In December 2019, landscaping expert Jason Hodges’ shock axing after 16 years on Better Homes and Gardens took everyone - none more so than the beloved star himself - by complete surprise.
At the time, the shellshocked Sydney-born father-of-two made little public comment except to say he was ‘absolutely gutted’ to be dropped from the Channel Seven mainstay before going to ground over Christmas and the new year.
Now, the man known affectionally as ‘Hodgie’ to his adoring co-stars and audience, has told Yahoo Lifestyle in an exclusive chat that his unceremonial ousting from one of the country’s most iconic programs came entirely out of the blue.
“I just didn’t see it coming,” he says.
“I know it’s television and I know people lose their jobs, I know shows finish but I just didn’t see it coming,” he adds.
Jason’s shock axing
Jason is still coming to grips with why he lost his job after over a decade and a half of loyalty and good old fashioned hard work, although he has his own theories.
“I thought I was doing the best that I could. I was personable, I wasn’t a diva. I helped set up in the morning and pack down in the afternoon. I was just one of the boys, not a ‘presenter’,” he says.
“I just felt like ‘the good guy comes last’ kind of thing,” he adds.
Jason suspects his axing was part of a fruitless move to refresh the program’s existing audience of Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers.
“I think that television networks don’t do the market research that they should and especially in this decision… [the Channel Seven execs are] trying to attract a younger audience that doesn’t exist [because] your average 25-year-old doesn’t watch Better Homes and Gardens,” he says.
“[Seven execs] invested 20 years in me and then got rid of me. I think they live in a television bubble where they think that ‘shiny’ replaces ‘authentic’,” he adds.
Who is replacing Jason on Better Homes?
In a move that appears to confirm his theory, it was announced in February that Jason would be replaced by the handsome and British-accented Charlie Albone of Selling Houses Australia fame.
Contrary to public opinion, Better Homes’ new recruit is not Jason’ 'rival'. In fact, he wishes Charlie and the rest of the cast all the best and appreciates their support so far.
“The people I worked with are fantastic, Joh [Griggs] and Tara [Dennis] especially but they’ve all reached out to me,” he reveals.
While everyone from the show’s producers and researchers to the tradies and sponsors have checked in Jason has yet to hear anything from senior network staffers.
“From the neck up, no one from Seven has contacted me,” he says.
Jason credits his ‘amazing’ partner, horticulturist Lisa, with helping him through the immediate aftermath of the devastating news which he kept to himself until it eventually made the papers.
“I was pretty upset and flat for a couple of weeks,” he says. “Lisa basically just babysat me”.
He recalls an ‘easy and manageable’ period in the lead up to Australia Day which involved school holiday fun with Lisa and their kids Jake and Heidi, but when everyone returned to school and work, the reality hit home hard.
Feeling the love
In the days following Better Homes’ hosting reshuffle, Yahoo Lifestyle was inundated with messages from outraged and concerned viewers who couldn’t believe Jason would no longer be on their screens every Friday night.
Jason says he’s also encountered an outpouring of support and unfiltered emotion from fans which is both touching and bittersweet.
“People have walked up to me in Bunnings crying [and I’m] getting personal, handwritten letters. It makes feel loved but disappointed that it’s been taken away,” he says.
“The support that’s been shown [to me] over the past couple of weeks, it’s always been there and you just don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone,” he adds.
What’s Jason doing now?
The big question on everyone’s lips is, what is Jason Hodges up to after Better Homes and Gardens?
As he stated in a heartfelt Instagram post back in December, the loveable landscaper says he’s ‘not gone forever’.
At the moment, he’s working on completing renovations on his North Ryde home before it goes on the market and the family move to a newly purchased six-acre farm in Berry.
While the ‘escape to the country’ had been in the works for a while, the events of late 2019 were the push Jason and Lisa needed to make their rural dreams a reality.
“I need to change my lifestyle. The hustle and bustle of Sydney - the tolls, the parking, the units going up…” he trails off.
“Berry is heaven, it’s green and lush with rolling hills and the people are even better than the landscape. The sense of community is amazing,” he adds.
In the short term, Jason plans to expand his existing business of growing and selling Buxus plants, which is a type of hedge, in a small block near his new property.
Jason’s big TV plans
Now that he’s officially out of contract with Seven, Jason tells Yahoo Lifestyle that he’s keen to get a TV series off the ground.
“My dream job would be a ‘real’ version of [Foxtel program] River Cottage Australia where we’d get bees and chickens and I try to raise pigs and show the success and failure of it all,” he reveals.
“People like the authenticity of how I present and they want to know what I’m doing,” he adds.
He says he hasn’t pitched his idea yet as he’s got a few projects to finish first including the house renos and move as well as the upcoming Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show but plans to put some feelers out later this year.
A fond farewell
Despite a rather nasty experience that’s left him a touch jaded with the showbiz industry as a whole, Jason looks back on his time on Better Homes very fondly.
“I had twenty fantastic years and losing my job is dead set one minute of a lifetime. I have nothing but the best memories of the people I was with and the things I got to see and I will never ever let that go,” he says.
“But losing my job, it hurt me because I loved my job and I was doing it to the best of my ability and it was a kick in the guts but that’s not going to change my opinion of the people I worked with or what I managed to achieve,” he adds.
One achievement in particular that Jason remembers with pride is when he was presenting at the Blacktown Council garden show only to discover that four entries were gardens he helped makeover on the show.
“There are more grandiose things I’ve done. I’ve won gold at the Melbourne Garden Show six times and I’ve got to go to Chelsea [Flower Show in London] and compete with the best in the world but it was honestly doing makeovers for nice people that was the most rewarding,” he says.
When contacted for comment, a Seven spokesperson said, “We love how passionate our Better Homes and Gardens viewers are. We look forward to catching up with Jason at the 25th anniversary of Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show next month.”
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