Any series that's been around for eight seasons is bound to show a few signs of wear and tear.
Take The Block NZ, for example. It might be "New Zealand's favourite DIY show" according to MediaWorks, but it's been feeling stale the past few years, with the same old budget and design worries and the same old story drivers. I mean, how many different ways can contestants vote strategically during Dinner Wars?
The franchise did feel like it was getting a breath of fresh air this year with the news four teams would be converting Kingsland's old fire station into high-end apartments. After two seasons of building soulless townhouses, 2019 looked like a year for the show to really knock it out of the park.
But that pre-season anticipation has so far failed to convert to entertaining reality fodder, with growing mutters of discontent from viewers.
Yet Nielsen ratings show The Block still manages to win its time slot. I can only assume all those grumbling viewers must be suffering some kind of TV Stockholm syndrome, where they just can't tear themselves away from the hold The Block NZ has over them.
But if they do want to break the vicious "watch The Block / complain loudly / watch The Block again" cycle, they could simply pick up their remote and switch to a reality show that's been around even longer – My Kitchen Rules.
Why? Let me count the ways.
The Block NZ is three-quarters filler
The Block usually wins its Sunday time slot the most convincingly, proving that the show's room reveals (and the accompanying "action" round-ups) are the definite high point. The rest of the week's episodes are watching-paint-dry tat.
My Kitchen Rules, on the other hand, is full of frenetic energy from start to finish, delivering much more bang for your buck.
Take the ultimate instant restaurant round, for example. MKR's competing duos are currently being tasked with producing six restaurant-quality dinner courses for a baying crowd of their peers each night. Meanwhile, on The Block, bathroom week produced not so much actual bathrooms, but … mood boards of what a bathroom might look like.
The Block is failing to balance the drama
There's always been plenty of fighting among the teams on those Block building sites. But the squabbling over at the firehouse this year has been relentlessly petty. It's often been a genuine chore to watch.
Sure, MKR has its own fair share of drama, but its 10th anniversary season has been able to balance the little things like burnt pistachios with some Shakespearean-level tragedy. One of last week's dinner parties, for example, saw a contestant utter the line: "She's been betrayed by her lover," while the cooks experienced a beef tataki disaster in the kitchen.
I mean, pass the popcorn.
MKR delivers the glamour
All I'm saying is that while some people might want to watch Shelley Ferguson help The Block's contestants make artwork out of curtains or Peter Wolfkamp sigh over another building ineptitude, others might want to watch Pete Evans and Manu Feildel show up at a dinner party, all twinkly of eye and dapper of suit, while they pretend to feed each other off their own plates.
Speaking of judges ...
The Block NZ's judging team of Jason Bonham and Lizzi Whaley has only added to the hostile feeling on the show this year.
Yes, some of their harsh criticisms have been warranted. There's been poor styling, lethal children's bedrooms and towel rails placed inside showers. But the way in which Bonham and Whaley deliver their critiques is often plain mean – and they seem to still be punishing some teams for previous mistakes.
Meanwhile, over on MKR, watching Manu Feildel tell a contestant their crème brûlée is a disaster always feels strangely comforting. (Look, I don't make the rules, but when someone says your work sucks, it's much more soothing having that critique delivered in a thick French accent.)
I'm sure viewers will continue to flock to The Block, especially when the firehouse's live auctions finally roll around – but should they ever finally tire of those building site strops, unfortunately placed recessed shelves and cruel comments, MKR is ready and willing to dish up some quality reality TV fare.
• The Block NZ airs Sunday-Wednesday on Three. MKR airs Sunday-Tuesday on TVNZ 2.