Survivor, Amazing Race named best reality shows “of all time”; The Swan is the worst

Entertainment Weekly has published another one of its attempts to condense pop culture into a list, and this time the subject is the hyperbolic “Best and Worst Reality Shows of All Time.” These lists are naturally absurdly subjective, since there’s no stated criteria, but EW has collected some good shows, even though I disagree with many of their rankings.

Because the magazine’s attention span for listicles tends to be about 30 seconds, give or take five years, these kinds of lists tend to be pretty lame. But while Jon and Kate Gosselin get the cover’s big image, and Susan Boyle, Kris Allen, and Adam Lambert (who’s gay!) both appear on the cover, it does stick to the last 10 years and that’s it (leaving out An American Family, the show that really started everything we know of today as reality TV and that’s still just as compelling), so these two lists cover a good range of series.

The 20 best shows are led by Survivor at number one—a good call, considering what a game-changer it was and how it has sustained itself more than any other modern reality show—and The Amazing Race, which I’d say is a bad call since the show’s recent revival followed years of stagnation during which it was good but rarely great. The 20 with my comments:

  1. Survivor
  2. The Amazing Race
  3. Osbournes (amazing in its first season; weak after that)
  4. Project Runway (also a game-changer, could be #3)
  5. The Real World (belongs in the top 10 but should be down further because of its slide into mediocrity and self-parody)
  6. American Idol (I’m not always fond of this show, but there’s no way it belongs below The Real World)
  7. Jackass (really? we’re stretching this early into the list?)
  8. Top Chef
  9. Project Greenlight (finally, an underrated show that deserves recognition)
  10. America’s Next Top Model (maybe this belongs in a list of the most ridiculous shows, but not #10)
  11. The Bachelor
  12. Bands on the Run (another great call and great show)
  13. The Real Housewives franchise
  14. The Hills (this isn’t one of the best anythings, but especially not reality series)
  15. Big Brother (okay, my head is starting to hurt)
  16. Blind Date (they’re totally out of shows for some reason)
  17. Deadliest Catch (finally: back on track with real and compelling TV)
  18. The Apprentice (they must have ranked this show lower than Blind Date just to get people to comment on their web site)
  19. Jon & Kate Plus Eight (probably the only selection on the list to bow to current popularity, although it is and was compelling)
  20. Flavor of Love (maybe the first season, but the show should be punished for inflicting every one of its spin-offs on us)

The list of 10 worst reality shows is weaker, maybe because it includes shows that few people watched and that disappeared fast, but there are some brilliant entries:

  1. The Swan
  2. Britney and Kevin: Chaotic
  3. Are You Hot?
  4. Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?
  5. The Anna Nicole Show
  6. Dancing with the Stars and American Idol’s results shows (this is the best item on the worst list; bravo, EW)
  7. Cheaters (calling Cheaters “reality” is kind of ridiculous)
  8. Kill Reality (this was so bad it was great, but still belongs on this list)
  9. Boy Meets Boy (the concept was a little horrifying but the show itself wasn’t really bad)
  10. Skating with Celebrities

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