The BlockMon-Fri 7pm, Ch9

No, it's a LOT worse inside...

The Block is back for 2012, and in case you’d forgotten where it was last time and this time there’s lots of establishing shots of Melbourne. This includes lots of random Melbourne icons like the MCG, the CBD, the Myer Music Bowl and Luna Park, right on the harbour(!). Scott Cam is still hosting and he’s still on the roof he started on last season. The more things change, they more they stay in Melbourne.

“Welcome back to Melbourne for Australia’s toughest renovation competition,” says Cam. Pretty sure it’s Australia’s ONLY renovation competition since they saw away with the-program-on-Channel-10-that-must-not-be-named. He’s excited because this year the series is gonna be a ‘cracker’ (compared with other series?) so we must quickly fly over Melbourne to see the four semi-detached houses the contestants will be renovating and turning into “Four bedroom, three bathroom masterpieces, that right now look like a steaming pile of crap – but don’t tell them!”

As with last series, this first week is focused on finding the four “lucky” couples who will compete in this series by starting with eight “lucky” couples. They’ll fight to the death in a battle of caulking guns and spirit levels, all the while remaining glamorous and reality-tv-worty (otherwise what’s the point?). All eight teams will compete head-to-head in a series of challenges, two teams at a time, with one team being eliminated each night until the final four remain. This’ll help us to pick our favourites early and then have our hopes dashed when they’re bundled out for not having enough pillows or not laying any carpet or something finicky. Remember how picky the judges are? No? You’ll remember by the end of this first episode.

We can’t go anywhere until we meet all the impossibly pretty, impossibly talented couples. It’s Scott’s job to introduce them to us, so to make the shot look arty as he addresses all sixteen contestants he has to stand in another suburb. Scott reminds them they’ve all been selected from ‘thowsands’ of applicants, and the winners will walk away with “at least $100,000” – a significant change to how it was set up last season, but then we also remember the debacular auction. Sophie, a school teacher, is already showing how caught up in the magic of television by admitting she’d forgotten there was a big prize at the end. WTF? Why else is she competing?!

The eight teams lining up at the start are:
Sophie & Dale – Married (Vic).
Larry & Jessie – Father/Daughter (Qld).
Brendan & Michelle – Married (Vic).
Brad & Lara – Partners (NSW).
Brett & Rana – Son/Mother (Vic).
Brad & Courtney – Partners (WA).
Dani & Dan – Partners (Vic).
Mike & Andrew – Brothers (NSW).

Red enough for ya?!

Scott breaks the bad news that they start with elimination – eight teams enter, four teams leave and four teams survive to enter their own personal renovation hell. Tonight it’s Brad & Courtney up against Dani & Dan – they’ve got 24 hours and $5,000 to renovate a room based on the brief provided for each room. SURPRISE! Unlike last season where they teams renovated a fake room in a warehouse, this time they’re each renovating a room in THE RED HOUSE – a run down ‘mansion’ that needs all the love and care a rushed renovation challenge can give it. It’s very red too. Fire engine red. So red you won’t need to turn on the lights to find the keyhole in the front door when you come home late, all tired and emotional. Iridescent red.

The teams arrive at the Red House, at first in awe of the house, and then ready to go at it knowing that one team won’t make it through to the Block. So many conflicted feelings of competition and indifference towards a couple they’ve just met? How will the desire to win shine through? Probably via a screwdriver to the back at 1am. Scott tells them there’s a white room waiting for them with an item of inspiration left by the judges that has to be included in the finished room. All the teams will be judged on design, functionality, execution and their ability to paint good and that (pick any three, just make sure it’s the first three).

There’s so much racing through Dani’s mind already, like, “…(tumbleweed rolls past)…” She’s so ready to take on Brad & Courtney. Scott offers some unsolicited advice: “Treat every hour as if it’s your last. Urgency is the key.” Dan then tells us that given this information he and his woman intend to make sweet, sweet love for the next 24 hours until Dani explains to him they aren’t dying – Scott meant in the context of the competition. “Ohhhhhhhh!”

Time starts and to help us understand the teams, we get clips from their audition videos. All the puzzle pieces fall into place when we see Dani & Dan’s tape. Oh. Em. Gee. There’s not a moment wasted by the Victorian team as after seeing their inspiration piece – a nautical-style light mounted sideways on a stand – decide on a bedroom and lickety-split they’re off shopping. Brad & Courtney decide against the standard bedroom and look to deliver a dining room instead… a nice alternative to what may have been expected.

