Sunday, 17 June 2012

The Block

We've been in Australia for nearly 8 weeks now.  We are down to our last five days - can't believe this trip is nearly over.  

Eight weeks is quite a long time and you can't constantly be on the go, so there has been plenty of down time when we have just been kicking around at home, spending time with our son and his family.  Needless to say watching television has featured a fair amount but when you have grown up with the BBC and other UK channels the word 'spoilt' comes to mind!  Really, there is not a huge amount to watch here.  There's lots of sport of course, loads of imported programmes from the US (ghastly) and others from the UK such as Downton Abbey, Grand Designs and the like, plus the usual round of competition programmes, e.g. Australia's version of The Voice - which we haven't watched!  

However, we have been watching Australian Masterchef which we have enjoyed very much.  It has a different format from the UK version, including masterclasses which have been excellent. It's a programme which more than suits Australia's phenomenal preoccupation with amazing ingredients, good food and cooking.  

At the risk of boring you rigid let me tell you about The Block.  This is another competition series we have been following.  We don't have anything like it at home, at least not that I am aware of! We arrived just after the series had started but basically there are four couples who restore a row of four terrace houses.  The programme is everywhere - on the Metro for example :

TV screen shot of the front of the terrace before restoration
In this year's series there are two brothers, one married couple and two other couples who have been together for some time.  There's the usual dimension of one couple not making themselves as popular to the viewing audience as the others!  The girl is a bit of a madam! They all have a budget to restore the buildings, room by room.  On completion the properties are sold at auction and each has a reserve price.  The contestants can keep the difference between the reserve price and whatever the property fetches, and the couple which achieves the most also receives an extra AUD$100,000 on top!  

The couples are set random challenges, all of which are vaguely relevant to DIY, design and so on, to win extra money to boost their budgets.  One of their challenges was to persuade some designer shops to exchange one of these extremely naff Block Gnomes for items in their showroom which would then be auctioned off to raise money for charity.  There were 40 gnomes and the team which raised the most money from their trades won a little extra something towards their budget. We spotted a naff gnome in a shop window in Coventry Street in South Melbourne.  They are rather more valuable than you might think, thanks to the power of television!
There is a site foreman and an architect on board, to make sure everything is done properly.  Each house has its own workforce on site.  Mr Gaucho is an architect and he has watched the programme which makes me feel that it does actually have some value!  Here's a screen shot taken from the television with the two brothers having a conference with the programme presenter about their roof garden.  There's a great view of the Melbourne city centre skyline in the background.
Each week the completed fully furnished and styled room or rooms are judged by three high flyers in the Australian world of interiors. The winners for the week receive an extra AUD$5,000 or so towards their ever dwindling budget. It's a good programme and we are quite into it!  Unfortunately it runs for about another two weeks after we leave next Friday but hopefully I can catch up online when I get home and find out which couple has won!  I have my favourite!
This weekend Channel 9 are holding an open day on the completed Block before the houses are sold.  We were in the area yesterday and here's a little of the razzmatazz!  
The completed Block of four terraced houses
There was an endless queue to parade around the houses and meet the contestants.  We're not quite that crazed and just watched The Block mania from a distance!  I was handed a Block water bottle though - might come in handy on the flight home!
The properties are sold off at auction at the end of June.  Apparently they should fetch something in excess of AUD$1.5 million each!  Worth shedding blood, sweat and tears for I guess!
Best of luck to all the contestants.  It has been quite a roller coaster ride for all of them, and good viewing for the rest of us!


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