Eclaire Fare

Enjoying Pop Culture, One Bite at a Time

My Proposed Nominees for Best Reality TV November 14, 2008

In my previous post on this subject, I outlined my criteria for evaluating a reality show. After a few days of sampling the potential nominees, taking into account your suggestions and my own interests, I have chosen my recommendations for the Hulu Awards’ Best Reality TV nominees. Read on for my picks and my evaluation of each one.

Competitive Reality Show

  • The Biggest Loser – This show’s premise is inspirational: its contestants are faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges that test their willpower on the road to weight loss and fitness. It is amazing to see how much many of the contestants accomplish. What I don’t like about the show are the scenes in which we see the contestants arguing with each other, badmouthing each other, and other glimpses of the social politics while they try to live with each other. I guess with the popularity of shows like Big Brother and Survivor, this is the kind of material that reality tv fans are looking for, so I suppose it is a necessary evil for keeping this otherwise redeemable show on the air.
  • Project Runway – Creative minds, eccentric personalities, and heated design challenges = a spectacular fireworks show. Plus, this show gives the general public a peek inside the world of fashion. Infighting and bad mouthing seem more at home on this show than The Biggest Loser, because whereas the Biggest Loser contestants all have the same goal of losing weight (something they can and do all accomplish, so it seems like they should encourage each other, not tear each other down), only one person can win Project Runway, and the others will be left wondering what they could have done differently. People’s egos are fragile, especially when a judge tells them that their work, which they thought was “a-MA-zing,” is second rate, “looks like a reptile,” or “looks like a beauty pageant.” So the appeal of this show is twofold: beholding the creativity of the contestants and seeing how they handle the stress of the competition.
  • Top Chef – “Please pack your knives and go.” Why must every reality show have a silly catch phrase these days? I guess we can blame Donald Trump for starting this trend, but at least we have a whole new slew of go-to pop culture phrases. Despite Top Chef’s ridiculous one-liner for its eliminated contestants, it is an entertaining and well made show. It has the same sort of appeal as Project Runway. We see how creative the chefs can be with the food challenges they are given, and we see how well they can hold up to the pressure of competition, and in some cases, how well they can work with others.

Non-Competitive Reality Show

  • 30 Days – Now this show actually fits the definition of “reality.” Morgan Spurlock conducts various social experiments that place people into unfamiliar or uncomfortable situations. My favorite episode is the one in which Morgan and his then fiance, Alex, lived on minimum wage for a month. That was an educational, eye-opening experience for them and for viewers. This show takes relevant issues and presents them in interesting, fair, and authentic ways, whether its Muslims living in America, the condition of American prisons, or the issue of animal rights. It is my top pick for Best Non-Competitive Reality Show.
  • The Baby Borrowers – This is one of those shows that is educational, and a reality check, for its participants. Several teenage couples are given a taste of what it’s really like to be parents. Basically, they “play house” for an extended period of time, with one of the teenagers working and the other staying home with the child. Thankfully the real parents monitor their progress and intervene when necessary. I would be very nervous about leaving my baby with two teens! This show is satisfying, as viewers can witness the teenagers’ idealized view of parenthood shifting to something more realistic, but it is also sweet at times, to see them learning to be self-sacrificing and others-centered (not typical traits of many teenagers) as they care for their borrowed babies.

Celebrity Driven Reality Show

  • Uncorked – “He’s unrefined, he’s unfiltered, he’s uncorked.” I like wine, and I like improv comedy, so I was charmed by this quirky little show that combines the entertaining personality of improv guy Billy Merritt with an interesting look into wine culture. The basic premise: Billy, a beer guzzling, football watching American, decides he needs a little refinement in his life, so he embarks on a journey to learn the ins and outs of wine.

Uncorked is my nominee for Best Celebrity Driven Reality Show because it meets these criteria:

  • It educates the audience on an interesting cultural issue
  • It Introduces the audience to unfamiliar locations (from obscure wine shops to vineyards in Napa)
  • It presents us with a likable, non-abrasive, funny host.
  • It takes a concept people are interested in and makes a smart show out of it – I, at least, am interested in wine, and I’d much rather watch this show, with its populist approach, than a hoity toity show with a stuffy host looking down his nose at everyone while he pontificates about fine wines.

Final Thoughts

  • The celebrity driven reality shows were the most difficult for me to find redeeming qualities in, so it’s no surprise that my one pick stars a “celebrity” that I had never heard of. I am relieved that next week the Hulu Awards Panel is moving on to comedy. I will post my thoughts next week on the potential nominees for Best TV Comedy, Best Comedic Short, and Best Movie Comedy.
  • Interested in making your opinion count? You can go to The Hulu Review and vote for your favorite shows and movies in the comments section of each Awards Category post. Each category is conveniently listed in the upper right corner of the main page.
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