Everybody’s favourite “two fat tradies”, Mark Bowyer and Duncan Miller, are back for The Block All Stars but they’re half the men they used to be.
“They’re calling us the two flat tradies,” Bowyer says over the phone with a chuckle from the Tamworth country music festival.
Miller dropped 15kg when the pair first competed on The Block in 2010 and has lost 15kg since as well as another 8kg during filming of All Stars late last year.
Bowyer also shed 8kg last year during filming and received a wake-up call when he collapsed at the show’s Bondi building site and was taken to hospital.
While it didn’t end up being serious, the affable carpenter says it gave him the kick in the pants he needed.
“I’m fine, I’m actually better than before I went on The Block I think,” he says. “It was just my body’s way of saying ‘Hang on a minute, you’re a lot older than these people so slow down a little bit’. My health is fantastic now.”
In his absence, the show’s host and experienced builder Scott Cam and Miller’s wife Jenny stepped in to assist with the build.
“It upset me more than I thought it would actually,” Miller says from Silver Star Mountain in Canada where he is on his annual skiing trip with his wife and their four sons.
“Luckily, it wasn’t as bad as we originally thought and I think it might have been a much-needed wake-up call for him.”
Joining the boys on All Stars are season one contestants Phil Rankine and Amity Dry, season four’s Josh and Jenna Densten (they’re now married) and Dan Reilly and Dani Wales from last season.
It has been 10 years since the hit Nine series started with a Bondi block of units, and All Stars celebrates with a supersized sixth season. The teams have six weeks to renovate four almost-identical heritage-listed houses and this time they’ve been given more responsibility than ever, with free rein to design and build the back half of the homes which are not bound by the heritage listing.
Keith Schleiger returns as The Block foreman and the judging panel will consist of Neale Whittaker, Darren Palmer, Shaynna Blaze and John McGrath.
As the oldest All Star competitors, Sydneysiders Bowyer and Miller have a combined total of 50 years experience building and renovating houses.
But something they don’t have is a good track record with design and styling so they’ve been grilling their wives for tips and tricks.
“This time round I took the designing a lot more seriously,” says Miller who makes a living buying homes, renovating and then selling them.
“It was hard because I think the guys who stay back think that going out and shopping is a bit of a bludge. But really I think shopping is harder.
“A few times we went right through without any sleep and the last thing you want to do just before a room reveal is realising you’ve forgotten to get pillowcases because that’s what the judges will hound you on.”
Bowyer adds: “I looked after the construction side and Duncan looked after the design and we stuck to that so we knew what we were doing and didn’t step on each other’s toes. “I was more than happy with that, I don’t like shopping.”
Both agree adhering to the strict rules of a heritage listing was a huge curveball.
“We all struggled with the heritage listing. We went in there with preconceived notions of design and I thought it was an absolutely brilliant twist to throw at us because it made us all design from the word go evenly,” Miller explains.
Bowyer agrees: “It really changed everything for us. We were prepared for a renovation but it ended up being a restoration. It took everyone out of their comfort zones.”
While filming wrapped in mid-December, the houses will be auctioned soon and Bowyer and Miller are, as usual, facing it all with a broad grin. “We were honoured to be asked again because we had an absolute ball the first time around,” says Miller.
“I did say for two years that I’d never go back on it, it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done but I think it came at a really good time. After two years I’d forgotten how hard it was.
“It was harder than last time but it’s just so much bloody fun.”
The Block All Stars starts Monday at 7pm on Nine/WIN.