Screen Savors: Not on my block

The pain and headache of renovating your own apartment might just be preferable to watching Channel 10's 'The Block.'

The neighbors did renovations a few months ago. We suffered drilling, pounding, smashing and booming for weeks. Our electricity would go out at unpredictable hours. It wasn't a pretty sight. Neither is Channel 10's new Saturday night reality series The Block, based on an Australian series, in which five couples move into five apartments in a rundown Tel Aviv apartment building. The five couples have to design and renovate the apartments, the winner being the one that can sell their place for the most money. Maybe it's that my own flat's been looking a bit scruffy lately that turned me off to this show, which is well tasked as Channel 10's replacement for the ratings hit Survivor. Really it's the contestants and judges, with hardly a likeable pair among them. Even Gal and Assaf, the featured gay couple now standard on such programs, spent way too much time arguing to be completely ingratiating. Also, there's nothing here we all haven't seen before. The couples drive up to the building in fancy vans supplied by the producers. They then rush in to see which wreck of a place they've gotten. There's the "mail" sent via pneumatic tube summoning them to challenges or meetings. Of course, included is the standard back and forth between contestants and resulting interviews where the couples reflect on various embarrassing or challenging moments. It is the stuff of practically every reality series. What did surprise me was how downright stupid and rude some of the contestants were. First, two of the women showed up - to what they knew would be a construction site - in heels. And, when one of the couples, hoping aloud, that the others had really bad taste, he said, "Actually, we'd prefer blind people." What a creep. Cringing was inevitable each and every time Maya called Elad "baby." And, with a mouth like a sailor, you might to keep the kids away from the set anytime Maya's on screen. We also couldn't stand Ohad, partnered with Sarit, who loves her because "she's clean, smells good…she's mine, with everything that goes with that." Yech. Although we did get a chuckle when Assaf admitted in their "get to know the participants" segment, that Gal "was the first guy I ever started with in my life. He was tall, blonde with blue eyes, and I'm a Moroccan - I always wanted an Ashkenazi." Soon enough the five couples were trying to clear enough floor space to bed down for the night - which didn't prove easy. Spoiled Sarit complained that, "I had better conditions in the army." Sarah, partnered with Opher, who've been together for nine months but still don't live together, compared the experience to "swimming in deep water with the sharks and the jellyfish." With these folks, I'd take the marine environment. REPLETE WITH the ubiquitous reality-show tasks, their first came the next morning - assembling a bed provided by a local furniture store. Split into girls and guys, the former, including Assaf, did the assembling, with the guys reading them instructions from a perch in a tower several blocks away, following their partners with telescopes. While I've never been much on assembling anything that came unassembled from a store, even this contest wasn't too exciting. The couples then turned to the matter at hand - presenting their design ideas to the judges, who include the tough as nails Barbara. "I'm always right," she asserts. The two participants with design backgrounds had their plans rejected, while a green light was given to those with no prior experience. Shocking. At the episodes end, Sarah, whose plan was rejected, appeared determined not to be denied - and to cut off Opher's head. He blabbed too much during the presentation she said. The plot thickens. While the favorite couple seems to be Assaf and Gal, I hope Maureen the hairdresser and Kiko the shiputznik win. They've vowed to give the proceeds to their daughter Noa, who they've abandoned for the three months of the contest, which should help pay for the shrink she'll undoubtedly need. Whoever wins, we hope the show is condemned to poor ratings. If you like apartment fix-up shows, stick with the ones BBC Prime runs most afternoons. As for The Block, I'm just happy I'm not living next door while the renovations are going on, and suggest viewers stay away, too. The Block airs on Channel 10 on Saturday nights at 9 p.m.