The Top Reality Whores of 2006

Once again, it’s time to look back and reflect upon the past year. We’ve had 51 weeks of pleasure and pain from the world of reality TV, and a great deal of that has come from reality stars themselves. Some of them deserve special recognition, and this, the first of my two annual year-end lists, is designed to give them the recognition they deserve. They are the reality blurred’s Top Reality Whores of 2006.

reality blurred will return next Wednesday, and later that week I’ll reveal the stand-out shows, people, and trends in reality TV from the past year. But today, here are the people who I think sold themselves, literally or figuratively, as their stars rose or fell:

  • Project Runway‘s Tim Gunn. Tim Gunn may seem like an unlikely choice for this list. I’ve met and talked with him, and he’s just as incredibly awesome in person as he is on television. And he’s undeniably the breakout star of the Bravo series (which is why it’s appalling Bravo hasn’t yet renewed his contract). However, he has also not shied away from his celebrity. In the past year, he’s appeared on the cover of Entertainment Weekly, guest hosted Live with Regis and Kelly, and appeared in-studio on Best Week Ever. But whether he was shilling for Saturn in those ridiculous Bravo segments, saying the names of the show’s sponsors as if they belonged in natural conversation, or mocking his own catch phrase (everyone together: “Make it work!”), he did so with a mix of reluctance about his fame and self-effacing humor. This year, Tim Gunn became a reality whore with self-awareness and class, and we need more reality stars like him.

  • Matt Moline. He was and probably may forever be known as Kathy Griffin’s loving husband, and he won America’s hearts on the first season of Bravo’s series Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List. Their relationship was one of the best on television, scripted or unscripted, because they genuinely loved each other. Matt was often funnier than Kathy as he played off the absurdity that was their life together, and he quickly became the show’s breakout star. But between the first and second season, he allegedly stole $72,000 from Kathy. Although he reportedly apologized and they were back together for season two, they’re officially divorced now, and he won’t appear on the show’s third season. Kathy’s heart may be broken, but ours are, too.
  • Amazing Race winners who whined about not getting selected for the all-star season. There’s nothing like fame to make . One of the confirmations we had of an all-star race was all of the bitching and complaining from cast members who weren’t selected, including two sets of winners: Season five’s Chip and Kim, and season nine’s BJ and Tyler. Chip and Kim posted a video online (it has since been deleted) in which they said they’d been “completely forgotten by CBS and the decision-makers.” BJ, who was loved by some for being so fun-loving, posted an incredibly sanctimonious note on his CBS’s blog, insisting that it was impossible for their to be an all-star race without BJ and Tyler. He wrote, “trust me, if they were doing that [an all-star version], they would contact us.” Well, they didn’t, and now we know which millionaires who got to race around the world once are crying about not getting the chance to become millionaires again.
  • Survivor‘s Richard Hatch. The first major reality star of this third wave of reality TV is now in prison. Whether he’s there because he did not pay his taxes on his $1 million prize and other fame-related income (as the government proved), or because he caught others cheating and made a deal with producers (as he claims), he unquestionably exchanged his integrity for money and fame.
  • People on YouTube who are desperate for attention. I almost left this one out after Time’s cop-out decision to name “You” the Person of the Year for 2006. But let’s face it: A large percentage of people who upload video of themselves to YouTube are indistinguishable from the worst reality stars, those who want to be famous no matter what. These viral video stars lip-sync in their underwear, injure themselves in an attempt to be funny, or show off their alleged acting skills, and they are more often than not conscious of the fact that there may soon be an audience of millions (or tens) looking at them. Just watch these loving parents wake their kids up with a chainsaw. The parents seem ecstatic about how the whole world will soon get to see their awesome parenting skills. If the kids were in on the joke, which it seems like they may be, it’s a whole family of wannabe reality whores, and if the kinds weren’t, then their parents are both bastards and wannabe reality whores, which is a horrifying combination.
  • Cast members who sell things. Some reality show cast members sell themselves. Others sell things, using their fame as a way to entice people to spend their hard-earned dollars. Project Runway 2‘s Santino Rice invited viewers to his house for a garage sale, while Real World Austin‘s Wes and Johanna sold copies of t-shirts they wore on TV. Sometimes this is more subtle, such as when one-hit wonders Evan and Jaron sang their song “Crazy for this Girl” on American Inventor, clearly desperate for people to track down their CD, or more commercial, such as when Tana from The Apprentice 3 became a TV pitchperson for the Bedazzler. Any way you cut it, they’re selling out for not really all that much at all, which is far more pathetic than people who sell out for millions.
  • American Idol host Ryan Seacrest. The reality whores sell themselves for money–like the Real World cast members who receive thousands of dollars to appear as themselves at colleges and bars–have to work hard and turn a lot of tricks to stay afloat. That was not the case for Ryan Seacrest, who sold himself, literally, to E! for $21 million. For three years, he’ll host E! News, host red carpet coverage, and otherwise keep his likeness on-screen. That’s one expensive face.
  • The Top Reality Whores of 2003, 2004, and 2005 [reality blurred]

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    about the writer

    Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.