10 Reality Shows That Don’t Suck6
By Caryn K. Hayes
10 Reality Shows That Don’t Suck
I’ll be honest with you; I abhor most reality television. I hate it because reality shows are cheap to produce and, as a result, fewer scripted shows, which I prefer, are on the air (and I’m VERY bitter about that). But I also hate reality shows because most of it is lame. I think people who impregnate themselves for fame should be given jail time, not reality shows. Why should I care about some famous/rich person’s desire to have everything in the world… including love? Isn’t it enough that they have money? And what value is there in watching has-beens suck face with as many people as they can in 13 weeks?
But maybe, just maybe, I’m being too hard on reality TV. Yes, some shows are gratuitous, exploitive, and vapid. But if they embrace those qualities, rather than feign them, I actually find them much more acceptable – even enjoyable. Keeping Up With the Kartrashians, a mockumentary show about a family who is willing to do anything to gain fame and money, still manages to be true to themselves. And that’s simply much more interesting to watch.
All that said, there ARE reality shows that allow the drama, mayhem, and gaudiness to be organic, and those shows aren’t lame, and they don’t suck. These are my picks.
Keeping Up With The Kartrashians – Parole Party
1. The Celebrity Apprentice
One of the few series that manages to offer entertainment value and education, the Apprentice started in 2004 with the premise of finding Donald Trump’s next employee. The competition/interview begins with 16 contestants who compete in marketing, fundraising, and other business-related tasks as each week one or more competitors hear the dreaded words, “You’re fired.” While the first incarnation was good in its own right (thanks Omarosa), after the first few seasons, the Apprentice started on a downhill trek.
Luckily, the show saw a revival with the Celebrity edition. Instead of your ordinary Ivy League double MBA-carrying entrepreneurs, the Donald gave the likes of Joan Rivers, Brett Michaels and Star Jones the opportunity to raise money for charity. Though the tasks were sometimes uneven and unfair (Richard Hatch will never raise as much money calling his friends as Marlee Matlin), at least we got to see real divas (who don’t care about professional reputations) go head to head. Now, every season promises more Omarosa-types on the women’s team and a few gems on the men’s. Thank you Meatloaf and Gary Busey for showing us that men carry the crazy gene too.
READ: 10 Most Cringe-Inducing Reality TV Stars Ever – Omarosa Manigualt-Stallworth
2. Big Brother
An overseas import, Big Brother began in the summer of 2000 by putting a group of strangers in a house with no outside contact. Competing for $500,000, contestants are challenged with physical and mental games for the power to nominate their housemates for eviction, the right to guarantee their own safety, eating privileges, and even hot showers. Each season of the show involves a twist designed to throw a wrench in the houseguests’ game – like twins playing the game as one individual or “strangers” who enter the game with their bestie. Along with the physical and mental challenges, the biggest challenge in the game is the social one. Not only are contestants constantly faced with the possibility of eviction, they also have to remain liked enough to win a majority vote at the end. Any sane person would snap under that pressure, and that’s why I sit and watch three days a week throughout the summer. Though readers are likely to boo this choice, I think it’s a pretty good show. It’s like the Real World on crack.
READ: TV Shows the US Has Successfully Stolen From Abroad – Big Brother
3. So You Think You Can Dance
This show is shafted every year by the Emmys. I’m not sure why reality shows need awards. But if you must…
Beginning in 2005, this series is all about finding America’s favorite dancer. Admittedly, like most reality shows, the quality of each season depends almost solely on the cast, so fluctuation happens and is expected. One thing that remains consistent, however, is the awesome host, the very English Cat Deeley. She does a lot of legwork to make up for the sometimes insufferable “jidges.” Then there are the contestants whose hard work is enough to get us to like them despite the pseudo drama hyped up by the producers. I think a good meter for gauging the quality of any reality show is its success rate in launching the careers of its contestants/participants. If the snapping up of multiple ballroom dancers by juggernaut Dancing With the Stars is any indication, SYTYCD is doing alright.
Lastly, I’ll mention the awesomeness of Wade Robson with no other explanation than my urging you to find the Hummingbird dance with all due haste… or Ramamlama… or The Triplets of Belleville. Oh, and I’ll be starting a petition soon to kick Mia Michaels off the panel and back in the studio where she belongs if anyone wants to co-sign.
4. Randy Jackson Presents America’s Best Dance Crew
Launched in 2008, America’s Best Dance Crew is another show that’s really all about heart – featuring real people who are talented, tireless, and full of passion for what they do. From creator Randy Jackson (American Idol), ABDC is a platform for dance groups to compete for $100,000 and a touring contract. Judged by JC Chasez (N*Sync), Omarion (B2K), and Lil’ Mama and hosted by Mario Lopez (Dancing With the Stars, Extra), the series features professional dancers and street crews who are challenged each week with anything from incorporating concepts into their performances to dancing with props. If you love hip-hop dancing, this is the show to watch! JabbaWockeez!
