Netflix's The Big Flower Fight is so much more than a Bake Off with flowers

Liv McMahon
Photo credit: Netflix

From Digital Spy

Try to explain the premise of The Big Flower Fight to anyone and there's little doubt you'll get some raised eyebrows. That's because Netflix's latest reality TV offering delves its viewers into a whimsical, magical world in which flowers and plants reign supreme, and must also be transformed into fantastical floral sculptures and garden spectacles in a matter of hours.

Giant insects, couture gowns, edible thrones and fairytales are just a few of the design briefs tasked to the ten teams competing for the chance to present a sculpture at Kew Gardens. So yes, it is a lot.

Presented by comedians Natasia Demetriou and Vic Reeves, each episode sees contestants design and deliver gigantic living sculptures to a specific and challenging brief. While 'Best in Bloom' goes to whichever team wows the judges with their creation, the team that fails to deliver must leave the competition.

On the surface, The Big Flower Fight sounds like merely another reality show trying to get a slice of the Great British Bake Off's success. But pull back the leaves and you'll find that this show is more than it initially appears, with a slower, less frenzied pace allowing its contestants and their blossoming journeys to shine through.

Photo credit: Netflix

The Big Flower Fight is not simply Bake Off with flowers, as has been widely suggested.

That much is clear from the very first episode, when we are first introduced to the eclectic range of competitors. From seasoned gardeners to florists just starting out, to interdisciplinary artists and fashion designers, there's not much uniting the teams except their shared love of flowers and foliage.

Avant-gardeners with a combined 50 years of floristry experience, Henck and Yan face off against the new age of green-fingered millennials like the collaborative couple Ryan and Andrew, and 'Houseplant Consultants' Nick and Taylor. Even individual teams such as Jim and Ralph span their own generational divide as a design student and his gardener dad display their love for one another with tear-jerking tenderness in every challenge.

Over the course of its eight episodes The Big Flower Fight highlights the value of formats that bring contestants more firmly into focus – they explore in greater depth what an individual brings to the competition or their hobby rather than vice versa.

In prioritising inclusivity and the diversity of contestants who truly represent the modern world of gardening – too often portrayed as white, elderly and heteronormative – this show realises its own potential by letting the experiences and emotions of its contestants shine through.

Photo credit: Netflix

Kristen Griffith-VanderYacht lives up to the grandeur of his name as the show's lead judge, a famed florist known for his incredible sculptures and bouquets. As The Big Flower Fight's resident VIP, VanderYacht's expertise, style, wit and honesty binds the show together, with his encouraging presence reflecting the show's commitment to on-screen diversity beyond platitudes and tokenism.

The high-stakes challenges contestants face on The Big Flower Fight are often as daunting and imposing a prospect as the towering sculptures themselves. Briefs deal out an added layer of difficulty for those coping with fiddly foliage, wilting flowers and tricky materials.

With laughter, tears and moments of awe littered throughout each episode, there's no avoiding the tension when humongous installations could crash to the ground at any moment.

What makes the show so heartwarming to watch is the willingness of teams to spring into action to help rivals or cry with them as they deal with the ups and downs of the competition's emotional and physical intensity.

When beloved duo Andi and Helen's crab sculpture collapses, for example, we and their fellow contestants alike can't help but feel completely crushed to see it crash dramatically to the ground. Moments of cake collapse in Bake Off pale in comparison. Nor is it easy to hold back the tears when the emotional semi-final sees the youngest contestant, Jim, articulate his struggle with anxiety as a huge gaping green monster.

Photo credit: Netflix

The show's efforts to centre its contestants and give space to their emotions and experience allow us the joy of getting closer to its quirky characters and loveable personalities, rather than feel rushed along in a race to the finish which leaves its competitors trailing behind.

When watching The Big Flower Fight, we're constantly reminded that the whole process of growing, planting and flowering is one which rarely provides an instant fix. It's only fitting then, surely, that we see the contestants truly blossom throughout the challenges as these increase in size and intensity.

Some think the show didn't quite pull it off. But the lightheartedness, diversity and warmth of the final product has left many crying out for a second season and excited to see how this creative hit will continue to bloom and grow in future.

The Big Flower Fight is available on Netflix.

Digital Spy now has a newsletter – sign up to get it sent straight to your inbox.

Looking for more TV recommendations and discussion? Head over to ourFacebook Group to see new picks every day, and chat with other readers about what they're watching right now.

You Might Also Like