When expectations are not reality on reality TV

On Sunday night we saw a huge disparity between prize money for The Block contestants, although it isn’t the first time this has happened on that TV show and others. But is it just par for the course? Is reality TV giving the contestants an unrealistic view and expectation of fame and fortune?

The Block is just one example that I can think of where it seems the “stars” are hyped up to receive this grandiose pay out at the end. Sure, you have worked very hard and think you should have a reward, but what do you expect? Isn’t the nature of a competition that some will leave empty-handed and some will have more than they know what to do with? If every contestant on Millionaire Hot Seat had a hissy fit when they answered every question up until the second last, and the next person wins the prize money, I would have…well, a million dollars. But they don’t. Perhaps it’s because those producers make it clear that they aren’t guaranteed anything, I’m not sure. It makes you wonder what The Block participants were told…but no matter what, it is ridiculous to think that a game of chance that involves an auction (for heaven’s sake) can 10 times out of 10 make you $100,000+ richer – it’s just not a reasonable expectation. Sure, Dee and Darren are parents and could do with more than 10,000 but conversely, who would really forego seeing their children so they could go on a show, albeit one of the most difficult and draining on TV? You have to work 7 days a week! It doesn’t exactly sound like a pay-off, money or no money, if you miss out on that much time with your family. Even Maxine and Karstan came away with little pocket money, but at least they got to have a romantic wedding….televised to over 2 million! If they say they just wanted the money, I think they are kidding themselves.

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Reality TV came about in the early 2000s with the creation of shows like Survivor and Big Brother, and has seemingly spiralled out of control since then – every second show on our screens is a reality show with wannabes and people looking for a taste of that fame – you know, the fame that oftentimes pushes celebrities to the brink. There doesn’t seem to be anything glamorous about being “famous”, other than the money, the money that you’re not even guaranteed to receive. IT is almost an exercise in self-harm.

Big Brother is a good example of a show purely created for people who want to be seen and be spoken about. Since Nine took over the program, they have made no attempt to hide their obvious casting – the last three years of housemates are aspiring models and actors. Putting the prize money aside for a moment, the promise of fame after the show is there: these people have seen former contestants go on to star in Neighbours, become a Gold Logie nominee, host talk shows, work on radio, and so on. But do the producers really prepare the stars of their shows to deal with the downsides of fame?

Years ago, a reality show contestant would be considered as a B or C-grade celebrity, but now? It’s as if they’ve all gone into the Abyss of Forgotten Whatshernames and Whathisfaces. The same goes for X Factor and other shows that are consistently branded as the place where stars are born and that the winner will get a record contract. However, most who win these talent shows go in the aforementioned abyss and are nowhere to be seen mere months later. It can almost feel as if winning a reality show is a curse, not a blessing. Take Casey Donovan from Australian Idol in 2004 – she won at age 16 and was just a blip on the radar a year later. Nowadays, she has nowhere near the success or fame that she was seemingly promised. She was promising but was just not marketable.

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This also begs the conundrum: who is to blame for the aftermath of a reality show? Do the producers have a duty to care for the contestants or should it be in the hands of the person? It’s hard to say, but one thing that is for sure is that reality television is an indulgence, both for the viewer and the participant, and not all indulgences are good for you.


What do you think? Do you watch reality TV? Do you think that reality TV stars should put effort in to pursue their own careers after their 15 minutes of fame, or do producers have to be more honest/upfront about what to expect? Tell us below.