“The perfect location for a series of The Block would be Ramsay Street”
For a decade The Block wanted their very own version of Neighbours. Now it is coming true.
“We had the concept of doing a cul de sac, about a decade ago. We just never thought we’d get to execute on it,” says Julian Cress.
But after a fortuitous real estate purchase in Hampton, south east of Melbourne, The Block executive producer finally gets to implement his plan.
“It just felt like the perfect location for a series of The Block would be Ramsay Street. But we never really thought we’d find five houses in a cul de sac available for us to make the show until we found Bronte Court.
“We really think it’s the perfect setting for our show.”
Five homes were purchased via Bronte Street resident and regular auction buyers advocate, Nicole Jacobs. At Cress’ suggestion she managed to convince her neighbours to sell. Selling above market price to the Nine producers was a “win / win” for all.
“It just all worked out beautifully”
“She had a chat to some of the neighbours who said, ‘We were thinking of selling anyway’. So it just all worked out beautifully.”
He adds, “We wanted to be in a cul de sac. They wanted to sell their houses, and they knew that they had a buyer who really wanted to be there. So I think they did well and we did really well too.”
Jacobs had only recently finished renovating her home, a replica of a Neil Clerehan-designed home (but without heritage value given it was a copy). Cress maintains her renovation was a budget-conscious makeover and The Block has maintained its facade.
Not all the homes are side by side which also didn’t halt plans to build 5 family homes in a street that was once home to a young Shane Warne.
“We needed five out of eight or nine owners to put their hand up”
“It’s very small straight with 8 houses in it. So they could have been, but we didn’t we didn’t put that expectation on Nicole, because we were asking a lot to buy five houses in one street. We needed five out of eight or nine owners to put their hand up.
“There was certainly a lot of trepidation at the beginning. Those neighbours who remained, knowing that The Block was coming into the street, we worked really closely with.
“We had our moments along the way where they said, ‘Gee this is bloody noisy.’ And I said, ‘Yes, I’m really sorry but we’re nearly there. Give us a few more weeks, and it’ll all be quiet.’ We got there and we’re all friends in the end.”
2021 sees the second Fans vs Faves season for the long-running show -the last was in Dux House, Albert Park, 2014.
“Bringing it back now feels entirely appropriate. It wasn’t hard to to choose the teams that we thought would make it a lot of fun for the newbies. In those intervening eight years, we’ve had people of the calibre of Ronnie & Georgia (Elsternwick 2017) and Mitch & Mark (The Oslo, 2019) go through the show,” he continues.
“They love to stir the pot a bit too”
“They’re great renovators but at the same time, they love to stir the pot a bit too. So they’re pretty entertaining people to be around for three months.
“When I called them to ask them if they wanted to do it, there was no hesitation. Both of those couples just jumped at the opportunity to come back and do it again. Of course these are people who, when they were on the show the first time time, would have said ‘I’ll never do this again! This is hardest thing I’ve ever done!'” he laughs.
They are joined by Melbourne parents Tanya (39) and Vito (44), country music couple Kirsty (32) and Jesse (31) and ex-Love Island twins Josh and Luke (27).
“They wanted to prove that they weren’t just beefcake”
“They wanted to do it for the right reasons,” Cress says of the Love Island twins. “They didn’t want to do it because they wanted to be on TV longer. They wanted to do it because they wanted to prove that they weren’t just beefcake. They want to show that there was more to them.”
He also notes they are “belligerent” and “hot-headed” while Kirsty & Jesse as “absolute battlers” and Tanya and Vito are a gregarious couple “looking for an adventure.”
The mix of old and new couples has paid off in terms of storylines.
“I don’t think we’ve ever seen this much drama”
“I don’t think we’ve ever seen this much drama in one series of the show in 17 seasons,” he insists. “We shot 50% more material this year than we normally do. Our cameramen were run off their feet. They basically got to the end and collapsed, because there was something going on in every house, every minute, of every day. We were struggling to keep up with it all.”
There are at least two other “firsts” this season, with Block basements on each property, and no plans presented to couples on Day 1. Local council plans do not need to be lodged for properties above 500 square metres (but must still meet guidelines), meaning contestants could not check those in advance of filming. A promo sees host Scott Cam throwing away the blueprints.
Also returning are co-host Shelley Craft, site foremen Keith and Dan, and judges, Neale Whitaker, Shaynna Blaze and Darren Palmer. Filming was completed, save for an auction, between Melbourne lockdowns from February – May.
“For those people who do love The Block and come back year after year, this is going to be one that they will absolutely love.”
The Block returns 7pm Sunday and continues Monday – Wednesday on Nine.