I am not interested in renovations; I am not even interested in cleaning my house. I am interested in people called “Loz and Tom”, “Andy and Pete” and “Someone and Koan”. These people are apparently, representative of white middle New Zealand’s 20 or 30 year olds, aspirational Type A personality types apart from the random Christians who won’t and can’t win because they play with a straight bat.
Some of these folks look like they have never suffered a trauma more than being dumped by their girlfriend on the law faculty pub crawl.
Let’s start with the premise. Originally, The Block was an Australian show about four couples who compete to renovate a unit in a block of flats. At the end the units get sold and the winners are the ones who get the most at auction. Prior to auction night there is time for the faithful viewers (children aged 13) to file past the block holding placards to show their loyalties, and even more grotesquely, walk through the house in flip flips and cardigans, sporting shit-eating looks. Here we see lots of close ups of families with mum, dad and the kids all looking bemused and even in some cases haughtily judgmental about the decor choices made. We might be lucky enough to get a sound bite from Pam of Wollongong:
I like the blue couple the best, I think they are neat and I hope they ween!
This is, of course, nothing to do with renovations. Maybe The Block should be renamed “The Cult of Personality Competition”. Pam’s daughter though, didn’t like the choice of splashback. This coming from someone wearing a silly pair of blizzard wash jeggings and an ironic Britney t-shirt.
Anyway, moving on. The New Zealand franchise is along the same lines but on a lesser budget as you would imagine and the choice of talking heads and design consultants means that you really don’t know who is who and because of that these people are even more self important than is possible. They have to be self important, because they are not important.
Mark Richardson is the host, and he is just plain great as a presenter and writer, having authored an anecdotal book about the cricket doldrums of his early career which I found last year in a hospice shop for 50c called Thinking Negatively. Incredible. He plays the role of the rational jester. At once he is smirking at the situation and then he is shaking his head in disapproval at the amount of time the contestants have left until the ‘big reveal’. Contestants have to sleep on the block throughout the show.
Five things ALWAYS happen on these shows.
1. The girls cry, alot. They get tireder (that’s their term not mine) than the guys. They crash. The guys toil and labour but the girls head out with Smartphones and swatches in a nifty little round town modern shit box to shop (read: bleed their account dry on Day One from buying a credenza made of crushed crystals).
2. One couple has a massive spazz-out and the girl walks off, hand to brow, while the guy continues to dig a hole, muttering under his breath.
3. There’s a malevolent couple who bring their crooked bat to the game. They say things like “It’s a competition. What? What’s everyone’s problem? Oh get over it.”
4. The wishy washy dreamers always lose.
5. The producers groom one couple for further television greatness as in (I think) what is happening to Pete and Andy.
Pete and Andy are farmers or shed hands or something unlikely. They have become the hairy and loveable brother team but they can’t rely on chemistry or physical touching to get points with the public. It’s obvious Pete is somehow going to end up presenting Seven Sharp or maybe having his own show, perhaps a cross between the Michael van de Elzen one where he comes and watches you cook, but maybe with renovations instead. Maybe he comes and watches you staple foam to some MDF to make a headboard.
Loz and Tom have already spoken with Woman’s Day. They look like they are gunning for some long term fame out of the show, and they look and speak like professional reality show folks. Tom looks like New Zealand’s ‘New Everyman’. Kind of metro, but just really relaxed ya, know? But not really. Really serious and hard working.
We are now halfway through the show and people have their favourites. My least favourites are the two experts who inspect the made-over rooms at the end. They seem to come from another time, another land. They sweep in, bemused and smug, and take it in turns to agree with each other.
Then, cut to Mark Richardson, ever patient, ever thinking about future series’, and early retirement and release from this excruciating presenting gig.
The contestants line up and face the music. Great, Pete and Andy win this week. They get to Smartphone bank $4,000 into their KiwiBank account using Fetch, while enjoying a Wild Bean latte at BP.
It’s so watchable. It’s you judging the judges judging the contestants judging each other.
It’s very easy to judge a poor splashback from the comfort of your lounge…and we must not.
My bet is on Loz and Tom for favourites, but Pete and Andy as “The People’s Choice”, and Pete for a Cleo centrefold and a good Twitter following.