Herald Sun - Switched On - - Front Page -

SCOTT Cam lets out a de­monic laugh as he talks about the lat­est con­tes­tants on The Block.

The eight cou­ples se­lected for Chan­nel 9’s home ren­o­va­tion se­ries face a tor­tur­ous set of chal­lenges.

First is the Big Red Elim­i­na­tion House in the Melbourne bay­side sub­urb of El­wood.

Each cou­ple is given just 24 hours to fully ren­o­vate, dec­o­rate and fur­nish one room.

Four cou­ples are elim­i­nated. I reckon they are the lucky ones.

The re­main­ing cou­ples face a 10-week con­test to ren­o­vate four run­down ter­race houses in in­ner-city South Melbourne.

The ter­races will be three storeys high — with at least three bed­rooms, 21/ bath­rooms, plus study ar­eas and two out­door ar­eas. There is no run­ning water. It is cruel, and Cam knows it. ‘‘ This se­ries is at least 30 per cent harder than the last one,’’ Cam chuck­les.

‘‘ The bones of the ter­races are great but there is so much ex­tra work go­ing up two more floors.

‘‘ All of these con­tes­tants had watched pre­vi­ous se­ries of The Block and thought they were pre­pared.

‘‘ What they face is daunt­ing. It has knocked them for six. Turns out they weren’t pre­pared at all — which we love.’’

This year’s con­tes­tants in­clude mother and son team, Brett and Rhana; broth­ers An­drew and Mike; new­ly­weds Dale and So­phie; fa­ther and daugh­ter Larry and Jessie; and the show’s youngest cou­ple Bren­dan and Michelle, both 22. Shel­ley Craft is the show’s ‘‘ chal­lenge queen’’. The rooms will be judged by Neale Whitaker, John Mcgrath and new re­cruit Shaynna Blaze.

When I ar­rive at the ter­races it is ap­par­ent that the con­tes­tants have bit­ten off far more than they can chew.

It is just over a week into the com­pe­ti­tion and the area looks like a bomb site. The floor is dirt and the backs of the homes de­mol­ished.

The con­tes­tants are dazed from lack of sleep. They are liv­ing like squat­ters. This year, The Block will be in di­rect com­pe­ti­tion with Ten’s high rat­ing Masterchef Australia in the 7pm time slot.

Cam is con­fi­dent The Block will win that stoush.

‘‘ The Block is easy fam­ily viewing,’’ Cam says. ‘‘ Mum, dad and the kids can sit down and in­vest them­selves in the con­tes­tants. They pick their favourites and fol­low them.’’ The Block, Chan­nel 9, Mon­day, 7pm Scant sym­pa­thy: Host of

Scott Cam.

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