EntertainmentFilm & TV

Lego Masters arrives as MasterChef with bricks

But hoping for better things.

Nine’s new reality show Lego Masters promised to be a breath of totally fresh air. As a viewer for whom cooking contests have never really held much appeal, who finds the politics of survival competitions tedious and depressing, and for whom every episode of The Bachelor/Bachelorette or The Bachelor/Bachelorette in Paradise looks exactly like every other episode, this could be the one reality show to really get behind.

Lego was integral to so many childhoods and doubtless many others approached this program with similarly high hopes. And the actual building aspect of the competition really is excellent. The technical skills and the creativity of the builders are awesome. The Brick Pit is a room I want in my home.

The new show is helped by the fact that Hamish Blake seems to be as nerdish about the little plastic building blocks as the contestants on the show he’s hosting and is someone who’s relatable as well as entertaining.

This is a show that appeals at a visceral level to everyone whose childhood included long weekends spent sitting on the floor of their bedroom surrounded by a carpet of multi-coloured, multi-shaped pieces, giving expression to flights of imagination.

Unfortunately, unlike in the Lego Movie, not everything is awesome. It’s a show constructed from exactly the same building blocks as all the others. It’s MasterChef with bricks, when it could have been as fresh and imaginative as the skills the competition showcases. For a program that relies on the ability of its contestants to throw away the instructions and rely on their creativity, that’s a glaring disappointment.

It may yet change, but so far the countdown to deadline, the overwrought music, the irritating recaps – two minutes after the event they’re recapping – is all too familiar. At least Blake was self-aware enough to recognise this, insisting the Golden Lego Brick that gives its holder safety against elimination later in the competition is not an immunity brick.

Even the contestants are drawn directly from central casting: the anxious older contestant; the millennials who don’t listen to instructions; the annoying one; several appealing ones; the dark horses. The only real tweak to the standard format – and it’s a minor change – is that the builders work in pairs, so there’s at least the hope of an intra-team dynamic to spice things up. Looks like Kale and Bilsy might fall into that category, although thankfully Kale was ultimately convinced to retain Bilsy’s UFO.

That said, some of the creations for the show’s opening challenge (or “build” in Lego Masters-speak) were genuinely good. The Mega City challenge asked contestants to construct something suitable for a city block. Competition judge, Ryan “Brickman” McNaught, would assess the entries on creativity, passion, and technical skill, and the story behind the build. Cade and Henry’s treehouse was spectacular; David and G’s church was a small gem of engineering (but let down by its underlying story); and the hotel created by graphic designer Marielle and industrial designer Kaitlyn was a marvel. Hunter & Bligh’s tip: watch these two.

Miller and Jordan were let down by not listening to Brickman’s hints about building a “mega city, not a mega- Yarra Valley”; Maddy and Jimmy (or as they’re called at our place, Flatcap and Teeth) slightly underwhelmed, with a rather non-threatening monster attacking their building. And Gayan and Dinushi’s nightclub, or whatever it was, didn’t really hit the brief and there wasn’t a great story behind it. But the winners of the inaugural challenge were grandmother and grandson combo Lyn and Matt. Lyn used Lego as an incentive to toilet-train Matt, a fact he seems wholly unembarrassed by, and they’ve been building things together ever since. But don’t fall for Lyn’s façade of the dithery grandmother who doesn’t really know why she’s there.

Lego Masters Australia. Image via Channel 9

Lego Masters Australia. Image via Channel 9

Competitors were given 15 hours to complete their constructions, and while that seems like a long time, at least one of the contestant couples inevitably got their city block completed and in place at literally the last second. Anything to heighten the tensions, we guess.

Lego Masters is due to run three nights a week for three weeks. On the initial evidence, that seems about right because the ubiquity of its format so far may make it a bit tedious. We’ll stick with it, buoyed by the early hope that Blake can carry the show long enough to let the creativity and personalities of the contestants breakthrough to overcome the show’s predictability to make this a really memorable program, and a worthwhile addition to the reality TV genre.