The consensus seems to be that mainstream New Zealand-made reality shows are something of a joke. For proof, all you need to do is look at the hype surrounding next week's debut of The Ridges - heck, the marketing team behind that show have actually incorporated some of the negativity surrounding its stars into the promotional materials.
New Zealand's Got Talent starts on Sunday night and the pre-show hype on that is about as exciting as a wet blanket. My Kitchen Rules and Masterchef are both utterly forgettable. The less said about The GC, the better. Even our own version of Next Top Model seems to have gone the way of the dodo.
No wonder Colin Mathura Jeffree was so keen to do some stand-up comedy at the Red Nose Day telethon.
But in spite of the poor state of mainstream local reality fare* as a whole, I have to be honest and say that I really enjoyed TV3's The Block NZ, which finished this week with a pair of two-hour episodes that saw the houses completed, cleaned up and auctioned off - siblings Libby and Ben were named the champs after their house was auctioned off for $961,000, which was $160,000 past the reserve price.
Actually, I'm quietly disappointed with the outcome. I was firmly in Rachel and Tyson's camp and had been following them since the start of the series. That a buyer was able to bid smack on the reserve, not a cent more (which meant no money for the quirky couple) was almost shameful, especially when the bidders weren't meant to have knowledge of the reserve prices.
In fact, the main reasons I enjoyed The Block NZ have little to do with any of the contestants and more to do with aesthetic choices the show made in how it would look and how it played out.
Those choices started with a perfect host. I'm a fan of Mark Richardson thanks to his work on nightly sports show The Crowd Goes Wild, but his work on The Block NZ was even better than I could have imagined, his somewhat aloof style belying a friendly demeanour that showed itself in some of this week's better moments.
Shannon Ryan made a great co-host too, and I'm not just saying that because I think she is absolutely gorgeous. She is gorgeous, though.
I also liked the pacing of the show. After talking to a couple of viewers, it seemed their impression was that the show was too fast-paced and that was making things hard to follow. But I liked that it was quick, even frenetic at times. There was a lot to get through in two hours a week - four houses and couples, four rooms being designed simultaneously, plus the various challenges. The quick pace of the show made you feel as though the contestants really were on a tight deadline and under pressure.
There is also a tendency to let promotional material overpower the actual content on a show like this - and while The Block NZ did seem like a long Bunnings advertorial at times, it didn't really bother me too much: the amount of promo is probably my biggest gripe with the show (with any show like this), but most of the promo comments were in context with what was happening on the show, not wedged in or tacked on to fit some kind of "mentions per minute" quota.
It certainly wasn't as unbearable as a show like Masterchef or Next Top Model, where sponsor and product placement manages to permeate every second of every episode.
Nope, The Block NZ definitely wasn't as bad as those shows. In fact, The Block NZ might be one of the better reality competition this country has produced in quite some time. It was definitely my favourite NZ-made reality show from the last couple of years, and I hope TV3 decides it wants some more.
What did you think of The Block NZ? How do you think it stacks up against other reality shows produced in NZ?
(*) There is a whole other world of locally made reality TV that can be enjoyable to watch at times; shows like Police 10-7, Neighbours at War and so on. I'm just talking about the big rating shows that dominate the headlines and which everyone seems to either love or hate with a passion.
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