The Amazing Race won its eighth Emmy for outstanding reality TV competition last night, its streak interrupted only by Top Chef‘s win last fall that suggested members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences might actually started watching reality television.
This year, the CBS reality competition’s all-star season beat Top Chef, which had a much better all-star season; American Idol, which was actually entertaining and watchable after swapping out its judges; Project Runway, which had its best season in years last fall; and So You Think You Can Dance, which didn’t have a strong season last year but deserves a legacy award for being ignored for so long. It also beat Dancing with the Stars.
People often point out that Emmy voters don’t make decisions based on full seasons, but on an episode, and that actually adds further insult, because the episode The Amazing Race submitted was one of the weakest from the all-star season, unless egregious product placement instead of content deserves an award.
I’ve said this before but it’s worth repeating: The Amazing Race is an impressive production and I have no doubt a lot of people work very hard on it. But effort does not equal quality, and the show that I loved and championed endlessly starting 10 years ago is now a shadow of its former self, crippled for various reasons. Just watch season one, episode one, act one, and the differences will be eminently clear. Thus, its continued receipt of awards, including by TV critics, despite that decline in quality, is really disheartening.
Meanwhile, the Emmy broadcast, produced by Survivor and The Voice executive producer Mark Burnett, did include acknowledgement of reality TV’s existence outside of the one category, from reality star cameos in the weak opening segment (including the Mythbusters and Marcel Vigneron) to a pretend news segment with Anderson Cooper during which Jane Lynch pretended to be the person responsible for getting New Jersey all of its reality TV attention (that included the required Jersey Shore appearances).
The “in memoriam” segment acknowledged the deaths of both Jackass star Ryan Dunn and reality TV producer Denise Cramsey, who produced Trading Spaces and Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, among other shows.
Before TAR got its award, there was a pretty strong montage of reality TV moments, which included footage of Emmy-winner Deadliest Catch captain Phil Harris on his deathbed and clips of other excellent examples of the genre such as Hoarders and Whale Wars, and also a Jersey Shore fight and a Bachelor proposal. It was, all things considered, a good mix. Even if the one reality award wasn’t the best and the rest of reality TV has been banished to the Creative Arts ceremony, reality TV still had a strong presence.