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The MamaPop Roundtable: Reality TV Faves Edition


Welcome to this week's MamaPop Roundtable, where the MamaPop writers answer enmass a single challenging, thought-provoking, or otherwise engaging question. We then ask that you, the reader, contribute your response to the same question in comments.

We invite readers to submit questions for the MamaPop writers to answer, and if we pick your question you will be handsomely rewarded with PDA and linkage. Please send your Roundtable questions to: roundtable@mamapop.com

This week's Roundtable question comes to us from our very own Goon Squad Sarah:

Q: Of all the shows that fall under the general umbrella of Reality Television, which is your favorite? Who is your all-time favorite reality show contestant? 


Goon Squad Sarah: For me there is no contest. I love "Top Chef" with all that I am. If it was a person I would try to talk my husband into a three way with it. My favorite ever was Sam Talbot from "Top Chef" season two. I almost wept when he was eliminated. I am still angry that he didn't win.

Amalah: Oh, God. This is like choosing between my children. I suppose Project Runway? Because it's got that Bravo-perfected formula of taking (usually) genuinely talented people and upping the ante and difficulty level to unicornian heights? But that also applies to very-close runner-up Top Chef. And then there's The Amazing Race! And then we have the guilty-level crap shows like Celebrity Rehab! And bloated edit-monkey-athons like Biggest Loser and ANTM and Survivor in its heyday! Sigh. This is HARD. I am TIRED NOW.

As for favorite contestant of all time (OF ALL TIME!), I would have to say ProjRun's Laura Bennett. Mostly because she was the first (okay, ONLY) reality show contestant to ever friend me on Facebook.

Motherbumper: This was a hard question to answer. First, which reality show do I pick? Do I go with Survivor which I've never missed even though each year I declare will be my last or Big Brother which I don't watch as religiously because it requires commitment to the nth degree -- and I have commitment issues -- OR do I pick the one that might never return, Joe Schmo?

Survivor it is. And that makes it easy for picking my all-time favourite reality show contestant, Jerry Manthey from Survivor: The Australian Outback. She was one of the first contestants in my reality-television viewing experience who made being a bitch an art form. Did she try to seduce Colby? Did she actually catch Kal yanking his wank? Wasn't she also the one who told everyone Kal was hiding beef jerky on his person? Jerry unabashedly let everyone know that she was on this show to make herself a star DAMMIT and look where that went for her: a lame Playboy spread and starring in such gems as "Komodo vs. Cobra". Yup, ten years later and no one has done it for me like Jerry.

SnarkyAmber: If you asked me this question last year, I'd have said Project Runway, but this year it's definitely Top Chef, without a doubt. There seem to be some extremely talented cheftestants this season, the Las Vegas setting enables them to bring some incredible guest judges and, first and foremost, the food looks so good I want to lick my television. The only thing I hate about the show is Padma. OMG I hate Padma. I don't think she belongs on the show and it always seems like she's waiting for the other judges with, like, food experience, to weigh in before she gives an opinion. My favorite all-time reality show contestant, however, doesn't hail from Top Chef, but rather Rock of Love. Though it somewhat embarrasses me to admit it, I love the very trashy and hair-pully Heather from Season One of Rock of Love and from Rock of Love Charm School, from her bleach-blond hair to her acrylic heels.

Kdiddy: The first season of The Real World. Yes, I'm one of those snobs. I just haven't been able to get into any reality series since then. I guess the fact that it was the closest thing to original in that whole genre gives me rose-colored lenses for it. My favorite character from that season would be Norman. He was awesome and hilarious.

TwoBusy: The greatest reality show of all time is, was, and shall always be Joe Schmo. This was the reality show that wasn't actually a reality show, but more of a subversive recreation of The Truman Show's conceit of a program where the protagonist believes that everything he sees is real... and everyone else is an actor.
What made this so remarkable was the way the show evolved over the course of its first season, where the Schmo of the title - a guy named Matt Kennedy Gould - turned out to be a really good guy... and, as a result, all the other actors who were playing contestants and whose jobs were basically to make Gould look like a buffoon started to feel bad for him. The tone of the show changed completely, and by the time we hit the big reveal at the end where Gould was told that the whole thing was a put-on (a moment that originally was to be the cherry on top of a humiliation sundae) the cast, crew and almost everyone watching was simply hoping that this good guy's feelings wouldn't end up being too badly hurt.
Basically, Joe Schmo was intended to be reality show-as-mindfuck, but by the time it was over it turned into something far more fascinating and emotionally rich. It was lightning in a bottle, and I don't think you can recreate that.
As for the best reality show character ever... I've gotta go with Somethin from the second season of Flavor of Love. Why? Because in the middle of a big group meeting... she squatted down on the floor and took a dump. On camera. It's the single most fucked-up thing I've ever seen, and about as real as I hope reality TV ever gets.

