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Pop CultureJune 30, 2017

Jane Yee on The Block: Sorting the Lings from the Zings


Jane Yee has committed to watching four-and-a-half hours of kiwi renos on TV every week for the foreseeable future. This week we meet the new batch of Block NZ contestants.

“Okay, fine.”

These two seemingly innocuous words have effed up my life for the next three months. They’re the words I reluctantly mumbled when asked if I would cover The Block NZ 2017 for The Spinoff. Last year I nearly went mad under the strain of watching four hours of Kiwi renos a week, but it’s a bit like childbirth isn’t it? At the time you swear you’ll never do it again, but then a year passes and you think, well it wasn’t that bad and next thing you know you’re back in the delivery suite screaming “what the hell have I done?”

Four and a half thousand teams applied for this season of The Block NZ, a paltry number to be sure, so production were forced to recycle last year’s cast. Here they are, representing the people of our wonderfully diverse population, your Block NZ teams for 2017.

And this time last year?

Look, The Block NZ is not about pushing boundaries okay? Unless they’re property ones. If it’s a ratings winner, for pity’s sake stick to the recipe:

Take a property on Auckland’s North Shore (for the third time) add a generous helping of sweet puns from Mark Richardson, a dash of smug lectures from the Wolf, massive handfuls of blokey blokeness from all the blokes, mix it all together with lashings of vanilla and voila! You’ve got yourself three months of weirdly addictive television hell.

Week one on The Block is always a confusing affair as you try to sort your Julias from your Alis and your Lings from your Zings. It’s overwhelming to commit to so much telly and you might be tempted to throw in the spirit level and just wait for season 4982 of MKR to kick off, but give it a few weeks and you’ll be right at home in Northcote with your eight new BFFs, and these here Power Rankings to keep you company.


Architect and lawyer by day, installation artists by night. They will witness your official papers, draw you up a bungalow extension and then whip you up a lovely work of site-specific art.

Julia and Ali have a lifelong advantage in that they’re identical twins. This means they can talk to each other through magical twin powers without opening their mouths.

This kind of sorcery is bound to come in handy over the course of the competition, though perhaps they should’ve employed it when discussing Stace’s creaky old lady bones on national television?

Undercover Ali and her identical sidekick are being framed as the trickiest tricksters that ever did trick because they do sneaky things like check on the other teams’ progress, plan their kitchen more than a few days in advance, pre-book heaters so they don’t get caught short with wet plaster and protest wrongly-awarded challenge wins. Common sense, good organisation and challenging a ref’s wildly inaccurate call have no place on The Block NZ, what do these crafty little twins think they’re playing at?

Look, to be honest I’m really only putting The Twins at the top of the rankings because I own a pair of twins myself and I feel sorry for their mother. Also, they chose their paint colours based on animals they have loved before, which I’m totally into, but most importantly if you take the T from “twin” you get “win”. Can’t argue with science.


“Nice people come second,” said The Twins after they snaked the win from The Besties in the Free For All challenge. So that’s where I’ve ranked the nice people, aka Stace and Yanita, Palmy’s loveliest exports since Benny Tipene. The ladies of House Four are efficient yogis whose secret weapon is their ability to namaste their way through the next twelve weeks of extreme pressure on-site and bizarre challenges off-site.

Also, did you clock Yanita’s amazing plait? Elsa would give her kingdom for a plait like that. You could hide another team’s gib in that bountiful braid, but I feel that advantage is wasted on these two – unlike those sneaky twins, these soul sisters are far too lovely to get up to any foul play.

Let’s just check that from another angle, shall we?

That woven wonder is not of this world. What even is life?


If you threw Pete and Andy from season two and Dyls and Dylz from season five into your Nutri Ninja, blitzed them up, then poured the contents into two pint glasses you’d have Ling and Zing.

Just some Chch bros with choice-as nicknames and comedy facial hair lounging about on bean bags in their stubbies and rugby tees on the back of a ute while the Speights sits on ice in the quad chiller, waiting for the boys to indulge in a coupla quiets. New Zealand, this is your life.

Although lingering around the lower end of this week’s rankings, The Ings have a shot at top spot thanks to their clutch performance in the first, and most important, challenge of the season. The win secured them first pick of the houses and if House One is indeed the best on offer then it doesn’t really matter what they do design-wise. As the illustrious Niki and Tiff learnt last year, you can conquer room reveals by boho-chic-ing the shit out of everything, but come auction day the best house will win – not necessarily the prettiest. That theory works in The Ings’ favour because early signs show that interior design is a bit of a Daryl for them.


One’s a fireman, the other’s a builder. Their names are Nate and Andy. They’re family men from the Waikato who gush about their wives and kids and can play a mean game of Duck Duck Goose. Team Yellow are a pair of good, honest Kiwi blokes who, on first impression, are well-placed to take out the Peoples’ Choice title come auction day.

However, it’s not all sunshine and solar showers for these two…

Like piles of gib blocking the hallway, the odds are stacked against our Block Blokes. Being in their thirties they are, by The Block NZ (and The Twins’) standards, positively geriatric. I’m in my thirties, I know how hard it is to get up in the morning. I know how my body betrays me if I eat too much Pita Pit. I know how impossible it is to be motivated after a night spent crying into my pillow over how fast the years have slipped by. So the question is, how will these old coots cope when they inevitably break a hip tripping over their own slippers?

Dicky tickers and brittle bones aren’t the only hurdles Andy and Nate will have to overcome on their Block journey. It seems even the most basic of design principles are over their heads, made apparent this week when they chose to paint the ceiling of their kids’ room pink. Because it’s for a girl, duh. So you know, PINK. Even the lady whose job it is to sell people pink paint didn’t want to sell them pink paint.

Also not being able to tell the difference between a leather armchair and a wooden desk may trip them up along the way too (won’t someone think of their hips?!)



The Twins ripped the Freedom Free For All Challenge win from The Besties after staging a protest and shaming out Shelley on the telly. Trying to find a chink in Julia and Ali’s cold, black hearts Stace and Yanita suggested The Twins might consider sharing their prize.


There were two great entries this week. One of the twins felt “elatic” during the whitewater challenge, but that didn’t make me lol as much as Andy’s vision of a “bedspoke four-post bed”


Peter Woflkamp’s main role on The Block is to freak out the contestants by convincing them an important building material probs won’t arrive in time, only to magic it up at the eleventh hour like a god among mortals.


Mother Andy just casually popped up to Auckland from Ohakune to drop off a mean feed for everyone. Hey Andy, wanna swap mums? Hahahahaha, just kidding Mum, love you, please stop reading my stuff and calling me out on it.

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