Shelley Craft and Scott Cam pictured on the rooftop of The Block in Port Melbourne.
Shelley Craft and Scott Cam pictured on the rooftop of The Block in Port Melbourne. Martin Philbey

High hopes for new season of The Block

IF YOU'VE been a fan of The Block but then gone off the series, then this is the year the show's producers hope to draw you back in.

The 12th season of the reality renovation show premieres tonight and will be up against Ten's new version of Australian Survivor in the highly competitive post-Olympics ratings race.

"I'm confident we've made one of the best series of The Block we've ever made and we're happy to go up against anyone," executive producer Julian Cress told me during a recent visit to this year's Block, a former soap factory in Port Melbourne.

"If this building captures the imagination of the audience to anywhere near the degree it's captured the imagination of the contestants and everyone who's involved in it then we'll be successful.

"If you've enjoyed the show before and gone away from it, then this is a series worth coming back to and having a look."

Five teams will spend 10 weeks transforming the art deco building to its former glory.

The 2016 Block teams pictured in Port Melbourne on their first day of filming.
The 2016 Block teams pictured in Port Melbourne on their first day of filming. Martin Philbey

Cress said the show's production company was lucky to nab the old beauty, reportedly for $5 million, from property tycoon Harry Stamoulis.

"After the Blocktagon series last year, everyone said there's no way you'll ever top this," he said.

"For us to walk into a building that once was that beautiful and find it's completely dilapidated, derelict on the inside and covered in graffiti and had been used by squatters for decades is kind of a perfect thing for us. What more could we ask for?"

With each season, viewers expect something bigger and better, or at least different, and finding a suitable property in Melbourne these days is no easy, or cheap, task.

The show's producers are competing against investors and property developers who don't have the added costs and constraints of a television show.

The crowning glory of this year's building, a massive 600sqm private rooftop garden designed by landscape designer Dave Franklin, is the perfect example of how The Block differs from a normal commercial project.

"I know for certain that any other property developer faced with a rooftop like that with uninterrupted city skyline views would whack a penthouse on there and make a fortune out of it," Cress said.

"But because that doesn't fit the format of our show that affords us an opportunity nobody else would even think about. To create a private garden is kind of insane from a profit point of view but to create something beautiful and lasting is exciting.

"I've never been more excited about an element of a Block project as I am about the fact that we're going to deliver this incredible garden space."

Cress wish Ten well with Australian Survivor, a risky show considering Nine's version flopped.

"It's not an easy show to cast out of Australia. I wish them all the best," he said.

"I can find ultra competitive renovators in Australia because it's embedded in our culture. I hope they've found some competitive people willing to play that game to make that series work for them.

"Reality TV is a staple of Australian prime-time viewing these days, so of course there's room for The Block and Survivor to be on at the same time. It's always going to be the case that there's going to be one or more reality shows going head to head at any one time. We're happy to go up against anyone."

The Block premieres tonight at 7pm on Channel 9 and Australian Survivor premieres on Channel 10 at 7.30pm.

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