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7 Questions with… The Big Flower Fight hosts Vic Reeves and Natasia Demetriou: Why this feelgood show is perfect for life in lockdown
Vic Reeves and Natasia Demetriou talk exclusively to BT.com about their new Netflix competition series The Big Flower Fight, and why it’s exactly the sort of telly we need now.
If you’re glued to The Great British Sewing Bee and wishing The Great British Bake Off was back on our screens, The Big Flower Fight might be just the wholesome competition series you need.
Streaming exclusively on Netflix, the brand new TV show sees 10 teams of florists, sculptors and garden designers push their talents to the limit to create extravagant floral installations.
The Big Flower Fight is hosted by Vic Reeves and Natasia Demetriou. Contestants are judged each week on their floral creations by florist to the stars, Kristen Griffith-VanderYacht, along with guest judges. The least successful florists are voted off pair by pair until the final face-off.
We caught up with the show’s presenters to find out whether they’re green-fingered themselves, what sort of spectacular designs we can expect to see on the show, how they found the vote-offs, and why The Big Flower Fight is perfect lockdown viewing.
1. The show is such a feelgood watch, but what appealed to you both about it?
Vic Reeves: When I first got offered it by my agent, I thought it was like a floral arrangement programme, which wouldn’t be the first thing I’d say yes to. Then I found out it was about making huge sculptures. I enjoy art more than I do gardening, and for me it had more to do with art than gardening.
When we started doing it, it was a lot more exciting than I was expecting. It’s astonishing really what people can create. Also it’s filmed very near to where I live so that’s a bonus, right in the middle of Kent, just outside of Maidstone, with beautiful views over the garden of England and fine weather. What more could you ask for?
Natasia Demetriou: It was the same sort of thing for me really. There’s obviously a lot of these competition format shows being made at the moment, and I really liked the fact that it was that sort of show - being creative and stuff - on such a giant scale.
It’s a bit surreal. The stuff they make is kind of mad and weird, which I liked. Then when they told me that Vic was going to be presenting it, I was like ‘Yes please! That will be so much fun’.
2. How much did you know about floristry and garden design before working on the show?
Vic: We’re both arty, so I think it was that element that appealed. I like looking at flowers, and I’ve got a nice garden, but I’m not that horticultural, I’m not that gardeny. I’ve got two tomato plants in my garden. I can put things in soil and watch them wilt. I don’t know if it’s my less-than-green fingers but when I’m putting stuff in the ground, I’m not doing it right. I need to watch people who do know what they’re doing.
Natasia: I have all the enthusiasm but not much experience and knowledge because I’ve never had a garden. I’ve just got a flat with a little balcony, so I did that fantastic thing of buying far too many plants and not really knowing what was going to stay alive and what wasn’t. Now I’ve basically got a morgue, with all these flower corpses.
What’s not to aspire to about how to grow your own fruit and vegetables and plants, and then being creative? The show’s got a real sustainability and environmentally-friendly ethos behind it, so that really appealed to me too because it’s nice to be part of something that’s being good and mindful and trying to promote the world.
Vic: You’ve got the contestants - and not all of them are from a floristry background, some of them have just come out of art school - then you’ve got the experts like Kristen [Griffith-VanderYacht, above], who’s just a genius at floral displays. What we are is the conduit between those experts and the people who are sitting on the sofa watching it, who would know as much as we do.
Natasia: [Interviewer: Like the Ant and Dec of the show?] Yes, we are the Ant and Dec of Netflix, finally someone’s saying it!
3. Can you give us a sneak peek at some of the most spectacular designs?
Vic: They get bigger and bigger over the series - they end up being so massive that there’s cranes involved. It’s not just the size of them. I suppose if you’re watching a sculptor like Michaelangelo making a big sculpture, it was gobsmacking to see people making things that were so maybe accurate and representative of what they were making. And making it from things which could die or collapse at any moment. There was one that you could get inside which was quite incredible.
The scale of it is definitely new territory. The finished sculptures looked like a giant floral theme park!
- Natasia Demetriou
Natasia: Or making faces or creating creatures that look so lifelike but you’ve used grass and tyres or something, and you’re just like ‘How have you done that?’. It is incredible. As the weeks go on, the challenges get bigger and way more challenging.
As the contestants are doing this week-in, week-out, their skillset really grows and the stuff that they produce is unbelievable.
It’s definitely new territory. Just the scale of it. We’d go and look at these sculptures and by the time they’d finished, it would look like a giant floral theme park. It’s like going to Disneyland and being like ‘What the hell is that? It’s so big and incredible, I can’t work out how they’ve done that!’
4. What can you share with us about the contestants and do you have any favourites?
Vic: It was a completely international cast as it’s an international show. You’ve got favourites, like Henck and Yan, above, who were very flamboyant in their costumes. Then you’ve got people like Ralph and Jim who are father and son - Jim’s a gardener and Ralph’s a student - and their dynamic and the love between them is really watchable.
