The Block Debacle: Should Reality TV Contestants Expect A Fairytale Ending?

Last night’s The Block Glasshouse finale on the Nine Network was like a bad case of déjà vu for reality TV fans – with extreme giddy highs and lows; it was eerily reminiscent of the clusterfuck that was The Bachelor climax, but just with a different kind of heartbreak for contestants. For this year’s The Block contestants it wasn’t heartbreak ala The Bachelor over having to watch your loved one get pashed/fondled by scores of others (well, 30).

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Instead, it was monetary pain and trauma akin to being kicked in the guts after Tasmania’s “sophisticated hipsters”, Aussie larrikin brothers Simon and Shannon (pictured below) won the series with a huge profit, while three out of the five other couples won just $60,000 between them.

It was arguably the most dramatic auction in the show’s nine-year history – an emotional rollercoaster for us armchair bandits, not to mention the show’s actual contestants.

But first, we had the wedding joy to sit through after Ken and Barbie, sorry Blockheads Max and Karstan, decided to get hitched during the show finale.
I’m not ashamed to say I shed a tear during their touching wedding, all my cynicism over their showbiz wedding dissipated during the audience-pleasing show opener if there ever was one, despite it being conducted by awkward Aussie ocker Scott Cam. How that man won both a Silver and Gold

Logie is beyond me, but that’s a whole other story.

There’s a far more tragic one at hand after the warm fuzzies from the moving nuptials were soon to be replaced with the horror and heartbreak of watching The Block’s gripping and shocking auction.

I must say I was extremely happy to see the show’s resident underdogs Chris and Jenna pull off the seemingly impossible, selling their apartment for $1.81 million, scoring a whopping $310,000 profit as a result – despite seemingly drawing the short straw and going first at auction.

Their triumphant good fortune certainly raises some interesting questions after The Block judges Neale Whitaker, Shaynna Blaze and Darren Palmer continually bagged them each week. Are the judges out of touch with what buyers actually want? Or did going first at auction, not by choice, actually set Chris and Jenna up for success?

Next up, the show’s eventual winners, Simon and Shannon, sold their apartment very quickly for $1.9 million, which saw them pocket an amazing $435,000, including $100,000 for coming in first place in the series.

Unfortunately, it became horribly obvious that the money was starting to dry out by the third auction, after Newlyweds Max and Karstan then won $40,000 for their five months of labour, then poor Dee and Darren and Michael and Carlene took home just $10,000 profit each.

The Block Glasshouse

Now, $10,000 might sound substantial initially, but when you take into account the losing couples’ months of hard labour of back-breaking renovation work, it really isn’t much compensation. It wouldn’t even pay for their counselling bills! For there’s the emotional cost of having to leave their loved ones for months on end, including a sick daughter in poor Dee and Darren’s case.

Then there are their real-world expenses, such as mortgages, that they still had to cover. And with no Lotto-like, life-changing windfall for three out of the five couples, there’s now talk of Dee and Darren (pictured) considering legal action against the show after their five-month renovation effort didn’t pay off. Were the couples’ reserves just too damn high?

The Block Glasshouse

And I don’t know about you, but I was so gutted for the couples who only took home $10,000 each that it fleetingly crossed my mind to hope that the winning brothers might find it within their hearts to give the others some money? Would you, if you were in their shoes? I like to think that I would – although just like life in this instance, this reality TV show’s competition result arguably wasn’t fair. Instead, Simon and Shannon are reportedly off on a surfing trip in Bali with their winnings.

So, this entire debacle got me thinking: is it actually extremely naive of we, the audience, not to mention reality TV show participants, to actually expect a happy fairytale ending at each show’s end?

When TV show contestants sign up for a reality show – and they do so willingly, remember – how can they not realise they’re now at the mercy of reality TV show’s dastardly producers? After all, it isn’t reality; it’s actually a competitive game to win, whether it be someone’s heart, or a shitload of money.

The ancient Romans had the Colosseum – we, the bloodthirsty Australian public have the blood sport that is reality TV. And so a happy ending isn’t actually, well, very often an actual reality.

It’d be fascinating to interview reality TV show contestants a few months down the track after they’ve exited our TVs, and our lives, to ask them if it was all worth it. Didn’t it ever occur to them that they wouldn’t come out on top? Why the sense of entitlement at the end?

And while I’m sure reality TV attracts its fair share of fame whore contestants, who may benefit, however fleetingly, from the camera’s unrelenting gaze – a select few with the right looks and personality do go on to forge successful TV/radio careers – are others just too silly and trusting to realise their lives will be gambled for our entertainment?

Do the losing Blockheads Darren and Dee and Michael and Carlene really deserve our utmost sympathy? Or, are their financial woes just what they signed up for?

What do you think?