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'The Great British Grow Off', from a Gardening PR point of view

So the latest in the long line of what we like to call ‘village fete reality’ shows has arrived and by all accounts the jury seems to be out. Replacing gastronomy with gardens and sugar for sugar snap peas, from the perspective of this homes and gardening public relations agency it was always going to be a question of taste.
Of course one quick look at the reviews for BBC Two’s new offering, The Big Allotment Challenge, does reveal one obvious trend- whether negative, positive, or downright confused and bemused, every critic has picked up on how many innuendos are uttered when people have to discuss the size and shape of vegetables throughout an entire prime time slot. But, still, opinions overall have been mixed.
The Guardian didn’t seem too happy about what it saw, but not because of the sexual subtleties, asking for more thrills, spills and bellyaches to be thrown in for good measure (or ‘a biblical plague of locusts’). Even then, judging by the tone, it seems difficult to believe they would have been sold on the idea of watching yet another series built on the repetitive modern gameshow format.
Arguably much funnier (and, despite what the quote ahead suggests, balanced) was The Week’s take on things: “Norwegian TV once had a surprise success by broadcasting nothing but a crackling log fire for 12 hours. The Big Allotment Challenge is a less imaginative format, but it may prove to be equally comforting.”
Over at The Telegraph things look decidedly different. Praising the episode for showcasing the art, craft, design and hard work that goes into ‘the English allotment’, four stars were awarded and our country’s green fingers trumpeted. The Mirror focused on ratings, with 2.5million tuning in, which is solid enough, albeit apparently less than The Great British Sewing Bee a week earlier.
Both obviously have a long way to go if they want to reach the heights of The Great British Bake Off, the blueprint for these programmes. Succeed or not, as people who regularly work within the Homes and Gardening PR and marketing sector we naturally welcome anything that tries to shine a spotlight on the industry, pastime and skill. More so, though, with some 60-channels on Freeview alone following each other when it comes to content, seeing some less covered specialist subjects get a little attention is refreshing (sewing, growing radishes…).
Given the rich history gardening has enjoyed on British TV this latest addition to the fold does have a fair amount of potential too. From Gardener’s World to Ground Force there has always been something rather opiate, or at least soothing, about programmes like these- even when Charlie D and Alan T were speedily revamping someone’s garden, as a viewer it all felt about as rushed as working with your Dad on your Grandma’s flower beds. This is relaxed enough to appeal to the same audiences, and is the perfect addition to the BBC’s growing roster of homely reality TV. Like we said, then, it could well work, although it should go without us saying that, as with anything on TV, whether it does or not will be revealed in the coming Wednesdays, once the previous evening’s stock has been taken.
Image (C) Dominic Alvares / CC License Attribution 2.0

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