Yes Cam is back with his blokey, flannelette hosting of this renovation juggernaut.
It was ten years ago that the show began twice-weekly in Bondi Beach with Jamie Durie and a mix of renovation and soapie-style characters. Its ratings went through the roof. After a season in Manly it vanished before a revival and subsequent reimagining as a stripped weeknight show. With Cam, houses instead of apartments, Shelley Craft and Amazing Race-style challenges, it paid off in droves. Rival networks shuddered at the thought of its bumper ratings.
Last year Nine faltered when it launched Excess Baggage at the top of the year. This year it has smartened up its act with a more dependable brand.
Four couples return once more: Phil & Amity from Season One, Mark & Duncan from Season Three, Josh and Jenna from Season Four and Dan and Dani from Season Five. I’m at a loss to understand why Dan and Dani have been cast once more. While the other couples pocketed between $47,000 – $60,000, this couple netted a whopping $448,000. That’s more than anybody ever won on MasterChef, The Amazing Race, Australia’s Got Talent or The X Factor.
The four (mostly) young couples cheerfully gather before Cam and the windy sand and surf. “Personally I reckon you’re nuts,” says Cam. “Totally insane. But I admire your bravery.” It’s all a bit wacky before the first product placement, four new cars.
And after the first commercial break we get the first recap in case you forgot the basics of the first fifteen minutes. You idiot.
It isn’t long before everyone cops a Sydney drenching. A sign of things to come?
The houses this year are Federation-era and Heritage listed, meaning the front exteriors must adhere to regulations. If they thought their job was already hard, it just got twice as hard. This is All Stars after all.
“We got House 3. Which is in between 1 and 4,” Josh explains. Seriously?
All four homes also have a framed painting of Scott Cam (you’ll discover why later) and a swag of tools, vouchers and products.
The Block has always had a predilection for sponsor branding, primary colours, pop soundtracks (with vocals that compete with dialogue), recaps, and Anglo-casting, but as The Renovators has shown, it works in its simplicity. In recent years it has also won a legion of younger viewers, including children. Presumably junior viewers enjoy seeing adults behaving badly. They won’t be disappointed.
Once again the four couples will have to juggle renovation, challenges and a camera crew following their every move. All four are adept at Reality TV by now. They know when to laugh, when to argue, how to verbalise their doubts and fears and when to wear the sponsor branding merchandise -all the time. Amity still has a performing career as her focus. Mark & Duncan play up the “two fat tradies” to a tee (with a Sydney home advantage). The others perfectly personify young newlyweds or partners.
The Block is unashamedly no-fuss TV. Scott Cam’s narration signposts all the turning points in big print, almost as if it’s Kid’s TV.
But I also feel it’s deja vu. Haven’t I have seen all this before?
While Seven and TEN are competing in the kitchen, but will the audience side with favourites it has seen before, or connect with casts comprising new faces? So far the numbers suggest they will lean towards those with the clearest characterisation. Nine may still be in this race and the thirty minute head start is a boon.
Regardless, Sunday ‘reveal’ episodes should be huge for Nine. The Block‘s makeovers have always been impressive, aspirational and a perfect way to sticky-beak across the neighbour’s fence.
Weeknights are likely to be a tougher test and that’s where the real battleground is taking place.
The Block airs 7pm weeknights and 6:30pm Sundays on Nine.