Oh, it's back, baby...

6 years is a long time between drinks to expect an audience to stick with a show. A lot has changed in that time (not least of which we’re all now on the right side of the GFC) and we’re just starting to get back into all those home improvement shows we used to watch like they were MasterChef. Cue: The Block.

The product of one-time Channel 9 wunderkinds Cress & Barbour is back, & delivering a strong product laden with cross-promotion for sponsors (at times so thick you’re lucky to see the contestants for the logos). It’s not as subtle as MasterChef, but then there is very little that is subtle about a brick-cutting circular saw. It’s almost “all new”, it’s got bright shiny new couples, a new host in Scott Cam, & as with subsequent iterations of reality shows it’s got some new twists. Oh, and it’s got its resident bitch.

With Episode 06 airing tonight, we’re a long way into the renovations of the Vaucluse two story, 4 apartment site. Each team has delivered 4 rooms (including the addition of an en suite for the main bedroom that didn’t exist on the floor plan to start with), and each team has won a room providing them all with a level playing field as far as extra cash or budget benefit goes. At the end of ep 5 (20/10/10) Scott presented the teams with $100,000 to spend on the common areas of the property – driveway, painting external & internal shared areas, front landscaping, etc – and I’ll be very surprised if that is managed between them smoothly. If it were me, I’d convince the other teams we could do all that for $60K & split the other $40K between us to use internally. Mainly so I could hire more tradespeople to do stuff as I’m not handy at all. AT. ALL.

The four couples are a pretty good dynamic within their own construct. No divisions there. The relationships between the teams, however, have been stretched by Brenton & ‘Chez’ using their contacts to bring down a builder mate from Queensland who has stayed a couple of nights at their place, working very late helping them achieve their goals. On one hand that’s very well played – do what you need to do to get the job done (in previous series we’ve seen all sorts of deals done on camera with suppliers by the teams to gain greater volume or quality of product for their apartments). It’s crafty, it’s thinking outside the box, & it’s smart. On the other hand it’s downright deceitful, and Brenton & Chez know it.

That picture on the right? It's meant to be horizontal. They're art critics now.

When they were called on it during a Body Corporate meeting by Jake & Erin, they got cagey. Especially Chez (the builder Hicksy is her friend from school). Downright shifty & defensive. If they’d played it straight & apologised, it would have been “well, let’s get on with it then”, but because the snark was unleashed it nearly descended into quite the verbal stoush. Certainly the interview with Brenton & Chez afterwards still had them hot under the collar, with Chez uttering what will be her now famous catchphrase for the series: “Dibber dobber!”. Ladies & gentlemen, we have our bitch. She’s conniving, she’s selfish, she’s immature, and she’s all ours.

Where the teams were content to play happy families (best mates “The Mario Brothers” Mark & Duncan always happy to play peacemakers, and John & Neisha happy to remain distant to any conflict and focus on their apartment), this tension is extremely welcome. We don’t watch this sort of event TV to see everyone hug all the time (unless it’s that kind of event) – we want drama, action, bitchiness & tears. We’re starting to get them all in spades, and we haven’t really seen the teams try to come to a consensus on any of the common areas yet. The best, I suspect, is yet to come.

If you loved the first two series, while Scott Cam is a little rougher around the edges than Jamie Durie, he still runs the show well. The best part of the episode is when he fronts up on the Saturday (day before presentation) to inspect & review the damage to date. His builder’s sensibility cannot be downplayed & his reactions are in many cases far more telling than any narrative. Beyond all that – it’s still The Block. They are all renovating these apartments to sell them at auction to get the highest price, with all teams taking their profit above reserve & the winning team scoring an extra $100,000 on top of that. I wonder if any newspapers will buy any of the apartments this time around as they did in the first two auctions?

That The Block is back for not only this season but already confirmed for a second season is pure joy. A walk in escapism where I don’t have to paint that wall or patch that hole. I ran a tweeterview with Amity Dry, a contestant in Season 1 with her husband Phil (full transcript of that interview here). Her advice for potential contestants for The Block 2011?:

“Being entertaining is just as important as being a good renovator or designer. And for those who get chosen… Don’t say or do anything on camera you will regret later. Because you will regret it in front of the whole country!!”

Wise words. Sage, salient words. To paraphrase: don’t be the one calling someone a dibber dobber on national television.


The Block, Channel 9, Wednesdays 7:30pm
Image Sources: 9 Network