The hidden cost of reality TV. Why even winners end up losing everything.

For most ordinary Australians, the premise of reality TV is amazing.

Ditch your stable, boring job in an industry you don’t care about for a wild ride on the rollercoaster of opportunity!

 Reality TV, after all, is your springboard to a better place. Haven’t you seen that little rundown after people get eliminated from Masterchef? Everyone is a chef now! They’re all “pursuing their food dreams”!


Well, not quite.

It turns out leaving your career to go on reality TV can harm your finances more than most contestants would like to admit.

Earlier this week, we discovered that the stars of Logie-winning show Gogglebox are paid barely enough to cover the booze for the episode.

Luckily for them, Gogglebox is a once-a-week gig in their own homes, and their participation in the show doesn’t necessitate quitting their day jobs.

Contestants on other programs aren’t as lucky, with the stars of My Kitchen Rules, The Block, Masterchef, The X Factor and Australia’s Got Talent all expected to devote weeks upon weeks of time entirely to filming.

The truth will come as no surprise (except, perhaps, for the contestants themselves): If you don’t win, you’ve very likely wasted your time. Rarely, a first or second runner up will find success as a result of their exposure, but the chances of that are about as slim as the chances of winning in the first place.

Read: if you’ve recently been eliminated from a reality television program, you better get on the phone to your boss and start begging.

Recently eliminated Masterchef contestant Nidhi went back to her call centre job after the show.

But what might shock avid viewers of renovation shows is that those amazing house transformations - you know, the ones where everyone cries and talks about how much it's changed their lives - can actually cost families more to fix up in the long run.

One couple on American reality TV show Love It or List It spoke to Co.Design about their experiences letting amateurs do a "surprise" renovation on their family home. Only months after being amazed by their new and improved abode, Deena Murphy and Timothy Sullivan realised that things were quickly going downhill.


The beautiful new fixtures were falling apart. New walls were beginning to crumble. In their own words, they were stuck with an "irreparably damaged" house.

The cost to make the house liveable again $85,000 - and by this time, the cameras and production crew were nowhere to be seen.

They footed the cost of the renovations themselves and swore off reality TV for life.

My Kitchen Rules winners Tasia and Grazia are among the lucky winners, but even they made sacrifices to participate in the show.

Video via Channel 7

It makes sense when you think about it. How can you expect renovation rookies not to cause any structural damage when they're let loose with their hammers and... other tools? (Clearly, I am also a renovation rookie).

Reality TV shows thrive on drama. They want things to go wrong. They purport to offer a "dream" to contestants: fame, love, fortune, a beautiful new house at no cost.

But in most cases, that dream is nothing more than a fiction for the cameras.

And too often, it's at the expense of real people.