Scott Kara: Stumbling on Block products

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If you have been watching The Block NZ then you could be forgiven for being brainwashed into shopping at a certain supermarket, buying coffee from a certain cafe, and going wild and putting that major house renovation on your KiwiBank credit card.

You may even have found yourself being lured into an exclusive (aka bloody expensive) Parnell homeware and furniture shop which Ginny and Rhys found themselves at during last week's "design a magazine cover" challenge.

Ginny was too scared to touch much, and when she did the $10,000 chandelier clattered as if it was about to break. Meanwhile, Rhys, lovable Naki lad that he is, took the price tags in his stride as he settled his chuff into a lavish leather chair (his whiskey drinking chair, he reckoned).

Honestly, the product placement and branding is out of control. Yes, yes, I know the multimillion-dollar reality show would not have got off the ground without these advertisers. But as much as the show's producers banged on at the beginning about products being integrated tastefully into the show, or whatever spin they put on it, it sure has been a steady stream of blatant branding and advertising.

It's not so much big name sponsors like Bunnings that I have a problem with. Hey, you've got to get your gib board and timber from somewhere. It's the brief flashes of Deutz bubbly labels, the green beer bottles (I think it's Heineken. It sure makes me feel like a Heineken when I see them) and shots of bright red New World shopping bags in the foreground as the contestants have a barbecue that are distracting.

It's not that the show is bogged down with product, it's just that these commercial elements are ridiculously obvious. It's as if they are trying to be subtle with the brand exposure, but failing miserably. Maybe the deal with the Deutz was a free case of the stuff for every second it was on screen? Who knows?

As for the entertainment value of the show, The Block lost me for a while there. It started out okay. The couples were a likeable bunch and the idea of doing up four derelict houses was a sound concept for a reality show, especially if, like me, you can't afford to redo the spouting let alone knock off the back of the house and do an extension. So living vicariously through this lot seemed like a good idea.

However, there was (and still is) far too much focus on the challenges and too little on the work being done on the houses. The strict building codes in New Zealand mean the couples are restricted by the amount of true blue DIY they can do - oh for the days of Mitre 10 Dream Home - but watching the tradies installing Libby and Ben's impressive, modern-day ranch slider would have been good. And finding out more about laying Rhys and Ginny's recycled wooden floor would have been far more interesting than seeing them browsing for expensive chandeliers and leather chairs.

Now the houses are nearing completion and, more to the point, the Olympics have finished, I'm back watching The Block.

Surprisingly, I still like all the contestants too, which could be a failing because every good reality show needs a villain or a dick. Someone you love to loathe. The closest I've come to that is feeling slightly irritated by how bubbly Shannon Ryan is. And Tyson and Rachel's constant need to subject their second-hand-loving Wellington ways on the rest of the nation is also wearing thin. Enough already, you need to sell this house for a profit, not for a student flat.

I have to say though, given Tyson's music obsession, their delightful bickering, and the look of their kitchen and dining area from last week (even though they didn't finish it), they're still my favourites. But the dynamic duo of Libby and Ben will be hard to beat, especially with KiwiBank on their side.

- TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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