smart way that is crucial to the format. The unpacking comes from BAFTA-nominated producer and director Fiona Jones. Fiona works primarily on documentaries and factual content and got in touch after reading my unpacking of the Up Series.
Over to Fiona…
What’s it called?
Your Home Made Perfect (TV show)
What’s the Format?
One couple has major problems with the design of their house but their conflicting views on what improvements are needed, have left the couple paralysed by indecision for years. In step Robert and Laura, two rival architects, who propose their very different ideas that they think will solve the couple's problems within budget, but only one of the ideas is chosen.
The unique format point is that the renovation plans are presented using virtual reality so that the homeowners can see exactly what each of the architects is proposing and they can actually walk through the design and understand them in terms of scale and light. The couples must then decide between themselves, whose plan they will use. We return at the end of the programme to see the reveal of their newly renovated home.
What’s the Magic That Makes it Special?
The reveal is what keeps us watching property programmes to the end, and this format delivers not one, but 3 reveals - the virtual reality versions of the two competing ideas and then the actual transformed home at the end, each allowing the viewer to play along at home - 'which would I go for?', 'which will the couple go for?', and finally, 'how close is the final reveal of the transform to the VR version?'.
In this format, the journey is that of Robert and Laura, the architects, rather than the homeowners. These two leading characters listen to the homeowners' conflicting desires, identify the problems, present their solution, and hope to see their design realised in bricks and mortar. The architects are both likeable, yet very different and their designs reflect their personalities. There's Robert, the flamboyant hippie, who often focuses on how we aspire to live (think a curtained raised temple in the middle of the garden) contrasting to a sharply dressed, Laura, who has a more pragmatic and accessible approach to her designs focusing on how we actually live.
The reveals of the two plans are magical, as the VR does away with the clutter, knocks down walls and then rebuilds them in different configurations. There are invariably tears of joy, behind the VR headsets, when the couples are shown how their homes (and lives) will be transformed
Typically, in property renovation shows, the jeopardy lies with the actual build or keeping to budget and/or a time scale, while in this format the point of conflict and jeopardy is over the decision of which plan will be chosen. The architects are battling it out for their own professional kudos, to prove that they have delivered the perfect solution to a very tough brief, while for the couple, it's whether they’ll be able to agree on one of the plans, after years of indecision. Each architect is filmed for their reactions in a viewing booth, to their contender's pitch, and it's this format point which brings out the rivalry between them, albeit good-humoured.
There could be something unreal with this format, which does away with the mud, overspend and the whole frustration of home renovations, and has VR at its core. What grounds the format, however, is the contributors, the VR is a just tool in the storytelling. While we may watch in awe at the drive, imagination and budgets behind those embarking on a Grand Design (already unpacked by Matt), this show is about more 'normal' people in real situations with a realistic budget and it's that which makes it relatable.
My favourite episode had to be series 2, episode 5, just for the 'outspoken couple with strong views'. It really upped the ante on whether any plan, would be of their liking.
What I really like about this format is the simple use of the tech, and whilst VR is crucial to the format the real winner is good storytelling. As Fiona points out the format uses familiar structures and great casting whilst using the tech as a tool to achieve the payoff in a new way.
Thanks for reading and hello to all the new subscribers. If you’ve enjoyed this please share with your friends. If you’re interested in unpacking a favourite format let me know a little more. Finally, if you’re interested in one of our format development workshops get in touch. Find out more about Storythings and other ways we can help.