reality tv

The difference between reality TV and reality

Today, straight from the Department of the Bleeding Obvious, a former contestant from The Block explained how renovating on TV isn’t quite the same as renovating your own home in real life. Shut the front door! Really? You can read that story here and this is what I wrote on the topic a little while back.

Back in the olden days before we met and life turned into non-stop unicorn meat with sparkle gravy for dinner, JD was involved in a reality TV renovation show. He’d originally been asked to audition for the host role (think Scott Cam) but they decided to go with someone younger (think Jamie Durie in his Backyard Blitz days). However, he got a call a couple of months later when the producers realised that they needed someone who could actually, you know, build. So, he grabbed his tool belt and headed for the bright lights of television as the site supervisor. What he found there did not leave him overly impressed.

Renovations and building projects do not happen in three days. They are a triumph of scheduling and logistics and in the real world, that often means delays as tradesmen take longer than expected, or get caught up on someone else’s job or are waiting for supplies.

Renovations do not cost what they tell you on TV. The project costs quoted on most television shows only include materials, not labour. JD had up to 20 tradies on site at an average of $80 per hour for up to 12 hours a day. That’s almost $20,000 a day just in labour.

In the real world, you demolish something and it stays demolished. In TV land, JD once had to re-install a window just so that they could take it out again with the cameras rolling. Efficient.

TV renovating shows care more about their ratings than they do about your renovation. JD worked with one couple for weeks on their renovation before filming started – plans, materials and fixtures. Then the show got cancelled and so did their renovation – leaving them with a half-packed up house and a tired kitchen. He was heartbroken and I suspect they felt the same.

So, when you’re planning your renovation, make sure you’re basing your costs and timings around the real world, not reality TV world.

What’s your favourite renovating show? If JD turned up at your place with 20 tradies and a camera crew, what would you like him to change at your place?


  • Denyse Whelan Blogs

    My hub has been a kitchen builder and when he used to watch the home reno shows he would be shaking his head. His mate who owned the cutting and board supply place sometimes got asked to be part of these show, for the ‘exposure’ and the guys got to wear their labelled clothing. Woot! Still, I am somewhat addicted to some of these shows..I like My Dream House on Foxtel because they keep some of it very real once they find all sorts of problems in the reno.
    Great post! Denyse #teamIBOT


      Hi Denyse, yes my builder husband literally pops a fuse if he watches these shows. I do love My Dream House because Jonathan definitely keeps it real with all the problems they uncover. Thanks for visiting!

  • Hugzilla

    YES YES YES!! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!! Hubby and I love watching those shows almost as much as we like to bitch about how UNREALISTIC they are. Thank you. I really wish there was more transparency on those shows, particularly with regards to costs and budgets. Sorry, I don’t normally spam comments with links to my blog, but this week’s post is somewhat relevant to yours.

  • Deborah

    I actually don’t watch any of the renovating shows Alix. I don’t watch cooking shows either – normally… but got sucked into Masterchef late in the last season.

    And yes I know that reality TV is far from real. I knew someone on The Biggest Loser years ago who was brutally honest about what that was like!

    There’s a US show called UnReal – and it’s the spoof of a Bachelor type show and it’s hilarious. And scary!


      I think “reality” shows in general are so weird cos they’re really not reality at all – they are this strange third place between real life and scripted shows. But our society seems to love it – and get the two mixed up! I need to track down UnReal – thanks for the tip!

  • kit@lifethroughthehaze

    I don’t watch the reality shows for that exact reason. It gives such a false impression of what is actually achievable by the average Joe!

    Thanks for reminding us to keep it real as opposed to thinking our home is part of a reality tv project!


      Hi Kit – yep, getting building advice from a reality TV show is not a good idea! Thanks for visiting.

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