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Living the dream on The Block

April 10, 2010


I read some very exciting news this week. Back in my homeland of Australia, there was a show that had a brief but glorious reign. It was called The Block. It followed four couples who each renovated an apartment in the same apartment block (hence the title. clever, yes). They completely redid them, taking them from gaping hole to gleaming beauty. At the end, these apartments were sold at auction. A reserve price was set, which I believe was $150,000 in the first season, and if the price was over that the couples got to keep it. The couple whose apartment sold for the most amount of money won, and got an additional $100,000.

The first season and second seasons of the show were successes, but a third season never came. But now, joy has arrived back in my life, as Channel 9, the Australian channel responsible for the show, has announced a new season for 2010.  

As Australians we have a strange obsession with real estate. The great Australian dream is to own your own home on a quarter acre block, and this only feeds into that. My mother sits and reads the real estate section of the paper every Sunday, and is conversant in average prices and market lingo. The Block isn’t the only show we have that deals with this. We follow real estate agents selling houses, families selling houses, people helping renovate houses so they can sell. It has spawned a whole genre. It fits into our ideal of how we want to live our lives. 

The Block from Season 1


The Block from Season 2


What’s more, the show is set in two Sydney beachside suburbs. The first season in Bondi, and the second in Manly. Living next to the beach! Why that’s the ideal place for the quarter acre block! The show combines so many cultural signifiers into weekly hourly viewing, it’s no wonder that it’s a success. 

How do I know that this is such a specific cultural phenomenon? The show was picked up by different countries, including here in the US. Here, people want a house. They like the beach. Yet The Complex: Malibu was a resounding flop. In my opinion this was partly due to the lofty location (who amongst us can really aspire to live in a $1.2million condo in Malibu?) and the game playing (couples in this show had to vote each other off). But also simply because this simple concept that was a hit at home, lacked the same resonance here. In America people dream of riches, but in Australia we dream of a sandy home.

I can’t wait for the show to restart, and to dream about the bbq’s I will one day hold in my own renovated beachside apartment (it could happen…). For the rest of you who are interested you can still apply, and help propogate the great Australian dream.

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