Created in the UK, Survivor premiered in the U.S. in 2000 and launched a reality craze that has yet to ebb. Each season starts with a group of strangers who are dumped on an isolated island and separated into two groups called “tribes.” The tribes are not only expected to find their own food and shelter, but they also compete for luxury items and immunity from being voted off the island by a tribal council. The last competitor to leave the island leaves with one million dollars. Sometimes they also leave with a trail of carcasses they’ve slayed to win. Sometimes they leave with tax collectors on their heels. Regardless, they all learn how to stay camera-ready for forty days in the wilderness without the aid of makeup, a mirror or soap.
6. The Amazing Race
Winner of eight Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Reality-Competition Program, The Amazing Race pits ten teams of two against each other and sets them off on a race around exotic and rough locales with hints to provide guidance to their next destination. The teams are challenged with cryptic clues and tasks they must complete in order to move onto the next destination on their journey. The slowest teams are eliminated as the season progresses. At the end of the game, the winner takes home the grand prize of one million dollars. Besides enjoying different locations, each new season introduces us to bickering teams we love to watch, the annoying couples we love to hate, and a few competitors to root for.
READ: Top 12 Game Shows of All Time – Survivor
Premiering in 2003, Mythbusters is a series that takes old wive’s tales and urban legends and performs scientific experiments to determine if they are true, possible, unrealistic or anywhere in between. While all the experiments aren’t flawless, Adam, Jamie, and the staff manage to blow things up and make science fun. Equal parts entertaining and educational, the show is good fun for kids and adults. As a bonus you get to peek into the lives of television co-workers who are very enthusiastic about the job but less than enthusiastic about each other.
8. American Idol
The juggernaut which all reality shows long to be, American Idol is the Mt. Everest in reality programming. I would call it Goliath; but if the absence of Simon Cowell and the presence of J-Lo can’t kill it, I can’t imagine a slingshot could do it any damage. Singers of all styles compete for a record deal worth up to one million dollars. Each week the contestants select songs from a genre or an artist’s discography and perform for audience and judges’ votes. As much as I love me some Kelly Clarkson, I’m still a little bitter about Tamyra Grey. Yes, I’m aware that that was almost ten years ago, but its how I feel, okay??
9. The Biggest Loser
Is there any reality show more likely to make you cry, cheer, and give up junk food all at once? Designed to help obese people lose weight and teach them how to keep it off, The Biggest Loser began in 2004 and is still going strong with 11 seasons to date. Overweight contestants who want to drop the weight and change their lives are sent to a ranch where they are put on teams and compete to be the biggest loser. Contestants are unable to contact family and friends throughout the competition, they’re pushed by trainers to complete feats hundred pounders couldn’t do, and they’re placed on strict diets (all under the care of professional trainers and doctors). In addition to the workouts and eating restrictions, contestants are also given the opportunity to win prizes and are offered sugary temptations. What’s a reality show without temptations, right? The dreaded catch is that at each weigh-in they’re at risk of getting voted out if their weight falls below the yellow line on the scale. Win or lose, the competitors take home an invaluable gift, a change in the way they live their lives. Not that it matters, but the prize for the biggest loser also makes them the biggest winner… of a quarter of a million dollars.
10. Project Runway
Supermodel Heidi Klum hosts this competition show seeking to find the next high fashion designer. Aspiring fashion designers are given fabric, a challenge, and are put on the clock to create. After each challenge, winners are given immunity from the next elimination while losers are given the boot. Viewers are treated to watching the snippy and hilarious attitudes of the contestants and get to see the magic of seeing drapes transformed into elegant gowns. In the end, the winner wins professional mentorship, a leg up into the industry, and $100,000 to start their own company.
Keeping Up With The Kartrashians – Gone Viral
Keeping Up With The Kartrashians – Driving While Katrashian
Caryn K. Hayes is an L.A. based writer-producer-director-production coordinator-quality control agent-bartender hailing from New Orleans. She has produced, written, directed, and coordinated numerous web series, documentary and corporate videos, short films and commercials. In 2007, Caryn wrote “The Ridge,” a spec teen drama, which won the 2007 TV Pilot Award from the Organization of Black Screenwriters, and in 2009 she repeated her win with the adult dramedy, “Dirty Thirties.” Caryn created “The World of Cory & Sid,” a comedic web series, which was nominated for Best Television or Web Series in 2009 by the Urban Mediamakers Film Festival. In between her various freelance gigs, she produces sketch comedy with BrevityTV.com, and is currently in post-production with “Breaking Point,” a soap opera web series, which won Outstanding Writing and Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series at the 2011 L.A. Web Series Festival. Engaging and fun, Caryn can also mix over 250 drinks and is comfortable with high volume.