Catherine: ANTM is my most consistent guilty reality show pleasure, but my all-time favorite is the one-time awesomeness that was Paradise Hotel (the original, not the flaccid imitation that they ran last year). It was utter trash, and totally incoherent, but FULL SCALE AWESOME, not least because it featured one of my favorite reality contestants of all time, Charla, the pouty, wispy little creature who was actually a cunning, shark-like predator underneath the lip gloss. (Runner-up for best contestant of all time: Janelle from Big Brother 6, who could give Charla a run for her money in exploiting Dumb Blonde stereotypes to her own nefarious ends. LOVED.)

Palinode: By far, the best reality show ever made was Spike's two-season run of Joe Schmo, in which an unsuspecting dupe was stuck in a house full of actors. The show started off with the standard absurdities and indignities of any reality program, but then ramped up the silliness with each episode until the lone contestant found himself living in an incomprehensible world of reversals and twists.  You could see the writers coming up with ever-more outlandish scenarios in an attempt to figure out just how much unreality a human will accept in a fundamentally unreal situation.  A lot, as it turns out.

CIII: This was tough.  Mainly because I want to punch most reality television shows in the throat.  Real hard.  In my opinion, they are the complete antithesis of Reality.  Reality is a family of four trying to get by on one "steady" salary and the meager earnings of a freelance writer.  Hilarity ensues.  And by hilarity, I mean, tears and yelling.

That said, I have to say I'm kind of down with Hell's Kitchen.  Why you ask?  Well, I'm glad you asked, and I'll tell you in two words.  Gordon Fucking Ramsey.  Ok.  That's three words, but, like Chef Ramsey, I'm partial to the word "fuck".  It's just so multifaceted.  At any rate Gordon Ramsey exemplifies the type of person I think we need more of in Reality.  Someone that will tell you that you definitely, as I've said before, suck the Suck out of a Coldplay record.  He pulls no punches and leaves each evening with his knuckles bloody and abraded.  I dig it.  Some say, (insert whiny voice here) 'Why does he have to be so hard on those kids?'  Answer: 1.  It's television and we all have a Schadenfreude hard on for that type of thing.  Don't lie, you love it.  That's why they still run episodes of COPS.  2. Those kids deserve everything they get.  If they didn't know that they were walking into the Lion's Den in the first place, well, naivety is they're cross to bear, I reckon.  They really should have done they're homework.  What do you expect from a guy that cut his culinary teeth in the meticulous craft of Pastry?  You should expect a hard ass that demands perfection.

So, hats off to Hell's Kitchen.  Fuckin' A.

Jenn: My favorite reality show is The Amazing Race, although Top Chef is a close second. I love vicariously seeing the world and when I tell people that I want to visit places like Lithuania, I stop short of telling them it's because of TAR. Also, I think nothing shows someone's character more than how they travel, so it's a really fascinating show on an anthropological level. But my favorite character is Spike from Top Chef and I realize I stand completely alone on this. But that fedora, got me every time.

Jodi: I've recently gotten into Giuliana and Bill on the Style network.  I'm about the only person on the planet that watches this show, but it is Bill Rancic who won the first season of the Apprentice and Guiliana Rancic who is an E news Anchor and their bi coastal marriage.  They are adorable and seem so normal.  If anyone who has a gazillion dollars can be normal.  

i used to love American Idol and the MamaPop open threads but I gave it up last year and my life is better for it.  Same is true for the Bachelor and the Bachelorette.  Used to love them both.  Don't watch either of them anymore.  I don't watch a ton of reality TV.  I'm too busy watching terrible television on the CW.

My favorite reality show contestant?  Probably Jen from the Bachelor and the Bachelorette.  The one who was engaged for a minute to Andrew Firestone.  She always seemed like one of my girlfriends and that we could hang out.

Sweetney: Favorite show EVAR: the original BBC Kitchen Nightmares, which FOX totally ruined and I've never forgiven them (had they actually gone ahead and cancelled Dollhouse this year I think I would've sworn off that network entirely. FOX, YOU ARE ON NOTICE!).

