For Nine’s fifth season of The Block it’s pretty simple: if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Sure, you can repaint it, landscape it, dress it up, and scale it back -but whatever you do, don’troam per with the elements that audiences responded to last year.
While that other renovation show left everybody scratching their heads as to the gameplay and the hordes of contestants, Nine benefitted from having four no-fuss couples struggling to meet a deadline. Keep it simple, stupid.
Nine’s gamble of stripping the show, moving it to Melbourne and switching from apartments to houses paid off in spades. Even kids were drawn to the thing, watching grown-ups act like numbskulls in Amazing Race-style challenges.
It’s all here again, with a little fine-tuning from the creators.
Once again there is a week of eliminations where 8 teams will be whittled down to 4.
This year they include a mother and son, father and daughter, two brothers and 5 couples linked by either romance or marriage. They come with varying degrees of renovation experience.
The Block casts have always been dominated by pretty young things, and whilst the inclusion of Gav and Waz in 2003 was ground-breaking, diversity has never been its strong point. This year there is only one contestant who appears to have a non Anglo-Saxon background, and there are no gay participants. It’s a shame the show doesn’t cast wider when audiences have responded to diverse casts in hit Reality shows.
That said, the couples are very relatable, which presumably overrides diversity in the Big Executive Book of TV Rules.
The colloquial Scott Cam is back as host, constantly shouting and bringing bucketloads of blokey optimism. He will be joined once again by the super-buoyant Shelley Craft. This could be a fight to the cheerful death.
This year the elimination week is distinguished by a “big red elimination” house, a separate dwelling which houses white-room challenges.
Despite it’s cartoon-like makeover, it’s a clever replacement for last year’s drab warehouse. Teams have 24 hours to renovate a blank canvas room and the stress nearly wipes some of them out. Interestingly, three of these challenges are edited into a 1 hour episode, but the second is just 30 minutes. It begs the question, did we really need an hour to tell the same story?
The four winning teams will then compete in a series of challenges at Luna Park with the winner having first dibs on The Block -oh, did you forget we had a property to renovate?
The South Melbourne property won’t be revealed until Monday of the second week, and these 150 year old worker cottages have been stripped bare by producers in readiness for their new owners. You may lose count of the number of times you hear “Oh My God!” …it’s Reality, we love a reaction.
But while it is a bomb site to the viewer, the property does have loads of potential.
Judges John McGrath and Neale Whitaker are joined by Shaynna Blaze, whom Scott Cam declares is from Selling Houses Australia -is this the first time a commercial network has so blatantly endorsed a Pay TV competitor? I’m encouraged.
Amid the renovation there is soap and competition (and product placement) as the couples race, bicker, collapse, and inspire -then do it all over again. This really is a format so neat in its simplicity, it’s surprising it hasn’t been more successful in other territories.
But one of Nine’s challenges will be keeping photos of the completed properties from view of the audience, especially given its address is a much more public thoroughfare than last year. The pressure is also on to deliver a satisfying auction outcome. Last year was a real fizzer, despite the bumper audience.
Ironically, last year The Block spearheaded a ratings revival for Nine, and it arrives just in time to do so again for the network.
For anybody who was addicted to watching homes being transformed in 2011, expect to do it all over again in 2012.
The Block begins 7pm Monday on Nine.