My relationship with reality television is a deep and confusing one. Yes, it’s toxic, and yes, my house is an ambitious mess, but the possibility of it working keeps me going back.
My name is Jenna Martin and I have a problem.
I’m obsessed with reality TV.
I know what you’re thinking: everyone loves reality. (Or loves to hate on reality.) But let me explain. My own personal reality TV obsession is of a niche variety. Gossiping with my co-workers at the water cooler of a morning (or, since we’re in 2017, arguing on Twitter with strangers late into the night), I have no clue which non-celebrities actually don’t want to get outta (t)here because they so badly need the cash/exposure/validation.
I have zero interest in morons so desperate and dateless they’re willing to marry at first sight. I don’t want to watch any dancing stars, any beguiling Bachie’s or any factors of any kind – X or other.
But. If someone is sautéing something, crocheting something or knocking something down, I’m on board. I love The Block. It’s not the bickering couples, clueless reno virgins or even Scotty Cam and his cargo shorts. For me, it’s all about the drool-worthy interiors…the wainscoting, the Pantone palettes and the Gaggenau appliances. I live for the winter months when I can hibernate Sunday through Thursday nights with Masterchef, vowing that this is the year I finally decide to drag out my pasta maker and give porcini mushroom ravioli a red hot go. Last year I spent an entire weekend at the Better Homes and Gardens Live festival.
My Foxtel planner is a DIY tragic’s wet dream: hours upon hours of Love it or List It, My Dream Home, Great British Bake Off and my personal favourite: DIY: SOS, which is basically my own personal reality TV motherlode: jolly tradies knocking down walls to give hard-working, down-on-their-luck battlers the open plan kitchen/diner of their dreams.
Trawling the aisles of Bunnings, a sales assistant approached me with relief saying he was glad I was here because he was worried: it was after 3pm on a Saturday and I hadn’t showed up yet.
It’s a sickness. I know it is. I should do something about it. I should be spending my precious TV watching hours more wisely. Television is going through a golden age and I’m missing it all…I’ve yet to catch The Crown, though everyone says I’d enjoy it. I don’t know who the hell this “Barb” is from Stranger Things but I can give you the who’s who of obscure personalities on Canadian home reno shows. I once had a dream where Kirstie and Phil from Location, Location, Location were trying to convince me to buy my own back shed, telling me how I could knock down a wall to let more light in. And as for other hobbies, forget it.
I have half a dozen books stacked up on my bedside table I’ll never read because instead I’m scrolling through Pinterest lists dedicated to “26 Household Uses for Salt”. My weekends are spent trawling the aisles of Bunnings, hungry for a sausage and a project. One time a sales assistant actually approached me with relief saying he was glad I was here because he was worried: it was after 3pm on a Saturday and I hadn’t showed up yet.
Lifestyle TV is, for me, a love affair. But, like the cruellest of lovers, my reality obsession often leaves me hungry, leaves me unsatisfied. My own pillows never look as expertly pouffed as Shaynna Blaze Vaughn’s do on Selling Houses Australia. My pastry skills would never satisfy Mary Berry or Paul Hollywood. While I have a good eye for interiors, I have maximum enthusiasm and zero talent when it comes to DIY. I hang up a gallery wall on a Saturday afternoon and by Sunday morning, my hallway looks like the scene of shoot-out in a Western saloon: glass peppering the floor and holes smattering the walls. My house is filled with indoor plants…half die, half grow like weeds and I have no clue how either happens.
But if I’m no good at it, why do I pursue it so? Because lifestyle TV, I think, fills me with a sense of calm, with a promise of order. It gives me a feeling of organisation in a world I can’t control, a promise that beauty is possible, even in a sea of muck. Instead of watching horrible fame whores jostle for their 15 minutes in the limelight, I get to see a cramped, impractical 1970s kitchen evolve into a beautiful open-plan swan. Lifestyle TV gives me practical solutions to actual problems. The world is a mad, terrifying, brutal place these days. We’ve got to do what we can to make our peace with it. Some choose meditation. Some choose alcohol. I choose lifestyle TV. Because I might not be able to do anything about Donald Trump, but I’ll be damned if I can’t find a simple and efficient way to clean grease out of my microwave.