Darren Palmer reveals what viewers don’t see watching The Block

The Block stars Darren Palmer, Neale Wittaker, Shaynna Blaze and Scott Cam on location for season 2017 in Elsternwick, in 2017. Photo: Daniel Pockett
The Block stars Darren Palmer, Neale Wittaker, Shaynna Blaze and Scott Cam on location for season 2017 in Elsternwick, in 2017. Photo: Daniel Pockett

I often get stopped in the street or at events by people who have auditioned or want to audition for The Block. They ask what they need to do to be chosen, and passionately describe how they would love to be on the show with their partner, mother, neighbour or best friend.

My response to them is always the same: Be careful what you wish for.

With this season receiving 45,000 entries, these people aren’t alone in their desire to join The Block alumni, but it’s not all peaches and cream, so here are a few things people should know before they audition.

Still judging … Neale Whitaker, Darren Palmer and Shaynna Blaze. Photo: Channel Nine

Still judging … Neale Whitaker, Darren Palmer and Shaynna Blaze. Photo: Channel Nine

It’s hard

It looks fun on the TV, right? We all know it’s tough. We know it’s stressful. We know they don’t sleep on Saturday nights more often than not. We see all the strain, struggle and stress play out on TV so there’s no big surprise that it’s hard, right?

Well, if you ask anyone who has ever finished The Block, they will tell you the same thing. They knew it would be challenging, but they never realised just how hard it would be. The timeframes are around a third to a quarter of real-life timeframes. You have to choose tradesmen who can work on top of each other. You have to choose a builder who understands and respects you and your vision. You need to be respectful to the television crews that are always around you. You need to be respectful of other contestants and, most importantly, your partner.

All of this sounds doable in the warm glow of everyday sunshine, but within the pressure cooker environment of The Block stress levels go up, tempers become shorter, confidence levels drop and conflict arises. You need to be strong and adaptable to survive in this environment. You need to be kind to yourself, your team and your partner.

When you buy an apartment, you’re investing in part ownership of a building. Photo: Simon Schluter

When you buy an apartment, you’re investing in part ownership of a building. Photo: Simon Schluter

It takes a toll

Yep, the physical demands are considerable. There is hard, manual labour. There are always bouts of illness or some medical issue. That’s to be expected in life and so too in the show.

What you don’t expect, however, is the mental toll the competition can take, especially on those who have already put a lot of pressure on themselves and those around them to perform at their peak.

If you work hard you expect a positive result, but that isn’t always the case. Sometimes things go wrong or just don’t work as well as you’d hoped. Sometimes you might think the result is amazing, but when compared to an even better result presented by your fellow contestants, it doesn’t win. Imagine how you’d feel putting in your all and falling short. Now imagine being judged by three experts who tell you that you’ve fallen short and exactly why. Now imagine THAT playing out in front of the biggest non-sporting TV viewing audience in the country.

That’s right. You’d feel bad. You might feel angry. You might feel humiliated. You might just feel defeated.

Confidence is a great asset in the show and the erosion of confidence is a death knell to any contestant on The Block.

Darren Palmer says futuristic apps are revolutionary for our home security. Photo: Felix Forest

Darren Palmer says futuristic apps are revolutionary for our home security. Photo: Felix Forest

It’s not a guaranteed success

We’ve all seen people win huge amounts of money or, in some cases, nothing at all. The amount of work is the same, but the results can be, and are, wildly different from series to series, location to location and contestant to contestant. If you’re leaving your family and your everyday life for the chance to transform your wealth and your future, you can have your every desire exceeded.

By equal measure, you might end up with a lot of hard work, a great deal of new knowledge, an amazingly renovated property and memories of the experience of a life time, but not much else.

Such is the risk taken by every contestant, every season.

If you think that all of these things aren’t built in to the compassion we try to show the contestants each year, you’d be wrong. As judges on The Block, we’re always trying to guide, to inform and to educate where we can, if we see contestants struggling or moving towards a goal we think might not lead them to their best possible outcome.

When you’re watching the show, before you judge what you see too harshly, spare a thought for our contestants because, for all the magic and amazing experience they take away from The Block, it’s a pressure cooker environment with no guaranteed outcome.

Some people thrive and some fall, and we can only wish them all the best.

See Domain judge Alice Stolz on The Block every Wednesday night and head to The Block Hub for the behind the scenes news.

This story What you won’t see on TV when you watch The Block first appeared on The Inverell Times.