Thankfully, after all that drama, there was a happy ending, with each couple pocketing several hundred thousand dollars during Sunday’s grand final auction.
Now the dust has settled, we spoke to The Block’s creator and executive producer Julian Cress who revealed the real reason underdogs Luke and Tess were able to win the very show they previously described as being “full of sh*t”.
Let’s start with the auction results. The judges often ranked Mitch and Mark first throughout the season and Tess and Luke last. But when it came to auction the buyers reversed that order. Why do you think that is?
We held a challenge about two-thirds of the way through the series where we invited 100 buyers to come through on behalf of Domain, our property partner, and they also ranked Mitch and Mark first. The feedback, as the series progressed, agreed with the judges that Mitch and Mark were the most likely winners with the buying public. That’s not how it turned out on the day.
I think a lot of credit should be given to our judges who gave Tess and Luke some pretty harsh feedback along the way, and Tess and Luke took that on board as constructive criticism.
In the very last week of the show they changed their home around. They followed the advice that was given to them by the judges. They changed their kitchen and living and formal lounge room around and created something which really resonated with the buyers and was a directly a result of the advice from the judges.
They ended up having up having the largest living room of any of the houses on The Block because they changed their kitchen, and that, I’m told by the buyers, was one of the key reasons why they wanted that house.
Get the latest showbiz goss delivered straight to your inbox — sign up for our daily entertainment newsletter
RELATED: Block winners are secret millionaires
The couples and viewers seemed quite surprised that the houses had low reserves this year. Was that a conscious effort to give the season a happy ending and make sure everyone walked away with a good sum of cash?
We always want a happy ending for The Block. We designed a show where everybody can win. I think it’s the only reality show where that’s the case. But we didn’t purposely set the reserves low.
We take advice on setting reserves from an independent valuer that’s brought in from the network to value the properties and set the reserves based on that. It just turned out that where the clearance rate at the time was 70 per cent, we fortunately were able to get 100 per cent.
Tess and Luke had a big outburst about The Block to news.com.au a few weeks ago. Some of their comments included: “We thought this was going to be an amazing, positive experience in our life, but we wish we never went on this bloody thing. We got bullied the whole way through (filming) the show, and now we feel like they’re bullying us on the show as well.” Do you think they regret those comments?
On a project like The Block, there’s no way to go through that process and not have any regrets. But at the end of the day, on balance they’re going to look back on the whole thing as a very positive experience, and in fact that’s what they tell me now.
The timing of that particular interview was unfortunate because they were at their lowest point on that very morning. But ask them again now and it’s a very different story, and that’s understandable, I think.
Have they apologised for their comments?
Sure, yeah. And I’ve apologised to them for some of the feelings that they had. We’re like a family at The Block … in any family you have your ups and downs but at the end of the day we’re all good friends and none of us could be happier for them.
They showed such incredible resilience and determination. They never gave up and that’s the key thing. They found those reserves of energy to make those key changes in the very last week when everything was going against them and it paid off in a remarkable way.
What did you apologise to them for? Was it for how they were portrayed on the show?
They weren’t being portrayed as lazy on the show, it’s just that many people who were watching took that view and said so on social media. I’ve said before there’s no way that anybody who is lazy could get on our show, and they’re certainly not lazy people. But there was a perception when they were compared to other couples that they weren’t working as hard as everybody else.
That’s what happens in reality shows, the audience takes side and chooses favourites. Tess and Luke are not lazy people.
I apologised that they had a feeling that coming on the show was so confronting for them, because it’s hard for people to know how to deal with that kind of stuff when they’re coming from Cairns and suddenly finding themselves the centre of attention on the nation’s number one program.
What will you do differently next year and into the future on The Block?
We talk about doing ‘The Biggest Block Ever!’ and for the past few seasons every year we’ve said, ‘This Block is bigger than the last’. We were always conscious that at some point we would probably cross a line somewhere where we maybe made the whole thing too hard for the contestants.
I’d suggest that we may have crossed that line on this series because we really pushed these guys to their absolute limits. We used to be a program that tested people’s renovation and design skills and we ended up probably getting to the point where we were a program that was testing the limits of human endurance.
We will look at what we do in the next series and take some lessons from this one and probably not push them quite as hard. But I’ll tell you this, whatever series of The Block people get on in the future, it is not going to be easy.