The Block NZ teams tackle yet another challenge as Diana Wichtel slowly loses the will to live.
I know. I’m sorry. Three’s The Block NZ is back and I’m fighting an overwhelming urge to explain myself to host Mark Richardson. This is the eighth season of this journey into makeover-madness purgatory and our bathroom still doesn’t have a hand-painted fish-scale-tile feature wall.
But judge me not lest ye be judged. This season seems a little flat and dull, like Lisa and Ribz’s “boring blue” children’s bedroom. It’s possibly bad for the planet, as the room-reveals encourage us to flood our apparently under-accessorised existences with tat. The teams are turning an old firehouse in Auckland’s Kingsland into “high-end” apartments, but no amount of flame graphics and incendiary metaphors can heat things up. Watching best friends Ethan and Sam add to a string of stinging humiliations by achieving another awful score is not good times. Their children’s room featured lethal bunks and a kamikaze fireman’s pole. Judgment: “What a complete disaster/hazard zone. The one thing missing from this room is safety cones.”
There was the great wallpaper rebellion of 2019. For their children’s bedrooms, the teams had to use wallpaper that had been chosen by the judges. Sophia and Mikaere took a risk, thought outside the square, etc. They cut theirs up and made a puzzle out of it. This did not go down well with the judges: “Just use the damn wallpaper!” Ethan and Sam used their weird cactus-patterned paper and you wished they hadn’t.
Regular refuseniks Lisa and Ribz decided to make a statement. They scrunched their wallpaper into balls, then shoved them into a waste-paper basket, like some sort of destructive Dadaesque installation art.
“Lisa began the week with a chip on her shoulder,” observed Mark. By the end, it was a two-by-four. She carries on a Block tradition by saying such things as “Holy shitballs!” a lot. She also carries on like a teenager. Talk about contrary. Asked to do a kid’s bedroom, Lisa clarified the situation: “We’re not doing a kid’s bedroom.” On being judged: “I’m not going to worry about what some little bald man says.” Venting about her annoyance at “Princess” Sophia, Lisa muttered darkly, “I hope you age really badly.” I could feel myself ageing, badly, just watching it.
This is the sort of show in which telling someone to “shush” amounts to a brawl. Mikaere might have got away with shushing Adam, but when Adam’s wife, Stacy, objected, he shushed her, too. The double shush: it was too much, “Hey, that’s f---ing rude,” bleeped Adam. “Don’t talk to her like that.”
How to add some real tension? They’ve brought back last year’s winners, Amy and Stu, Team Black, to compete for the prize for creating the best family bathroom. Stu is a plumber. Nowhere is it written that reality television has to be fair.
The show does try to move with the aspirational times. One challenge involved laying out tat – I mean, accessories – in a “flat lay” worthy of being photographed from above to be posted on Instagram. I can feel the will to live, aspirationally or otherwise, draining out of me just writing that sentence. Lisa wasn’t impressed, either. She isn’t big on social media. “We aren’t worried about followers. We aren’t a cult of any kind,” she mused. “We don’t come from Gloriavale.” Now there’s a concept: The Block: Gloriavale. That I would tune in for.
This article was first published in the July 13, 2019 issue of the New Zealand Listener.