Real estate reality rumble: Why Grand Designs’ Peter Maddison is wrong about The Block

The Block

Sniffy architect calls for ‘amateur contestants’ to be banned from television

‘Grand Designs Australia host Peter Maddison blasts The Block’ screamed the dream headline from a story originating from News Corp Australia Sunday papers.

It’s not every day that a TV host will go on the front foot and slam a rival program. But that’s exactly what the host of Foxtel’s Grand Designs Australia host Peter Maddison did as he drummed up publicity for the final remaining episodes of his run as host of the successful Fremantle home renovation format.

The original interview was conducted by Melbourne-based journalist Siobhan Duck for a feature in the News Corp Australia TV lift-out Binge.

Where the criticisms of The Block first appeared

The original item featured a much gentler headline “Room service”. However, the news editors of some of Australia’s biggest websites jumped all over it. When it appeared online The Daily Telegraph went with “‘Should be banned’: TV host calls for The Block cancellation”. used the headline quoted above “Blasts The Block” while Daily Mail Australia went with the lengthy “Grand Designs Australia host Peter Maddison blasts The Block and says it should be BANNED from TV: ‘It’s absolute bloody nonsense’.”

Duck loaded all the dynamite at the start of her Peter Maddison interview in Binge:

The popularity of shows such as The Block are a source of growing frustration for Grand Designs Australia host Peter Maddison.

An architect by trade, Maddison says the fast and flashy renovations undertaken by amateur contestants give viewers unrealistic expectations about what goes into building projects.

“I hate The Block; it’s absolute bloody nonsense,” he tells The Binge Guide candidly ahead of his final outing at the helm of Grand Designs Australia.

“It should be banned from television because it leaves people with the false aspirations that they can become – in inverted commas – a project manager or a builder or a designer.

“It’s a joke. It’s a very bad example of the reality of building, the responsibilities around that and the difficulty of it all. They make it look very easy.”

The Block

Scott Cam with the 2022 Blockheads

Ouch. Maddison didn’t hold back. He went on to talk about his program having integrity, implying the opposition didn’t. Having interviewed Maddison several times across his journey for Mediaweek, he was perhaps trying a bit of showbiz hostility towards a TV competitor. But the interview didn’t indicate he wasn’t being completely sincere.

However, Peter Maddison is wrong. He completely underestimates the talents of the “amateur contestants” and what they achieve across just 12 weeks.

Plus there is one main criteria when judging the success of a TV show – ratings. On that score, The Block remains unbeatable. And the best-built TV show on the street.

The Nine format was created by executive producers Julian Cress and David Barbour two decades ago and famously had two successful seasons in 2003 and 2004 before Nine put it on the shelf.

The format was bravely reignited in 2010 and hasn’t looked back since with another 16 series since then.

Despite a challenging auction process with The Block: Tree Change this year, the format remains the biggest show on Australian TV. The two executive producers, Cress and Barbour have remained with the format along with Nine executive producer Justin Sturzaker who has been with the series since the 2010 reboot.

Nine’s EP Julian Sturzaker with Cavalier TV’s David Barbour and Julian Cress and The Block host Scotty Cam

Together this TV dream team delivered 51 episodes in 2022 which delivered Blockbuster ratings and revenue for Nine. The details of the revenue generated aren’t shared, but they must be substantial. The broadcaster detailed 15 partnership agreements for sponsors of season 18.

Helping drive the revenue for The Block is product placement. Something that Nine stepped up when the format returned in 2010. Maddison notes in his interview “there is no product placement in our show”.

The ratings are there for everyone to see each morning at 10am. Although remaining the highest-rating series on TV, the live TV viewing number were the smallest for The Block final since 2010 and the second-smallest ever. However, ever the live audience figure smashed well above 1m, something that TV executives can only dream about for most other formats.

Maddison has also managed to pilot a format that rates well for the Foxtel platform. Now after 100+ episodes Grand Designs Australia is being rebooted for FTA TV and will have another host in its new home.

The Grand Designs host’s main criticism is “amateur contestants give viewers unrealistic expectations”. That seems a bit like slamming The Bachelor for giving people unreal expectations about love. Or viewers of MasterChef getting the wrong impression about cooking dinner for the family.

Peter Maddison celebrates 100 episodes. Photographed with UK host Kevin McCloud

Anybody watching The Block would understand the projects the contestants are dropped into have had significant structural work undertaken before the contestants are let loose on the room builds. If they don’t, they haven’t been watching closely enough.

If there is a criticism to be made of Maddison’s program it might be that the program seems to feature a lot of architects and/or builders who are able to manage what others wouldn’t be able to achieve. Should it be banned too?

Both The Block and Grand Designs Australia have earned their place in the history books as formats that have found solid fan bases, and both deserve their success. In hoping to score some publicity for his program, it’s a pity Maddison didn’t acknowledge some of the achievements of his real estate reality competition.

To Top