Meet Dan & Dani - the pretty ones

After a confusing but very tightly edited car ride, Dani & Dan arrive at their favourite furniture store to select their feature piece for their bedroom. They pick a lovely tallboy, but they can’t lift it and the truck is already out on today’s deliveries. Oh well, back to the drawing board. Or is it? The very helpful lady can swing past at 4pm and deliver it this afternoon. Dani & Dan are SO relieved – you’d think a nerd just tried to join their club but was turned away by the door bitch. So relieved.

Brad & Courtney arrive at a carpet store… eventually… (local knowledge is key) they select their flooring and then dash over to Mitre 10 to select their paint in a palette that looks to be very similar to what Dani & Dan are looking at. So much concern by Team Vic about being ahead of the other team that they spend 10 minutes telling us about how they thought they were ahead yada yada yada. Then, leaving Brad & Courtney at Mitre 10 realise they need fuel, and in what will become known as “Idiotgate” they spend 20 minutes trying to work out how to open the fuel cover. Dan even notes that Dani is looking in the “manual book”. Silly duffers.

Courtney has dropped Brad back at the Red House to start painting while she goes shopping. Brad’s aiming to get the room painted tonight as the floor guys are in tomorrow and it’ll just make things easier, but he has no idea where to start. Maybe dip a brush in some paint and get going, Brad?

Dan has arrived back to paint also as Dani races out to shop for all that’s required for their room. On encountering Brad, Dan has an entirely enlightened conversation with his brother-in-arms about how much harder they have it having to paint the rooms while women be shopping. But enough of the late 90’s comedy – there’s competitive painting to be done! Dan refers to his trusty iPhone for painting tips as he’s noticed Brad has just jumped straight in and painted two walls and not cut-in first. Rookie mistake (which Dan would have made had he not looked up some painting tips online first). Some noise by a producer suggests the two teams have picked the same shade of grey… Pfft! Can you not tell Brad & Courtney have picked an ‘off-white moccachino slate destiny’ for their walls, whereas Dani & Dan have selected a ‘moccachino slate off-white destination’?! It’s not that hard.

Meanwhile Courtney has turned up at the furniture store Dani & Dan were at for their tallboy earlier in the day. Paint colour, furniture taste. This can’t be a coinky-dink. All Dani cares about is getting the right linen for their room – a problem Courtney won’t have – so she’s all a-spending at Adairs, but she really needs Dan’s input. Turns out our lads are sharing a beer on the front step while they wait for their first coats of paint to dry. Where’s the malice? Where’s the secrecy? Where did the labels go from their bottles? Why are they bonding over a few frothies in what looks will become the Brokeback Mountain incident of the series?

Meet Brad & Courtney - the pretty ones

In a couple recap cutaway Brad explains their style as “modernistic, ecclectic, retro, funko, pinko, inner-city yuppy”. “And warm,” adds Courtney. “And stylish.” Where Courntey’s shopping, however, means she’s spent $1,400 on a single print, but sells it to Brad as “all the furniture and the print for, like, three grand.” Simple. Dani thinks she’s been locked out of all the furniture shops but someone’s still there and they let her in to browse and buy.

Scott pops in for a quick visit with both teams, and to offer some gentle reminders about process and tips for finishes. And to crack a joke about how similar the room colours are. Then, 10 hours after she started shopping, Dani returns to give her man a hand. Cue Dan telling Dani the wall colour is identical and Dani getting precious about it. “I like our paint better,” she decides. Both teams work late into the night to ensure the painting is all but done, and both feel comfortable they’re on target to get everything done by the 1pm deadline the next day.

Arriving for some insane reason at 8am the second day, leaving them only 5 hours to complete their rooms, both teams rush in to take final measurements and allow the girls to go out and finish the shopping. Off Dani races, though Courtney decides it’s better if she sticks around so that they’ve got “two hands to finish… two sets of hands to finish the painting” and not struggle with peak hour traffic. Time is ticking away.

The floors are laid in both rooms and they look identical too. There’s all sorts of deliveries coming in and Dan’s getting a little stressed about how he’s gonna put things together by himself. Courtney eventually gets out shopping to collect the last of their chattels, though it’s Dani who’s under the pump with the length of her shopping list. She’s taking a little to long to decide on things, starting to panic, and running very tight on her budget. Courtney on the other hand only has to collect her linen, but that seems to be pretty easy – lots of “that’ll do”.

