In 2003 Reality series The Block was all about pin-up couples, feuding neighbours, eye-catching makeovers, product placement and a whopping cash prize.
Seven years later not much has changed.
Whether that’s a positive or a negative will be determined by the audience, as Nine rolls the dice on the latest incarnation of its biggest original Reality series.
The Block was a ‘watercooler’ brand for Nine, attracting staggering ratings as the nation weighed in on bitchy clashes with opinions on Amity’s singing abilities, and cheering for Gav and Waz renovating in their underwear. Set against the beachside backdrop of Bondi (and later Manly), chiselled host Jamie Durie fitted like a jigsaw piece.
Now the series is located in the affluent Vaucluse with Nine handyman, Scott Cam (ok, admittedly a few things have changed). The block in question is home to four apartment shells each with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and 1 garage. Some have water views.
“Having been a builder for thirty years, I’ve seen me fair share of renos,” says the blokey Cam. The Block has always pitched very broad. This year it’s going even broader. I think I even heard Saturday colloquially cast off by Cam as “Sat-dee.” Mate.
Casting is king in a show like this. The four ‘couples’ are high school sweethearts John and Neisha, engaged couple Erin and Jake, dating couple Chez and Brenton and best friends Mark and Duncan. Three of the teams have experience in building, trades and design. All four look Anglso-Saxon (one partner has Greek heritage). Three of the couples are in their 20s / 30s with two of them looking very fit and pretty.
The two blokes, Mark and Duncan, 52 and 44, sport bellies and beards. Some of their competitors aren’t sure if they are a gay couple (one even wears a ‘Bears’ t shirt at one point). But they are just blokes who love a pie warmer and will probably prove to become the series most memorable ‘couple.’
The Block is renowned for its narration via video-diaries. It’s when the contestants really let fly on how they feel about their opponents. Watch out for plenty of upward inflections and cliches, that remind us this is a show ripped straight from suburbia.
Chezza: “I think he felt like we’ve bitten off more than we can chew, which probably we have. But we just need to break it down, take our time, make sure we get enough sleep, and we need to eat and don’t let it overwhelm us and take it one step at a time.”
The product placement is unbearable. Any tradesman who enters the building must have been rejected if they weren’t wearing a mandatory company logo. Any cameraman who missed them must have been given instant dismissal. All the usual suspects (including several from the original series) have signed up again.
Durie notwithstanding, everything that defined the first series looks like it has been set in motion once more. I can see this lot coming to verbal blows pretty quickly. I can see room for fabulous Before / After transformations. I can see one couple likely to become villains and a quirky pair to give me some relief from the pretty people. But at the same time, haven’t we all moved on from there?
Since 2003 we’ve had a global recession and a shift in the Reality genre that embraces warmth over conflict, and multicultural Australia over WASPs. We’ve had renovation shows that died as quickly as they launched (The Hothouse, homeMADE -the latter by the same producers Julian Cress and David Barbour) while others take a smarter approach (Selling Houses Australia). Are we really ready to do it all over again?
The premiere episode lacks a completed renovation by the end of the episode, which was a little frustrating. With so much establishing business, presumably this will be the only week not to include one.
In 2010 The Block certainly sticks to the floorplan. All it needs now is for you to make yourself at home.
The Block premieres 7:30pm Wednesday September 22nd on Nine.