reality tv show reviews

(Originally written in 2001 and rescued from the Internet Archives.  Reposted for posterity.)

I'll admit it: I like reality TV shows.  They're more entertaining than the old sitcoms we used to watch.  With some of the shows, like Survivor, The Mole, and The Amazing Race, I like watching good people compete against each other for a prize.  In other cases, like Temptation Island and Big Brother, I like laughing at how screwed up some people are.  Either way, I think it's entertaining.  Below are the popular reality television shows that I've watched, and my reviews of them.

Run: Fall 2001 on CBS.
Premise: Eleven teams of two race around the world on a treasure hunt.  Last team to arrive at a destination is eliminated.
Review:  Fast paced and well edited.  The teams are on the move, so the environment is constantly changing.  The show started with twenty-two people, which is a lot of personalities to get to know, but the show was edited such that we did get to know who the contestants are, and could pick favorites.  Some of the teams get along really well (Joe and Bill), others are painful to watch together (Nancy and Emily).  Joe and Bill ("Team Guido") are the most competitive and ruthless of the eleven teams, and that initially makes me dislike them, but as we learned from Survivor I and Big Brother II, those are the skills it takes to win the game.  Therefore, Team Guido is my pick to win.  Grade: A.
My pick to win:  Joe and Bill ("Team Guido)".
Who won: (game in progress).
Prize: $1 million.
Run: Summer 2000 on CBS.
Premise: Ten diverse individuals live in a house under the watchful eye of television and internet cameras.
Review: Terribly boring at times, this show was broadcast six days a week, but hardly anyone watched.  The excitement included watching the houseguests eat dinner, make crafts, and compete in "challenges."  Houseguests nominated each other for eviction, and the public choose which of the nominated houseguests to evict by calling a 900 number.  Usually the public evicted the most interesting houseguests, and the show progressively got more boring.  After they eliminated the first few houseguests, the remaining ones were all relatively likable, if not plain and unremarkable.  Watching Julie Chen try to host the show was almost more entertaining than the show itself.  Grade: C.
My pick to win:  Curtis, George, Cassandra.
Who won: Eddie, Josh, Curtis.
Prize: $500,000 / $100,000 / $50,000.
Run: Summer 2001 on CBS.
Premise: Same as Big Brother I.
Review: Better than the first season, but still quite boring.  Producers limited the broadcast to three times a week.  Instead of the public voting out the most interesting people first, the houseguests competed for Head of Household, who then nominated two people for eviction.  The remaining houseguests then voted to determine which of the nominated individuals would be evicted.  The ten houseguests were more interesting than in the first season, but none of them were particularly appealing. As with Survivor I, the winner was the one who played the game best, even though he was completely unlikable.  Grade: C+.
My pick to win: Bunky & Krista.
Who won: Will & Nicole.
Prize: $500,000 / $50,000.
Run: Spring 2001 on FOX.
Premise: Sixteen contestants try to survive eight weeks in military-style boot camp.
Review:  I have no idea why I watched this show.  Grade: D.
My pick to win: Park, Yaney.
Who won: Whitlow, Wolf.
Prize: $500,000.
Run: Ongoing on NBC.
Premise: Small groups of people undertake physical and psychological challenges (i.e. bungee jumping, eating mealworms, sitting in a vat of rats), and the last one standing at the end wins the prize.
Review: I've only seen this show when I am flipping through channels, and the challenges are usually too gross for me to watch for very long.  The prize ($50,000) isn't large enough to make me do any of the challenges.  The host, Joe Rogan, is very annoying.  Grade: C-.
My pick to win: N/A.
Who won: N/A.
Prize: $50,000.
Run: Summer 2000 and 2001 on ABC.
Premise: Hundreds of contestants try out to become the next "big" boy-band, O-Town.  The band then records their album and performs.
Review:  Everyone knew this band had no chance of making it big, and listening to them sing confirmed it.  Lou Pearlman is the producer who engineered the band, and apparently also the show, and has given himself a starring role in the show.  The first season was the elimination and selection process, and the second season was the recording process and various performances, all of which were mediocre at best, and most were staged at middle schools.  After two seasons, ABC decided not to renew the show, due to low ratings.  MTV has bought the third season.  Grade: B-.
My pick to win: N/A
Who won: N/A
Prize: Fame.
Run: Spring 2001 on ABC.
