Imaging The Great British Baking Show but with flower sculptures and you have yourself The Big Flower Fight, Netflix’s latest competition show. Ten teams compete in increasingly spectacular challenges for the chance to have their work featured in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in London, England. Hosted by Vic Reeves and Natasia Demetriou and judged by Kristen Griffith-VanderYacht, the show sees its competitors design and create botanic marvels from wearable dresses made of flowers to giant animals make of grasses to seas creatures made of coastal plants and recycled debris.
Just on its face, I loved the premise of The Big Flower Fight before I even clicked play. I had no real interest in floristry prior to the show, but plants in general and sculpting I find captivating. One might be wary that the premise would lose its luster after the first few episodes, but the show’s eight episodes each feature entirely unique challenges. The themes, the types of plants utilized, the type of creation, and the type of structure used as a starting point are different each time and offer the same excitement wondering what the teams will design given their criteria as any other good competition show.
As for those teams, at first, it was more difficult to gauge how I felt about them at first than usual. Inevitably in competition shows like this, there are so many competitors in the first episode or two that not enough time is spent following anyone to get to really know them. In The Big Flower Fight though, the first two episodes don’t even introduce half of the contestants or spend more than a few seconds showing them on camera. In episodes two, I saw folks I didn’t even know were there in the first episode. This would maybe have been okay if there were more than eight episodes, but it just felt like I was cheated out of the chance to see some of the creations in those early episodes, let alone getting the chance to know all of the teams early on. It also felt arbitrary as to which teams received attention in the first two episodes or not.
I quite liked the teams by the end though. I appreciate that The Big Flower Fight didn’t go out of its way to create drama where there wasn’t any while letting some of the tension and relationships between teams and within teams play out naturally. When one team was keen on stealing things from groups in a nasty way, you could tell the others weren’t huge fans. Meanwhile, you could tell that over the course of long, long hours competing that the teams built genuine relationships, which I always love to see on these types of shows. I always hope that they remain friends afterward, keeping in touch and getting together occasionally.
Most of the teams were rather endearing, whether because of their personalities, their work ethics, or the stories they told about themselves. The cast wasn’t the most diverse, like as much a reflection of the floral, gardening, and artistic industries as much as a reflection of television’s lack of diversity in general. They were eclectic though, including an adorable father and son team, and absolutely ludicrous pair of best friends, an adorable set of boyfriends, several professional partners, and some rather annoying Instagram influencers.
The hosts and judge were also generally pleasant on average. The new guest judge each week was always almost always just fine. They weren’t especially memorable, but always interesting to hear their professional perspectives. Vic and Natasia were never really overbearing. In fact, I feel like Vic was barely even around. Natasia was kind of weird, but in an endearing way mostly.
I mostly loved Kristen though. His encouragement and feedback were always wonderful and his constantly starting off his judgments by making it sound like he’s going to be disappointed but then reversing it was only kind of annoying. Maybe I just have a crush on him, but compared to other recent competition shows I’ve watched like Craftopia, Kristen felt just a sliver more a real part of the show than their judges. Plus, Vic, Natasia, and Kristen’s wardrobes, especially Kristen’s suites, were always spectacular and fitting of the episodes’ themes.
Something that I did have a bit of a hard time with was how wasteful the show felt. In a cooking show, the food gets eaten and the leftover ingredients are often donated to charity. On this show, copious amounts of water and other inputs went into growing thousand and thousands of plants, only to wind up as compost. I suppose that is the nature of floristry, but at least botanic garden these sculptures would be left to live for some time before being taken down. An episode that featured sculptures made entirely from fruits, vegetables, and edible plants particularly hurt as somebody whose job is to prevent food waste. None of that food could ever be eaten and to create huge art pieces that wouldn’t even stand for more than a few hours just made it hurt worse.
I also had this really hard time understanding the passage of actual time as I watched. Which, I know is such an insignificant thing, but I kept finding it taking me out. I know that competition shows always creatively cut their footage to make it look like competitors are working up to the last second even if they aren’t really, and that scenes may be shown out of actual sequential order. But because the days are 15 hours long at a minimum and everything takes place outside, I couldn’t help but be confused what time o the day it ever was, how they possibly could have worked for 15 hours straight, and how much time was between episodes. Again, I know it’s insignificant, but something about it all just took me out repeatedly and made me wish I understood what was actually happening.
This sort of ties together with my frustration too, over how much of the construction process got glazed over on some of the most interesting projects and how quickly the show flashes through showing off the finished products sometimes. While the presentation itself was always well-shot between the lighting, the scenery on the farm the show was filled on, and the smoke effects, I just wish there were more angles and longer shots more often so we could fully appreciate, as best as one can through a screen, the grandeur of all the projects, rather than just a select few.
Ultimately, The Big Flower Fight is a swell new show and a creative new concept well worth the eight-episode investment. While it stumbled in a few aspects, overall, the challenges were exciting, the contestants and hosts mostly endearing, and the finished products all so impressive. I hope the show is renewed for a second season.
The Big Flower Fight
The Big Flower FightÂ is a swell new show and a creative new concept well worth the eight-episode investment. While it stumbled in a few aspects, overall, the challenges were exciting, the contestants and hosts mostly endearing, and the finished products all so impressive. I hope the show is renewed for a second season.
Pop culture is cool, but have you ever tried analyzing it through a historical and cultural lens so that you can not only understand the content more deeply, but be able to apply lessons to your own life through the act of criticizing it? No? Just me? Oh… Well, your loss. When I’m not editing the podcast or musing the effects media have on our lives, I’m off working to develop sustainable food systems. So remember, individual consumer choices won’t save the planet, Black lives matter and reparations must be paid, and remember to think critically about the pop culture you consume!