The year in reality TV, 2005
Last week, I named my top reality TV whores of the year, people who used and abused reality TV to advance their own pathetic careers, unlike me. This week, it’s time to be positive, and examine those moments and shows that gave us joy, happiness, and killer catchphrases like “bye bye, bitches.” I’ll be back next week with more real news.
Thanks for reading in 2005, have a happy new year, and here’s to a fantastic 2006.
- Big Brother 6. The sixth season of CBS’ summertime show started as most seasons begin: slow and tedious. While Julie Chen’s robotics were fun, the theme, a “summer of secrets”, was lame as usual. But soon, an alliance formed, and its members decided they were better than the rest of the people in the house. Thanks to the HOH rules, and to a player named Kaysar, that alliance was quickly shattered, and our summer changed forever. Kaysar screwed up and was evicted twice, the second time after America voted him back in just to spite the alliance. Kaysar may have lit the match, but it was Janelle who carried the torch, standing in for us as she ripped the other alliance (“bye bye, bitches!”). But the most fun was a group of people who were so hate-worthy they even called us “pieces of shit.” That’s interactive TV.
- The Project shows: Project Runway and Project Greenlight. Let’s face it: The Apprentice isn’t really a demonstration of business skills, and America’s Next Top Model doesn’t really emphasize modeling as much as it emphasizes drama. But on two Bravo shows, talent is truly on display. The cable network’s smash show Project Runway—which debuted in late 2004 and concluded in 2005, and kicked off its second season a few weeks ago—contestants have to demonstrate their skill every week, or else they go home. Better, they’re talented and outspoken, sniping about each other and injecting the show with plenty of drama to make it engaging television. The same is true of the probably-cancelled Project Greenlight, which moved from HBO to Bravo to produce a horror film. When the third season finally debuted last March, the show had the most unlikely reality star at its helm (John Gulager), and he, along with always-entertaining asshole Chris Moore, produced a film that will debut in 2006. The drama came not from artificial situations, but from the real-life struggles of talented people working to produce the best film possible. TV doesn’t get much more real than that.
- Bravo’s Showdog Moms and Dads. In the middle of the season, a random woman’s dog attacked a random guy in a park. From the driver’s seat of her van, that woman explained in broken English that even she was scared by her vicious dog. She said, “He bite me in my vagina. When I’m walking and he sees other dog, he right away, he jump on my vagina, because he get so crazy!” With peripheral cast members like her, plus an extremely strong, fanatically obsessed group of dog owners, is it any wonder that people watched attentively? The show was easily the best of the Moms and Dads series, and one of the best series of the year.
- Bobby and Whitney in Being Bobby Brown. After every damn pseudo-celebrity got their own lame-ass show to try to be the next Osbournes, the celebrity reality subgenre appeared to be all but dead, save for the always-dramatic The Surreal Life. Then Bravo gave us Bobby and Whitney in their own series, and they were infinitely fascinating, proof that the subgenre is fine as long as interesting celebs are the focus. Now we just have to hope that Bravo comes up with the cash so there will be a second season. Hell to the yes.
- The casts of The Amazing Race. It’s time to admit a sad truth: The Amazing Race is no longer the most amazing reality show on television. As the seasons pass, long-time fans can tell that the tension is generally crafted by masterful editors, and even Phil, he-of-the-massive-package, seems a bit bored at times. The show has also turned to gimmicks (the Yield, for example), pandering to audiences in order to increase its ratings. And the eighth “family” season sucked so much that the producers should apologize to the show’s fans. That season was, however, rescued by its often-hysterical cast, from the love-to-hate-them Weavers to the just-love-them Gaghans. And who could forget the Godlewski sisters, the Linzes, or the Paolos? Casting also contributed to the success of the seventh season, which featured heroes/villains Rob and Amber. Casting former reality stars is obnoxious, but the couple did energize the season with their aggressive game play, and love them or hate them, they made the show incredibly entertaining. As long as TAR continues its strong casting, they could have teams race around Epcot’s World Showcase and we wouldn’t really care.
- Losers are the new winners. If there was a trend this year in reality TV, it was that the losers sometimes win, or at least embrace their loserdom. The most obvious examples came from Big Brother 6 (see above), while The Amazing Race had its share of famous losers (also see above). On Survivor, a show that’s all about competition and strategy, two consecutive seasons saw well-liked survivors take third place in order to atone for their sins (Survivor Palau’s Ian) or just because they were nice people (Survivor Guatemala’s Rafe). Dr. Jeff stole everyone’s hearts on The Biggest Loser 2, while Contender favorite Peter Manfredo, Jr., lost to Sergio, got another chance to prove he wasn’t a loser, and then lost again. And let’s not forget all the metaphoric losers, of which there are so many I can’t even begin to count. As we enter 2006, we can be sure that more losers will come our way. Thankfully.