TV’s biggest prizes nobody turned up for…

Some TV shows are forced to give away their contest prizes long after the audience has switched off.

The joke around flop finales that are committed to giving away big prizes is that the network is sometimes forking out $1 per viewer.

Earlier this month just 134,000 metro viewers watched as 10’s Making It gave $100,000 to its winner, NSW prop maker George. As with almost every case, the network didn’t even muster the energy to send out a press release.

But Making It is not alone in the annals of Australian TV in dishing out big competition prizes long after the audience has given up. Be warned Big Brother: VIP could be next.

Here are some of the memorable ones…

2004: The Hot House, 10: $2,000,000
A catastrophic flop for 10, this ambitious show saw couples building a Bribie Island house with one set to win the whole thing, including two cars, and a boat. Failing badly against Frasier repeats, Home and Away and ABC News, the network tried to inject an intruder working class couple (and that’s putting it nicely) just to shake things up.

2014: The Big Adventure, Seven: $1,000,000
Part-Survivor, part glorified-radio-contest, Seven’s reality series had a Fijian backdrop and a lot of moolah. The point of the show? Contestants had to compete in challenges for the chance to dig for a golden key, only one of which would unlock a million dollars. Alas the finale was beaten by a repeat of The Big Bang Theory with readers eventually voting it the year’s “Worst Show” in the TV Tonight Awards 2014.

2012: I Will Survive, 10: $250,000
Competing drag queens on a bus in the outback, hosted by Hugh Sheridan? Yep there’s gold right there. The prize included agent representation in the US and a showcase opportunity on Broadway but only 321,000 tuned in to see it play out. The winner did go on to perform in Legally Blonde at the Sydney Lyric Theatre …but Mike Snell where are you now?

2009: Australia’s Perfect Couple, Nine: $210,000.
Just what was the point of Australia’s Perfect Couple hosted by Jules Lund (and you’d thought we’d forgotten)? Anyone would think that’s like making a show about Australia’s perfect parents. Oh wait. Couple’s knowledge of each other was put to the test in a competition where their devotion to their partner overshadowed their need to win $210,000 in prize money. The remaining participants won a handycam, MP3 player and camera. In the same year MasterChef gave away a ‘paltry’ $100,000 to Julie Goodwin, and 3.7m Aussies tuned in for that one.

2015: Restaurant Revolution, Seven: $200,000
These restaurants were constructed out of shipping containers (who wouldn’t want to eat in one of those?) with Jock Zonfrillo as a “Secret Critic.” It wasn’t until 11:15pm that Adelaide’s 28 St restaurant was announced as winner of this restaurant contest. An expensive flop, the show had been cut down from its original plan of multi-nights across the week to a single night at 9:30pm.

2013: The Mole, Seven: $180,000
Revived reality contest hosted by Shura Taft handed out $180,000 in the off-Broadway time of 11:45pm – because the finale didn’t start until 10:30pm. Despite much enthusiasm to its return readers were critical of the amount of episodes and the lack of weekly eliminations.

2012: Excess Baggage, Nine: $100,000
Who wouldn’t be interested in watching Robert “Dipper” DiPierdomenico, Christine Anu, Darryn Lyons and Ajay Rochester losing weight? Half the country it seems. Finishing its run on 9GO! to just 44,000 viewers it was an expensive flop. By contrast Neighbours had 257,000 and Dance Academy 96,000 in the same multichannel timeslot. Ouch.

2021: Making It, 10: $100,000.
Even yours truly thought a show about craft would work when our two biggest cities were in lockdown, but it was not to be. 10 bumped this show to Saturday nights where the finale was watched by just 134,000 people.

2009: homeMADE, Nine: $100,000.
This renovation series was actually created by The Block‘s Julian Cress and David Barbour. But viewers didn’t warm to the idea of home makeovers during a recession, and the network was forced to remove the show from its Sunday schedule after several weeks. Nine had made big promises to its advertisers and ended up screening two episodes on Tuesdays, a classic case of ‘burning off.’

2011: Top Design, Nine: $100,000.
Another reno show, another big prize nobody saw awarded. It kicked off with contestants renovating more shipping containers which host Jamie Durie suggested could double as “innovative and affordable housing.” Say what? Just over 200,000 viewers tuned in for the big finish, ending after 11:30pm.

2017: The Biggest Loser, 10: $100,000
To be fair there were many highly successful seasons of Biggest Loser, but the “Transformed” season was pulled from primetime and moved to a daytime slot at 1:00 pm -where its reruns had been sitting. The live finale aired at 11am in the middle of Studio 10 and was watched by 92,000 viewers -possibly one of daytime TV’s biggest cash giveaways?

39 Responses

  1. not “big” prizes, but remember Wheel Of Fortune after getting cancelled w/ Larry Emdur in 06, dumped its unaired 2005 season with Steve Oemcke at 10am weekdays – not the most ceremonious of departures for a classic game show

  2. I remember the Hot House. I really liked that one. My friends & I went there to see them but they were all at the beach that day. Very disappointed. There was another one on 10 at around the same time. Can’t remember the name but they went to Fiji I think it was to rebuild a resort. It got axed & they didn’t even finish the renovations.

  3. with ‘The Biggest Loser’ i think it started to become a bit ‘on the nose’ with people generally, they realized getting contestants to lose the most amount of weight in the shortest amount of time might not necessarily be terribly healthy (both physically & mentally). There were alot of follow up stories about how many of those people ended up putting most or all of the weight back on after the show ended.

