For Lego certified professional Ryan McNaught, Lego has always represented optimism and imagination.
So when it came to the mandatory rigour of eliminating teams from Lego Masters, it was a challenge for even the most experienced.
“I’m struggling a little bit with the concept. But it’s a competition so it has to happen,” he told TV Tonight during filming.
“Lego is a very positive thing, it’s never a negative.”
“As a parent I’m never going to tell another child ‘Your Lego sucks!’ It’s always encouraging. Lego is a very positive thing, it’s never a negative. So to all of a sudden have to say goodbye to someone who is a very, very good builder is difficult.
“I’ve been in the Lego game a long time, but I’ve never had to do something like that before.
“But it’s actually pretty amazing to even be on the show. So it’s not like someone is a loser.”
Based on a UK format, the show has been the biggest new TV hit of the year, with every episode above a million viewers.
“Brickman” -as he is nicknamed- has been fulltime with the Danish-based company for a decade, as one of only 14 Lego certified professionals in the world (and the only one in the Southern Hemisphere). Previously working in IT, he designed some robotics software which drew Lego’s attention.
“When I was a kid I wanted to do a couple of things: open the batting for Australia, be a Lego master builder and be a train driver,” he recalls.
“I wrote a piece of software for the iPad, so that kids could control their robotics using the iPad.
“Some folks from Lego saw it and said ‘Wow, how did you do that?’ and we started doing some stuff together.”
“The weight is on my shoulders.”
Now leading a team of 7 from his Melbourne base, he oversees exhibitions and store installations around the country. Endemol Shine contacted him to join its Nine series, alongside cheeky host Hamish Blake.
“I’d done a little bit for the Today show and chats, but nothing close to this scale.
“Hamish and I discuss story and aesthetics things,” he continues, “and it’s good that we bounce off each other. But as far as technical skills go, I’m the key judge. So the weight is on my shoulders.”
Next week ‘Brickman’ will have to be brutal 4 more times when one of five remaining teams will win the series title and a $100,000 prize: David & G., Jimmy & Maddy, Henry & Cade, Jordan & Miller or Bilsy & Kale. But for the Grand Final McNaught will be joined by special guest, Lego Senior Design Manager Fenella Charity from Lego’s Denmark headquarters.
Manwhile he can take heart that the series has sent a playful message to family audiences that will doubtless keep him busy for the next 12 months.
“I would love to see that at the end of an episode families crank out their Lego, do the challenge themselves or be inspired to make something,” he suggests.
“Hopefully it has a positive influence from that aspect.”
Lego Masters airs 7pm Sunday and 7:30pm Monday & Tuesday on Nine.