All dressed up and hoping to sell houses. I hope none of them pass in...

What a week for reality television. The Block finished to some of the biggest ratings of the year, helping Channel 9 secure a massive 42% share of the primary viewing audience for the night (unprecedented for them in 2011… and all of 2010). But this bonanza was not without controversy. Only one house sold at the finale auction, leaving the other three contestants wondering what their effort was all for in the end. It didn’t help that 24 hours after the auction the house of “the Mums” Katrina and Aime sold for the reserve price, leaving them with no profit and therefore no cash prize that they were clearly expecting.

In the midst of this, Ch9’s other big reality program Top Design has suffered the indignity everyone was expecting – a schedule change that has bumped it to 10:30pm on the primary channel, however it is getting an 8:30pm airing on GEM on the same night. Given it’s ratings, some may consider it a mercy killing. Sadly it suffered from the start with a poorly pitched promo (Jamie’s Bunch, anyone?), launched in the midst of the juggernaut that was The Block and the early stages of Ch10’s now-pending white elephant The Renovators, Top Design never really had the chance to gain an audience. Though I’ll offer I’ve enjoyed all three.

I’ve gotten to know some of the Top Design contestants on Twitter, including “Invader” Chris Dwyer, and enjoy the weekly analysis he and the other contestants offer as the show goes to air. It’s funny, insightful and you can see the nerves in the tweets – this is the first time the contestants are seeing how they are portrayed. They are a lot of fun.

I received the following thoughts from Chris yesterday, and given the events of the week they are even more sobering. Some good pragmatism amidst the echo chamber of a media (and viewing public) all looking to find someone to blame for the “horror” of the finale of The Block. I hope for the sake of Chris and the other Top design contestants they get to see their show through to the end. They deserve it.

Personally, I love The Block and like most of Australia, I was a little disappointed in the anticlimactic feeling I had when watching the finale last night. But then I remembered… this is a reality show like any other. There are some winners, and then there are some losers.

Having just finished filming on Top Design myself, I could sympathize with these guys. They were excited. This was their moment. They had all worked so hard and now it was time to reap the rewards. However, for 75% of them, this would not be the case. They had given up 8 weeks of their lives, seemingly for nothing. What a waste right? Well… in my opinion, no. Not really.

It got me thinking about my show, Top Design. The show started with 10 contestants, with 3 (myself included) being introduced later. So there were essentially 13 of us in the running… but there would only be one winner. Our filming period was 9 weeks, and every one of us had agreed to cut all contact with the outside world and commit this time to the show… and we all knew the odds before a single tin of paint was opened.

Think about it this way: Dan (who was just eliminated from Top Design on Wednesday night) gave up 6 weeks of his life for this show, yet did not make the grade and walked away with nothing. By the time the Finale airs, 12 people will have given up 9 weeks of their lives to be on the show, yet would not see a cent of the grand prize winnings.

That’s life on a Reality Show.

And it’s not just us. I mean look at other shows like Big Brother, X Factor, Top Model, Project Runway, Australia’s Got Talent, The Biggest Loser… even HomeMade. These shows only have one winner… yet every one of the contestants have given up a lot to be there.

I know Rod, Tanya, Katrina, Aimee, Josh and Jenna all worked like crazy on their houses, and believe me, I can understand what they went through. Although it may not look that way, our filming and building requirements were quite similar. Ours seemed much quicker and more rushed as our show needed to cram 4 or 5 days into 1 hr a week – as opposed to The Block where we would watch their progress each day. Having spoken to a few of the ‘Blockies’, I can assure you we were all just as tired and worn out as they were (with no more than 5 hrs of sleep each night). Admittedly, we did have a nice house to go back to each day, but from a time and production point of view, the pressure was comparable.

The one thing I can say for these guys is that there is more to being a reality contestant than just the grand prize. There is much more. The Block was a massive hit and everyone now knows who these people are. They are household names… and I’d say they are pretty hot property at the moment. Endorsement deals, job offers and media commitments would be flooding their inboxes this very second.

So just as they did when filling out the application to be a contestant on The Block, they need to seize the moment and create their own destiny while riding the wave of The Block’s success. Like every other personality on a reality show… It’s all up to them from here.