    Still the show managed to entertain thousands of viewers with the exploitation of overweight people for over a decade. To be fair though, i don’t think it started out that way but the ‘challenges’ became more ridiculously over the top in the later years.

  4. Like most in the comments, loved the Mole and have been hoping for a revival. Seems the interest is definitely there – but it would have to be its original format and one night a week, which I just can’t see anyone doing. Maybe seven would do a two week special event like DWTS (tbf, I wouldn’t be made at this. Just no four nights a week for six weekss with twists and turns for this type of show).

    There is a show in the Netherlands called “the traitors” (which I think USA and uk have also picked up for local adaptations). Premises is three people selected as traitors and lie. Netherlands production values are pretty low, but concept isn’t too bad tbh.

  5. I’d love to see a The Mole revival. It’s still in production in some European countries after all these years so it’s a popular format. Another person mentioned in the comments in another article on TV Tonight that it might be coming to Netflix but I don’t use Netflix and would prefer it on free-to-air where it’s accessible to everyone that has a TV.

    In terms of television prize monies, there was a time when Sale of the Century would offer somewhere in the range of $100,000 or not far above, possibly in the range of $130,000 as a prize or prize pool. At the time, it was considered to be very large and impressive, though Who Wants To Be A Millionaire came along and the large prize money on offer was a huge factor in its appeal and popularity.

  6. Personally, I thought The Big Adventure wasn’t too bad. Just surprised they had a million dollar prize in the first season of a new show.

    Also, Loved The Mole – every iteration -whether hosted by Grant Bowler, Tom Williams or Shura Taft. I hope it makes a comeback one day!

  7. Maybe 10 can relaunch The Mole with Grant Bowler.

    And The Hot House! Now that’s a throwback. I remember that bogan intruder couple, the man was rough as guts. I also vaguely remember chatter that the winning couple was linked to the production crew or something like that.

      1. It was basically the profits the resort made during the season (why anyone would pay to holiday in a construction site, who knows). Since the season never finished, there was no prize to award to the players who still remained.

  8. I don’t know whether it had any prizes, but Yummy Mummies on Seven up against Australian Ninja Warrior must surely qualify as the biggest flop of the past few years

    1. i had forgotten all about that show, i Googled it to find out who was on it (a bunch of women no one had heard of it seems), and was surprised to find its available on 7 Plus. So if anyone missed out there’s your chance lol.

      The comments under ‘criticism’ section of it’s Wikipedia entry are hilarious.

  9. Seven ruined The Mole when they revamped it. It was such a good series but like everything Seven does, they always seem to mess up a good thing eventually. They did it with MKR and House Rules too in the latter seasons which is why they disappeared off our screens. They added extra twists and turns that the show really didn’t need. But looking back at this list, yeah there has been some really really big flops on our screens.

  10. Ah, The Hot House. I still remember that hilariously awful theme music with the whispery female vocals like it was yesterday…

    The Hot House… Hot! Hot! Hot!

    I’ll confess that I have searched online to hear those sweet words again to no avail over the years.

    The Resort, which launched at around the same time, was another flop for Ten.

    1. The Resort was initially in my list for this story, but no finale ever screened and I could find no info on the intended cash prize (only that 10 hoped to sort something out). The list is not a list of biggest flops, which I’ve done before, but shows where a lot of money was given away with very few viewers remaining.

  11. I wish 7 persevered with The Mole 2013. it got so much better after it was bumped to midnight, Shura was a great host.

    There was an episode where one contestant spent almost the whole hard-earned kiddy at an auction on himself, it was amazing TV.

  12. Even though there wasn’t cash on the line, when i think of failed shows with “prizes” i always seem to go to Yasmin’s Getting Married.

    Her prize was to be married and all we got was a cancellation 4 weeks into the 9 week show.

    1. Yasmin only lasted four *days*, not four weeks.

      From memory, it premiered to what was (at the time) a dismal 700,000-ish viewers on a Tuesday, and was unceremoniously dumped after its disastrous Friday episode, which rated in the ballpark of around 270,000 viewers.

      And last I checked, Yasmin still isn’t married.

  13. Making It was killed off by the network scheduling – 2 episodes midweek in primetime was too much, as they soon realised moving it to weekends and then shifting it around timeslots. I watched it all, aided by series link recording and thought it was pretty good on the whole – as good as or maybe better than the US original. If it had been originally scheduled as 1 episode weekly on a weekend day I wonder if the ratings story would have been different?

    1. The trobule is the networks have got themselves into a position where it’s pretty much impossible to launch a show as something that airs once a week, although perhaps with the reality juggernauts seemingly cutting down to three episodes a week on the whole space may open up again for them.

  14. Wow. Some real flops here.
    The one that hurts the most for me on this list is the Mole. Such an awesome concept for a TV show that was just completely butchered in Seven’s revival.
    The Grant Bowler-era Mole was peak for me. It still remains my favourite reality/game show TV I’ve ever seen.

    David, did Ten’s Changing Rooms have prize money? That was another horrible flop.

    1. Once “The Mole” went to live eliminations on Thursday (when the remaining contestants flew to NZ on Friday-Sunday), that’s when the show really went south for me.

  15. Miss, The Mole, when Grant Bowler hosted it, it was a winner, never recovered after the poor hosting after that. The show has a good premise, it just got ruined by too many changes.

  16. Better than the revived Changing Rooms which was dropped after a few episodes and since episodes never screened, the contestants probably never won their prize money. I assume that also applies for the unaired episodes of Celebrity Name Game.

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