The Block: All Stars

By David Knox on February 3, 2013 / Filed Under Reviews, Top Stories 9

_media_98062_TheBlockAllStarsBondiBeachIn the first three minutes of The Block: All Stars Scott Cam tries his hand at a little comedy. It’s not exactly his strong point. This could be a long season.

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.

9 Comments »

  1. Overit March 10, 2013 at 7:50 pm -

    Well I stuffed up and succumbed to the hype and watched Kitchen week .

    Josh, Jenna, Danni & Dan if you cant win fairly without cheating get off our TV screens. If someone catches you out suck it up and admit it. Its sad if your defensive ego is so sensitive that you might suggest being forced to fesh up might put a target on the back of the person who suggests you should be honest about your colusions.

    Josh if your wife is here to show case her abilities so be it. However how is the light she now represents herself in good for business.

    Sad to sad to say it appears to be promotion at any cost.
    What happened to fair competition on a family show. If this is what we have raised our kids to believe is honest fair play I think we as a society have alot to answer for especially if

  2. Overit March 1, 2013 at 8:01 pm -

    So over the self inflated ego’s of Dan, Danni, Josh & Jenna. To the point that I avoid a once much enjoyed TV show . As it is hard to edit their annoying know at all attitude out of most scenes. “I can understand whyPhil & Amity came last on bathroom this week “states Danni whose ability to digest constructive observations is a painful infliction of sensible hardworking people that sit down to enjoy an hour in front of the TV. Then the laughs begin again as Dan believes he has the genius insight to surpass all the other contests with the addition of upstairs storage it would be laughable. Dribble on elsewhere

  3. steviem February 11, 2013 at 2:52 pm -

    Boring x 4

  4. Archer February 5, 2013 at 6:06 am -

    Renovating is the least of what the producers actually want. Instead they would rather have fighting, tears, product placement, ads, ads and more ads.
    And as for the couples actually doing hands on work, spare me, I wouldn’t let any of them near a real building project. And I reckon some things they do must sail pretty close to being against any number of safety and regulatory rules.

  5. deedeedragons February 3, 2013 at 11:34 pm -

    Both Josh & Jenna and Dan & Dani?
    Thank god for Home & Away.

  6. timmydownawell February 3, 2013 at 10:15 pm -

    I’ll take your word on that, thanks David.

    I await their appearance, be it, presumably, with Shelley Craft in tow.

  7. David Knox February 3, 2013 at 10:08 pm -

    They may well have been voted in by viewers but I can categorically tell you Gav and Waz were not interested in a being a competing couple. They will however reappear as guests.

  8. timmydownawell February 3, 2013 at 9:56 pm -

    When this show returned with Scott Cam as host, it was said there’d never be a gay couple on it again. And what do you know, that was spot on. Didn’t Nine allow voters to vote for returning couples for this season? Did they really vote for the tradies (and the rest) over Gav and Waz? I don’t think so.

  9. Shiraz February 3, 2013 at 7:41 pm -

    I loved the first 2 series, it was a fresh new idea and each episode gave you plenty. From what I’ve seen of the daily format, it’s just couples either talking, shopping or doing silly unrelated challenges… so what ever happened to couples working and actually renovating, you know, like how it happens in reality??? I just can’t relate to this format and the constant re-caps are so insulting and I can only assume they are there as they have so much time to fill.

    Like so many reality shows these days, it appears to me that kids are the target audience, or should that be “families”. I do enjoy the reality format, but as a male adult without children, I don’t feel that Australian television has a lot of interest in me these days.

    I’m sure it will do well, good luck to the 4 couples, but i’ll be enjoying something from overseas instead.

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