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Why Is TV Series The Block So Popular?

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by Olga R. (subscribe)
I am a writer in the making with a passion for imagery, globetrotting and exquisite designs.
Published February 18th 2013
Confessions of a potential blockaholic
My first reaction to hearing about The Block was, by default, a rather snobbish I don't do realities. I wasn't about to watch a bunch of people looking to become five-second sensations by baring their private lives to the world. For years now I've been harbouring the sneaking sensation that every time someone sits down to watch a reality show, somewhere in the world a pile of books catches fire, Ray Bradbury style.

Blockheads, from

Casting aside my dystopian concerns, as time went by I found myself increasingly exposed to the show until one day it was on, I was in the room, and I happened to catch a glimpse. What is the whole point of the show? Well, for starters, it's not about a single person but a team. The aim of the game is simple: four teams each get shackled-down houses they have to whip up into wonders of interior decoration, only to be auctioned back into 'the real world'. The series follows contestants on a day-by-day basis, documenting their progress, failures, ups, downs and all-arounds.

It was voted 'Most Popular Reality Show' in the 2012 Logie Awards. The question is: what's the secret to its success? I have gathered three theories so far.

1. Home Sweet Home

In October 2012, The Guardian published a survey conducted on national lottery winners to find out how they spend their winnings. The results were unequivocal: the greatest lump of prize money goes towards property. What this shows is that most people's dream of escape from the daily grind starts from their own doorstep: after all, Dorothy docet, there's just no place like home.

Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow and the Lion
Illustration by Brenda D. Hunter

2. The Underdog Effect

The participants come from all sorts of backgrounds and trades. No matter what they are in 'the real world' though, everyone gets leveled out on The Block. Women sport the underneath-it-all look we all have at 6 a.m. in the morning, men get told off by their women like naughty little boys and common human flaws are openly displayed. As we follow the contestants through their very own version of the twelve labors of Hercules, we see them at their most vulnerable and they become the heroes of a story we long to see a happy ending for.

Image from Wikipedia

3. Catharsis

Deriving from a Greek term which means "purification", to experience catharsis is to reach an emotional climax of overpowering feelings of pity or laughter and subsequently a sense of liberation and inner peace. In ancient Greece, Aristotle argued that witnessing a tragedy on stage would grant you this experience by means of projection.

Dante in Purgatory
Illustration by Gustave Doré

In modern terms, this means that watching other people go through hardships on television somehow allows you to identify with their suffering and attain the relief that follows. In this show tear up floorboards, knock down walls, and are targeted by the judges' most unrestrained criticism. Not to mention having to find their way around Sydney's notoriously labyrinth-like roads. They suffer. We suffer with them, and then somehow we feel better.

So there you have it, my original stance had decidedly softened towards the show, as I find it has some very valid watch-worthy elements to it. Should I be worried about getting a sniff of burning pages? I'd love to hear your views.
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Why? Because there's no place like home
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