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27 May 2020

Netflix’s The Big Flower Fight has its contestants to thank for its success

The personalities that flourish on this show are those of the contestants: a wonderfully unconventional bunch.

By Anna Leszkiewicz

The Great British Bake Off has a lot to answer for. Its success has spawned all manner of televised arts and craft contests: the BBC’s The Big Painting ChallengeThe Great British Sewing BeeThe Great Pottery Throw Down and The Great Interior Design Challenge. Now, Netflix has released The Big Flower Fight, in which a group of florists, artists, designers and architects compete in teams of two to produce enormous floral sculptures.

It’s presented by Vic Reeves and Natasia Demetriou, two creators of unapologetically silly comedy. Comedians are favoured over traditional presenters in these programmes, but it can feel stiff and awkward to see playful comics forced into these hyper-rigid formulas: square pegs hammered into round holes, where there is little room actually to be funny. Reeves and Demetriou are instead backed into a corner where they can only emphasise puns about who will be “pruned” from the competition.

The personalities that do flourish are those of the contestants, who are a wonderfully unconventional bunch. Yan and Henck are best friends from Denmark and the Netherlands respectively, who share a flamboyant style. There’s a quirky, romantic couple in Andrew and Ryan, both artists. The infectiously warm American Sarah and her assistant Jordan have a mother-daughter-like relationship as much as a working one, while there’s an actual “dad and lad” (their words) pairing in Ralph and Jim. Two handsome Irish landscape architects weld their way through the contest, while middle-aged trans gardener Andi and young nursery manager Helen are best friends who live together in a “little bungalow in a gorgeous village” in Somerset. Together, they are pure sunshine to watch. 

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This article appears in the 27 May 2020 issue of the New Statesman, The peak