Colin Hogg on television

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Colin Hogg: If they build it, will we watch?

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The contestants are the show's real talent - although this lot seem barely distinguishable from each other.
The contestants are the show's real talent - although this lot seem barely distinguishable from each other.

In case you've been out of the country, The Block NZ is back. The new local series of the Australian renovation show franchise landed last night on TV3 in a great cloud of fairy dust.

It'll be running three nights a week for 10 weeks - which should give us plenty of time to get over it. Or not.

My chances of becoming a Blockaholic are remote. I'm not a DIY guy and the mere sight of such activity upsets me. Though, that said, last night's opening episode did have its unquiet charms as three sets of yelping yuppies and one set of yokels set out to win the 30-hour renovation race.

Television, of course, is obsessed with these sorts of shows at the moment - numbingly and repetitively so.

But, as TV house makeover shows go, The Block NZ is a solidly built concept. Four pairs of "ordinary" New Zealanders get to live out their renovation dreams and nightmares with only a large budget, teams of experts and an endless supply of free products to help them.

While half the nation watches.

Back for the new series as the affable if rather shouty presenter is Mark Richardson, ex-cricketer and host of Prime's wonderful The Crowd Goes Wild. Back, too, is The Block NZ's other presenter, Shannon Ryan, though she doesn't have to do half as much as Mark.

The show's contestants are its true talent, though, and from a distance this year's lineup is a samey sort of crowd - with the exception of the token yokels.

Shows like this inevitably have an off-centre team - usually gay or from the sticks it seems. The Block NZ 2013 has Pete and Andy, lookalike country-boy brothers from Southland, all bush shirts and Huckleberry Finn humour - or maybe more Huckleberry Hound.

Whichever it turns out to be, their 15 minutes of fame has now officially started, poor buggers.

On the other hand, the yelping yuppies, all young white couples, seemed variously annoying and barely distinguishable from each other, though we're only an hour into this epic journey.

The differences will doubtless show as time goes by and the carefully orchestrated challenges crop up and the teams bicker and bond. There are already some signs of life - volatility (Alice), utter hopelessness (Loz and Tom) and annoying efficiency (Alisa and Koan).

Though that's a bit how it was with the first series of The Block NZ.

The major difference with this second series of the ratings winner is that the four houses the couples are challenged to do up are bigger and all quite different from each other, as well as being in a theatrically low state of repair.

Such fun and so many options for product placement, naturally, but that's just part of the deal with shows like The Block. Viewers could amuse themselves playing Spot the Product and see who comes up with the most by show's end.

I saw surprisingly few last night, though I was closing my eyes in anxiety at some of the more thrillsome moments - the letterbox building contest and the nail-biting race to find the hidden tool belts in particular.

- NZ Herald

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