'Why Pick On Us? We Are Helping People'

30 Jan

‘Why pick on us? We are helping people’
S’pore home makeover shows, which help needy, fight back after facing flak
By Kwok Kar Peng
January 30, 2010

IT ISN’T easy to please people.

CRITICISM: Before (above) and after (below) pictures of a flat in the first episode of RenovAID. A viewer said the money spent could have been used to benefit more families.

Not even when you are helping the needy, it seems.

In the Channel 5 series, RenovAID, hosted by Michelle Chia, families living in one-, two- or three-room HDB flats get free and complete makeovers of their homes by professional interior designers and contractors.

The final episode was aired last night.

In the first episode, the owners of a messy three-room HDB flat received an overhaul of their unit.

While most viewers gave it the thumbs-up, one thought the finished flat wasn’t functional.

‘Where is the storage space and where did all the family’s possessions go?’ the anonymous viewer complained on a website belonging to the interior design firm which had designed the flat.

Another netizen, Ttsz, wrote on the MediaCorp TV forum asking if it was worth spending $23,000 to renovate the flat to a ‘showroom condition’.

‘It would be more helpful if the money could be spread out to help two families or more,’ Ttsz wrote, adding that Life Transformers 2 – another home-makeover reality TV show on Channel 8 – was more ‘practical’ than RenovAID.

But even Life Transformers 2 came under fire.

In the programme, which is currently in its second season, hosts Quan Yifeng and Christopher Lee as well as a handful of volunteers help needy families by cleaning and refurnishing their run-down homes.

FREE MAKEOVERS: In Channel 5’s RenovAID, hosted by Michelle Chia (above, centre), families get free makeovers of their homes.

They also refer the families to professional counsellors to help them deal with various family issues.

But one particular episode hit a raw nerve.

In the 11 Jan episode, a man claimed during the show that his wife had walked out on him and left him to raise their five children alone.

It touched the hearts of viewers, many of whom wrote on Internet forums describing how moved they were after watching it.

But one woman, who claimed to be close to the family, wrote on the HardwareZone forum that same night making allegations against the husband and casting doubt on the family’s pitiful state.

The woman alleged that the man’s wife was prevented by her in-laws from going back to care for the children and claimed that the wife still gives allowances to the kids.

Her account was confirmed by the man’s wife herself, who was quoted in a Shin Min Daily News report a few days after the show was aired.

Need a home

The producers, however, defended the show.

Life Transformers 2’s managing executive producer Lim Puay Keem told The New Paper that the wife’s claims have not been verified.

She added: ‘We chose to help the family because we saw that they needed help and the children needed a home.

‘It’s not like we were grading the man’s character.’

Host Christopher, 38, also defended the show.

He said: ‘We are helping people, yet some viewers don’t see that. Instead, they deliberately pick on things.

‘People recognised Yifeng and I when we appeared at their block and knew which programme we were filming.

‘The neighbours knew which family we were going to help even before we told them. They agreed that these families were in need of help.’

Despite the controversy, the first season of Life Transformers still attracted an average of 572,000 viewers, according to figures from market research company TNS.

The show also won Best Variety Programme and Top Rated Variety Programme at last year’s Star Awards.

For the second season, ratings dropped slightly, but still remained high at 546,000 viewers.

Still, there are critics.

One viewer compared Life Transformers 2 to yet another home decor-themed programme on Channel8, Home Decor Survivor 4.

In the latter, hosts Mark Lee and Bryan Wong are assigned one family each week. They have to decorate the family’s living room according to a given theme.

The family with the best design gets to keep the furniture worth $6,000.

Comparing the two, the viewer contacted Shin Min Daily News, questioning why needy families in Life Transformers 2 received ‘cheaper furniture’ compared to those in Home Decor Survivor 4.

Christopher said he was aghast when he learnt of the viewer’s query.

‘The furniture and many more things are donated by kind-hearted people and also MediaCorp staff, on top of items that were given by sponsors,’ he said.

Ms Lim, who is also the managing executive producer for Home Decor Survivor 4, declined to reveal the budget she had to help each of the 10 featured families on Life Transformers 2.

But she said the show did all it could, including giving some of the families necessities such as food, baby milk powder and diapers.

She added: ‘The things that the families in Life Transformers 2 received were more than what the families in Home Decor Survivor 4 got.’

Can’t please everyone

Some viewers have also defended the show.

Sales assistant Ong Sek Yak, 51, said: ‘If the families in Life Transformers 2 are given expensive furniture that they cannot afford otherwise, we are giving them a wrong message.’

Meanwhile, RenovAID’s host Michelle, 33, reasoned that the show cannot please everyone, and that the team can only do its best to help others.

She added that the show doesn’t manipulate viewers’ emotions .

‘That’s why it’s called a reality show. It’s not scripted,’ she said.


The NewPaper

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