With 90 minutes left in the challenge, Dan’s putting everything together himself and realises he should have paid more attention when his Mum tried to teach him how to make a bed. Dani realises she hasn’t bought a doona to go in the doona cover (GASP!). Dan realises he’s got two pillowcases and four pillows (SHOCK!). Scott realises he’s been typecast as a television tradie so he better milk this Block thing while he can (OH NO!). Jamie Durie realises he should never have left it in the first place (Stupid Seven making a hefty competitive offer!). A producer realises she went out this morning and left the oven on (MELTY!).

The combatants relax between rounds.

It’s all drama for Dani & Dan. “The bed is almost the main feature of that bedroom, you know,” she tells us after the fact. She’s lightning quick, that one. Randomly parking in the street she dives into a furniture store and arranges to borrow a doona and races back to the Red House with it. Just in time to be told they have 60 minutes left in the challenge.

It’s not a massive drama for Brad & Courtney who’ve been dressing their room for at least an hour now. Scott’s reminder of Brad’s shoddy cut in at the ceiling doesn’t seem to phase the couple who know they’ve got to spend a lot of time hanging the expensive poster on the wall with tacks. Who hangs a $1,400 poster on a wall with tacks? Seriously people, is it just me thinking that’s a bad idea?!

It gets to the 30 minute warning and curtains are being furiously ironed as tempers are being stretched wafer thin. Scott advises at 15 minutes that however the room is when he calls time off, that’s how they have to leave it. As we see Dani & Dan pick at each other, a reflective recapping Dan tells us that “people think we bicker – we don’t – we leave it all in the game… but it doesn’t hurt that we just don’t listen to each other.” Time vanishes and Scott calls time off. Both teams are relieved it’s completed. But wait – there’s a new judge in town, and she’s not happy.

The mandatory reminder about the website complete, it’s time for the rooms to be judged. We meet again the judges from last year (Editor-in-chief of Belle Magazine Neale Whitaker; Real Estate guru John McGrath) and we meet the new cat amongst the pigeons the Interior Designer from Selling Houses Australia Shaynna Blaze. The boys are like “This is so” and Shaynna is all “Oh no it isn’t”.

The judges start in Dani & Dan’s bedroom, and it’s impressive from the get go. “I love the colour,” says Shaynna. “It’s like I’ve said all along – don’t overdress it,” says John. They all compliment the team on their choice of tallboy, and in general the grunts and whines are favourably interpreted. When Scott pushes them for some negatives, Shaynna suggests they could have spent some money on a second hand iron with which to iron the curtains. Oh the irony (thank you!). John still can’t believe the teams do so much with so little in 24 hours. Neale can’t believe he got out of bed for this disaster. Shaynna can’t believe some other network was silly enough to pay her to turn up and judge people when she does that for free over her morning coffee.

Thumbtacks in an expensive poster? Yeah, that'll be awesome...

Brad & Courtney’s dining room gets the once over from the judges, and while John thinks it’s come up OK Shaynna isn’t getting the same good feeling. She can’t get over the poster. “It’s beautiful and I love it and it’s expensive and I can’t believe they’ve put thumbtacks in it,” says the Mistress of Style. Neale agrees with her all too quickly, suggesting the role of alpha male within the judges this year will be played by Ms Blaze. Scott reveals the price of said poster to the judges, and Shaynna notes that with the thumbtacks in it the poster now looks like it’s worth $40. ME-OW. At least she and I agree on EVERYthing so far. Also if it weren’t for Scott pointing out the cutting in issues Brad & Courtney may have gotten way with it.

Scott gathers the two teams to reveal that, based on the judges decision, Dani & Dan will be moving into the Block for the next 10 weeks. No mention of renovating anything, but given how happy they are they probably wouldn’t hear him anyway. Brad & Courtney are sent packing, and Dani & Dan fall to pieces and go all sooky-la-la. They’re so freaking emotional you think they’d won the damn thing already. “I don’t know if I can put up with you crying every day,” says a characteristically supportive Scott. There’s that caring tradie we’ve all come to know and love.

Tomorrow night, it’s the Block’s own State of Origin challenge, with Brad & Lara from NSW going up against Larry & Jessie from Qld. It’s mate vs mate, state vs state, cliche vs cliche. Who’s cuisine will reign sup… oh wait, this is renovation reality. Oops.