Favorite contestant? Top Chef's Andrew D'Ambrosi. He's my kind of dorky, goofy weirdo. I totally wanna hang with that dude:

Lena: This is embarrassing, but I have a 3-way tie.  I know this because I go to great lengths to ensure that every episode is recorded of all three.  Then I require an empty house because NO INTERRUPTIONS.  #1 The Bachelor, #2 Real Housewives of New York (the rest suck), and #3 (small voice) Bad Girls Club (I know I know.  But...it's just so....baaaaad).

Favorite reality star: Bethenny Frankel.  For her wit and intelligence and sarcasm.  I want to be her when I grow up.

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Colleen - Mommy Always Wins

If you're looking for the truly trashy (but so highly entertaining in the "oh my GOD was I ever like that?!?" kind of way), check out Fox Reality's The Villa. Eight 20-somethings from the UK in a Spanish villa drinking and horn-doggin' on each other. Um, and that's all. (But isn't that enough?)


Jodifur, I watch Bill & Giuliana, too. And the more I look at her, the more I think she looks like a Bratz doll - teeny body, huge head, enormous mouth, big eyes. Bobble head Giuliana.


Top Chef, followed very closely by Project Runway. Last year I might have had a different answer just like Amber but no amount of Tim Gunn can make up for the changes in PR this year. And Top Chef keeps getting better!

There was one other I liked- back in 2001 there was a show on Fox called "Murder in Small Town X". It was this murder mystery where the contestants had to solve a series of murders. It was creepy and interesting . The finale aired on 9/4/01 and my favorite, a NYC firefighter named Angel, won $250,000. He was killed in the World Trade Center a week later.


Okay. You mean you're giving me a chance to promote the one reality show I ever really had a loyalty to? Well... twist my arm then. (Plus, bonus runner up favorite reality show.)

In first place, and with not even anything close to a tie, is Beauty and the Geek. This show handwaves some stuff about our deep inner beauty and teaching everyone involved not to be prejudiced. The fact that it is in any way successful in humanizing people who are usually seen in one dimension just makes me happy.

In second place would be a show that virtually no one watched but me (and my boyfriend), and which aired I think at 3am on VH1, ego trip's Miss Rap Supreme. Ms. Cherry sang "I got a boat" far before the infamous boat song hit SNL. Much of this show was just trashy fighting encouraged by the producers but seeing a show full of talented female MCs writing and displaying their creativity? Well, I was willing to put up with some BS. I wish they would put on a second season, and play it out less trashy & exploitive and more skill-focused. Oh and I also want world peace.

My favorite contestant, I think, would be Dani from Shot at Love. (Yes, I watched the first season. How many bi shows are thre?) She should have won. She managed to keep some semblance of dignity throughout the whole circus, which is a feat in itself.


Kim - Dani from A Shot At Love? Are you talking about the firefighter? She was ridiculously hot.


Joe Schmo gets three mentions. For. The. Win.


It's very close for me between Top Chef and Rock of Love (yeah, really.) But in the end, I'll go Top Chef.

My favorite contestant? Gay Dale from Top Chef Miami. I just loved him.

I am dressing up as Bret Michaels and my husband is dressing up as Daisy for Halloween, FTW!

Deni D.

I don't really get into the whole people-acting-badly kind of thing that's in a lot of reality shows, so my faves are The Amazing Race and Project Runway. Although they do sometimes have people acting badly, they do take some skill and talent, so I feel better about watching them. :)


My favorite Reality Show of all time would have to be the Real Housewives Series (yes, ALL of the locations). What intrigues me the most is while all of the locations - Orange County, New York, Atlanta & New Jersey are all filmed with super wealthy women they all seem to have varying amounts of "ghetto" in them and when the cameras are on they let the ghetto fly!
My all time favorite reality show character has to be Ruby on the Style Network. I just adore her! She is such an inspiration.


@Palinode - Yep, the firefighter. So hot! I guess I'm actually kind of glad she came in second, because who would want to see the tawdry headlines of the aftermath of her winning! She didn't need to be saddled with Tila. :)


I'd love to agree with my wife's assessment above, but I'd have to say my favorite reality show is Hell's Kitchen. CIII nails it, despite his misspelling (they're != their, dude).

As far as favorite character/contestant, it's a toss-up between Sweetney's fave, Andrew D'Ambrosi, and Christian Siriano of ProjRun fame. Hot Tranny Mess and FIERCE! are forever a part of my lexicon thanks to my adorable elfin fashion genius.

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