On Sunday night TV’s biggest show comes to a close when The Block goes under the hammer.
But after a drama-filled 2022 auction when three homes were passed in, and another sold for a record $5.66m amount, producers are in a last minute push to secure maximum bidders.
“These last few days before the auction are always an incredibly nervous time for me, and Scotty and the crew,” executive producer Julian Cress tells TV Tonight.
“It’s not the ratings that we’re worried about, because the show’s powering ahead in the ratings. But the nervousness comes from worrying about auction results. Obviously, we get very close to our contestants over the many months that we spend working together and seeing what they do. The thought of any of them finishing this thing with nothing to show for it is potentially heartbreaking. We’ve seen it happen before and it’s one of the hardest things to go through. So I put a lot of energy in these last few days working with the agents and doing everything I can to try and convince people that they should bid on the day.”
5 homes in Charming Street Hampton East will be auctioned on Saturday for the cameras, edited into a drama-filled finale which will doubtless draw bumper ratings for Nine. In Victoria, agents need to publish an indicative selling price based on comparable properties, which for The Block ranges from $2.7m – $3m.
“I think it’d be an absolute nail-biter.”
Contestants do not yet know the all-important auction order and the property market has been volatile.
“We will be filming that over the next few days. I met with some of the contestants this morning and to say that they’re anxious would be an understatement,” he continues.
“Over the last year or so we’ve had 12 rate rises, off a low of 0.1 of 1% up to 4.1%. It’s been a dramatic shift in people’s thinking about real estate. We’ve been making the show through all of that, watching the interest rates go up every month. So, I understand the anxiousness around the auctions. I think it’d be an absolute nail-biter.”
Cress is also hoping very wealthy, familiar faces turn up to bid, including eccentric Block buyer Danny Wallis.
“When he does come, he always comes two minutes before the first auction and nearly sends me to a cardiologist! But, yeah, I’ll have my fingers crossed to see him. Of course, last year we had a stunning auction with the battle between Danny and Adrian Portelli. I’d be very glad to see both of them turn up again, and I think the audience would be would be very interested in seeing round two of that fight go down.”
Season 19 has had no shortage of drama, with noisy contestants in feuds and fallouts worthy of a super-soap. Did the bigger drama make up for the smaller homes, compared to 2022?
“We needed strong personalities. We needed a bit of psychological warfare. I would say that my expectations for all of that were dramatically exceeded. It was it was one of the most, if not the most, entertaining show that I’ve ever had the joy to produce,” Cress insists.
“It does not amount to bullying in my opinion.”
But one Body Corporate meeting in particular led to complaints to media watchdog the Australian Communications & Media Authority. That investigation is currently underway.
“I see that people throw around words like bullying on social media. They were referring to Leah calling a body corporate meeting and asking Steph why she didn’t get her father inducted. It does not amount to bullying in my opinion. I understand that people choose sides with personalities in the show. But I’m not happy when contestants get accused of bullying when they didn’t,” he states.
“I think that ACMA will look at those scenes and compare the complaint to those scenes and I believe that they’ll come out on my side on that one.
“Bullying is abhorrent and nobody should ever tolerate bullying in the workplace. I don’t like it when people throw that word around as an accusation. In that case, I don’t believe that anything that Leah or Christie or any of those people did on the show amounts to bullying. I mean, it may be considered bad behaviour by people, but bullying it’s not.
“It’s conflict. It’s people talking shit about other people behind their backs, which is what reality television has been since Survivor and Big Brother premiered 23 years ago.”
The success of the show also leads to numerous press stories, some of which Cress maintains is fabricated.
“There were stories running in newspapers this season about how nobody was watching the show, and the ratings had plummeted. That is patently false and I know that because TV Tonight publishes the numbers every morning,” says Cress.
“There were literally stories in the Herald Sun and The Daily Telegraph in Sydney, saying that Nine is thinking of cancelling the show because the ratings are so bad. At the same time as we won, I think, just about every night we were on.”
One story this week even suggested storylines had been dropped due to the current ACMA investigation to avoid further complaints.
“What I thought was funny about that was we haven’t filmed the finale of the series yet.”
He also rejects changes to recent episodes.
“Those episodes were finalised months ago,” he continues.
“There are stories being written these days to generate clickbait”
“There are stories being written these days to generate clickbait because they’re writing about The Block. In order to keep generating headlines, some of those stories are completely made up fabrication.”
Is clickbait good or bad for a show like The Block?
“I don’t mind they’re writing about our show, because they know that people are interested in our show. And the more people are interested in our show, the longer we get to make it,” he admitted.
“Made up stories are sometimes hilarious, but sometimes can be quite hurtful”
“But sometimes, I find that those made up stories are sometimes hilarious, but sometimes can be quite hurtful to people as well. I mean, there was a story that one of the sites published a few weeks ago about how Shaynna Blaze had weighed in on the toxic behaviour of the contestants and was throwing her weight around because she was so appalled by it.
“I know that story was made up because on that very day, I was texting with Shaynna while she was visiting the pyramids in Egypt. The last thing on her mind was what was happening on The Block that week in Australia.”
He added, “I accept that it is part of the landscape that we’re in now. You know, it is what it is. I guess if I had to choose between people writing about the show or not writing about the show, I would choose the former.”
Meanwhile, Cress has his eye on this weekend and hopefully delivering big drama and big profits to all of the 2023 contestants.
“It can go either way and I think that’s why it is watched by so many people. They know that it’s the ultimate in reality television.”
The Block Auction 7pm Sunday on Nine.