Construction worker pretends to be millionaire on new reality series

Fox’s new reality show, which premiered Monday night, turns a $19,000-a-year construction worker into a suave millionaire who wines and dines 20 bachelorettes vying for his riches.

Once Joe Millionaire chooses his Ms. Right, he’ll confess he didn’t recently inherit $50 million, and the viewing audience will find out if the “winner” still loves her prince even though he’s a pauper.

But what will the popularity of this show – fan Web sites were launched even before the first episode was televised – mean for the construction industry?

So far, the marketing campaign for Joe Millionaire hasn’t shed a very positive light on its star’s chosen profession. One Fox insider has even been quoted describing the show as, “It’s the gold diggers and the ditch digger.”

Dennis Day, executive director of communications for the Associated General Contractors of America, said Monday he thinks Fox is using Evan Marriott’s (that’s his real name) income to portray the career negatively. And he questions why Marriott is earning only $19,000 a year when the average salary for a construction worker is much higher.

“For those of us in the construction industry, we know the salaries out there are pretty decent,” Day said.

According to a recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average construction worker makes $17 to $18 an hour, he said. For a 40-hour-a-week job, that’s $35,360 to $37,440 annually.

But we don’t know if Marriott works full time. We do know his “Norman Rockwell upbringing,” as he calls it, was average financially. His father was a white-collar worker and his mother a homemaker. After graduating from a military high school in 1992, Marriott, 28, has split his time between construction jobs and modeling gigs.

“I’m an average Joe,” he said in the first installment of the seven-episode series. “I work construction, eat fast food, drink beer.”

Fox’s marketing team may have neglected to showcase the brighter aspects of construction work, but perhaps Marriott took care of that himself.

“I’m in construction because I love what I do,” he said at the beginning of the program, while viewers watched clips of him shoveling dirt and operating heavy equipment. “I’ve just always liked getting my hands dirty.”

And after leaving the lavish French chateau where Joe Millionaire was filmed in advance of the TV broadcast, Marriott returned to his construction job. Viewers will have to watch and wait to find out if the woman he chose went with him.

To learn more about Joe Millionaire, click the link in the column to the right to visit the show’s Web site.