There were little bits of bickering, because it was quite tense, it’s 12 hours a day next to each other, so tempers might vaguely fray. There’s drama in there... There were minor falling outs and things, and a bit of jealousy.
The first vote-off was devastating, I don’t think we really knew how to deal with it. You’ve got to be like mum and dad and psychiatrist and you don’t really know how to say ‘I’m sorry for you’.
Natasia: I really, truly loved them all. You get to know them all and you’re rooting for them all. Week on week, you’re like ‘Oh God, I love those guys, I hope they don’t go’, then it changes again. The longer the contestants stay in the show, the longer you get to know them, naturally. I was fond of them all.
It was really shocking how real it feels [when someone goes home]. You think ‘Oh it’s TV, it won’t be that bad’ and then you’re like ‘No! It’s very real.’ These are human beings who have worked so hard on something then you have to tell someone they’re going home. It was really, truly unpleasant.
The first vote-off was devastating, I don’t think we really knew how to deal with it.
- Vic Reeves
We’d take turns doing it and I’d be so happy when it wasn’t my time to do it! [I was nearly in tears] on the first vote-off. It was awful.
I’m not a super-emotional person, but you’re like ‘These are real people, lovely people, who have worked so hard’ and you’ve got to know them and then you have to tell them it’s over.
I’ve always thought it’s a bit fake, but it is truly horrible. If our day starts at 7am, their day starts around the same time, and we all finish at the same time, and have lunch at the same time, and we’re all in the same place, so they’re as big a part of the show as we are and you really feel for them.
5. The show’s been called the Bake Off for gardeners - how are your baking skills and would either of you be up for taking part in the celebrity version?
Vic: I do bake, I baked a fruit cake and a lemon drizzle cake last week which was very nice. They’ve all gone now, so I shouldn’t do it too often. When there’s a cake or biscuits in the cupboard, I’m a bit like a drug addict, then I have to fool myself into believing I’ve not had it when I have.
Natasia: I love Bake Off. I don’t bake purely for that reason, it’s like what’s the point of going into the shop and saying I’m not going to eat that chocolate, but coming home and whisking up a load of butter and sugar and a load of icing and saying ‘Well this is OK because I’ve made it!’
My flatmate’s mum left a carrot cake on our doorstep as a social distancing gift and it literally disappeared. My flatmate ate an entire carrot cake himself.
It’s like we feel we’re in this sort of dystopian Christmas, so chocolate cakes are kind of allowed around the house. I have no willpower, so if I make a cake, I’m going to eat it in one sitting.
I’d be up for doing the Bake Off because I can leave it behind. I’ve heard that Paul Hollywood eats every single cake that’s made...
6. Why do you think this is the perfect time for this show to come out while we’re all stuck at home?
Vic: We’re entering into an era of arts and crafts, because there’s technology everywhere, but I think people want to make things and do things and look at it at the end of the day, like a pot for drinking. We’re back into the new era of art.
Natasia: I completely agree. I feel like we’ve just been so obsessed with phones and iPads and laptops and screens for so long.
I love watching TV, I probably spend too much time on my phone, but it’s probably not very good for your mental health is it? It indulges some of your worst personality traits, like staring at other people’s lives on Instagram for hours on end.
I think being creative and making something that you can look at is so good for your brain and your soul. Nothing beats it. It’s what we do when we go ‘I’m really going to look after myself’. We go ‘I’m going to do a puzzle’ or ‘I’m going to read a book’ or ‘I’m going to achieve something that doesn’t have anything to do with staring at a screen’.
I think it’s something that we’ve forgotten, especially in younger generations. I used to be a nanny and the kids used to laugh at me when I’d say ‘Shall we paint something?’. They just wanted to go on their iPads.
I think it’s really important that we do stuff with our hands and work out how to fix something and make something, like ‘How do I get chicken wire around this rosebush?’
You just get satisfaction from achieving something that you just don’t get in any other way than from being creative. You don’t get it from scrolling, you only get a bad thumb!
7. Can we expect a second series if the first is a hit?
Vic: I would hope so. You’ve got to wait and see how it’s received, but we’re both up for doing it again. We were hoping that it would be filming this year but I don’t think it will be now because you’ve got to do it when the sun’s out and the flowers are growing. With a bit of luck, we’ll be doing it next spring!
Natasia: There was talk of doing it in July, but it’s a show that’s so reliant on the plants being in bloom that it seems doubtful we’ll be able to film anything that soon again, so hopefully next spring.
Vic: It could be filmed anywhere in the world really. That would be an exciting thing to do wouldn’t it, go to India and do one there.
Natasia: That would be incredible!
The Big Flower Fight is streaming on Netflix from Monday, May 18.