Even from the first flourish of cheerful music, it’s clear that The Big Flower Fight, Netflix’s new garden sculpture competition series, is out to eat The Great British Bake Off’s lunch. But rather than vying for a handshake from Paul Hollywood with the perfect bake, the professionals in this show are after something else—specifically, the chance to set up their own sculpture in London’s Royal Botanic Gardens. Although this show hasn’t quite nailed the recipe yet, its early episodes are a soothing outdoor escape sure to calm any quarantined person’s nerves. And perhaps most importantly, the sculptures are as impressive as they are insane.
In each of the three episodes made available to critics before The Big Flower Fight premiered on Monday, florists, landscape architects, and more compete to construct one specific challenge—a swarm of giant bugs in one installment, and some giant animals the next. The best of these early episodes found everyone struggling to design wearable flower gowns, some of which wouldn’t have felt too out of place next to Midsommar’s memorable May Queen dress. As bonkers as the challenges always sound, they pale in comparison to the actual creations they spawn—which range from breathtaking to deeply underwhelming. It’s the kind of programming that feels designed for all of us to watch while lying prone on our couches like beached whales, scoffing at the losers and muttering, “Well I could do better than that,” despite the keen understanding we definitely could not.
That said, when the sculptures prove successful—and more often than not, they do—they’re really astounding. And as the artists’ processes unfold, there’s a little something for everyone. Watching a bunch of frantic florists scramble through piles of scrap metal? A thrill. Gazing on as they nervously sketch out their designs—while the hosts and judges occasionally provide gentle hints that they might be on the wrong track? The bread and butter of any reality competition series. Disappearing into a giant field full of plants, as the florists choose their medium? Simply heaven right now. As breathtaking as these sculptures are, it’s even more fascinating to see the design and mechanical work that goes into making them.
Still, as delightful as this series is, it seems unlikely that The Big Flower Fight will replicate the success of The Great British Baking Show. For one thing, baking is generally more accessible than building titanic statues out of flowers—which also lacks the edgy, pyrotechnic appeal of Netflix’s oddball viral competition hit Blown Away last year. But perhaps more importantly, its judges and hosts also lack the certain je ne sais quoi that Baking Show’s most popular personalities bring to the table. Permanent judge Kristen Griffith-VanderYacht is cheerful but forgettable, as are hosts Vic Reeves and Natasia Demetriou. The production is dying for a comedian like Sue Perkins or Noel Fielding to spruce things up.
Still, chemistry can develop over time—and until then, the giant lemurs, butterflies, and ballgowns speak for themselves. The series was also smart to cast competitors from various locations and walks of life—bringing in “houseplant consultants” from Brooklyn, artists from London, and event florists from Denmark.
This season’s breakout characters will almost certainly be Henck and Yan, event florists and best friends from the Netherlands and Denmark, respectively. Their fashion sense is wild—in perhaps an unintentional brand tie-in, Henck shows up for the competition wearing a tiger backpack—and their partnership is a delight to behold. When asked what it’s like to work together, Henck quips, “I’m quite dominant—and Yan is, too.” And since I have only seen three episodes, I do not mind telling you that they’re my pick to win the whole thing. That said, however, they have some stiff competition for Best in Bloom—so don’t count anyone out.