Premise: Ten contestants try to figure out who the one mole is amongst their group.  One contestant is eliminated each week, by scoring the worst on a weekly test of who the mole is.  The last non-mole contestant standing wins the game.  The prize fluctuates depending on how much money the contestants win during the game by completing challenges.
Review:  Anderson Cooper is a strong host.  The challenges are exciting and sometimes downright dangerous.  The mole is not an actor or actress, which makes the game even more challenging.  Few people were able to genuinely guess who the mole was, although in hindsight it was interesting to see the mole-ish things that person did to throw the rest of the contestants off.  This is one of the better reality TV shows out there. Grade: A.
My pick to win: Jim.
Who won: Steven (Kathryn was the Mole).
Prize: Up to $1,000,000 (Steven won $510,000).
Run: Fall 2001 on ABC.
Premise: Fourteen contestants try to figure out who the one mole is amongst their group.  One contestant is eliminated each week, by scoring the worst on a weekly test of who the mole is.  The last non-mole contestant standing wins the game.  The prize fluctuates depending on how much money the contestants win during the game by completing challenges.
Review: Stronger contestants make this season more interesting than the original show.  One of the changes for this season was more clues in each episode as to who the mole is.  So far I have yet to see a clue I can point to and say "ok, that person is the mole."  There are many more exemptions this season than last season, which makes the game more competitive, but really less interesting because fewer people have their head on the chopping block at each execution.  After only three episodes, ABC put the show on hiatus.  It is expected to return in Spring of 2002.  The reason given for the hiatus was poor ratings.  Grade:  B+.
My pick to win: Rob, with Dorothy as the Mole.
Who won: (show on hiatus until Spring 2002).
Prize: Up to $1,000,000.
Run: Summer 2000 on CBS.
Premise: Sixteen contestants stranded on Palau Tiga island have to survive.  Each week they boot off one of their own by majority vote.
Review:  Survivor I is the gold standard against which all reality TV shows will forever be held.  Richard Hatch invented the Alliance.  Sue Hatch showed us how to play nasty.  These people got down and dirty, and America loved it.  Richard was the underdog, but he played the game hard, and walked away the winner.  Grade: A+.
My pick to win: Gervase.
Who won: Richard.
Prize: $1 million.
Run: Summer, 2001 on CBS.
Premise: Sixteen contestants stranded in rural Australia have to survive.  Each week they boot off one of their own by majority vote.
Review: The goal for this season was to maintain the ratings and enthusiasm of Survivor I.  I was skeptical that this season could live up to the first run, but it did.  Alliances shifted frequently, and the backstabbing started almost immediately when Kel was targeted to be booted.  The final two, Colby and Tina, were both outstanding people, and I was very happy that Tina won.  Survivor maintains the gold standard for reality TV. Grade: A.
My pick to win: Kel, then Nick, then Roger, then Tina.
Who won: Tina.
Prize: $1 million.
Run: Fall, 2001 on CBS.
Premise: Sixteen contestants stranded in the African desert have to survive.  Each week they boot off one of their own by majority vote.
Review:  The casting department has apparently decided that physical looks is not a criteria for selection.  These contestants definitely aren't lookers, like the Survivor II cast.  Nor do they seem exceptionally bright.  The challenges aren't nearly as exciting the third time around.  All three of the Surivivor series have featured good editing, and in my mind that really helps improve the show, even if the content is on the boring side.  I finally lost interest in this show after about 5 weeks.  The people ceased being interesting, and there was very little new about the show that we haven't seen in the prior to seasons.  Grade:  C.
My pick to win: (I don't care)
Who won: (game in progress).
Prize: $1 million.
Run: Winter 2001 on FOX.
Premise: Four couples are marooned on a tropical island.  The men are separated from the women, and each are tempted by temptors of the opposite sex.  There is no monetary prize; it is a test of devotion.
Review:  The taping lasted only two weeks, and it was shocking how quickly the contestants gave in to the temptors in that brief period of time.  This was clearly an indication of the weakness of these couples' relationships.  None of the contestants were remotely appealing.  I compare watching this show to watching a bad accident - something horrible is happening, but you can't help watch.  Grade: C-.
My pick to win:  N/A.
Who won: N/A.
Prize: None.
Other Shows I Regularly Watch:
  • The Practice (ABC):  The best lawyer show ever.  Some of the characters have annoying personalities, and some of the plots are a bit unrealistic, but the show is legally accurate for the most part, and very entertaining.
  • Seventh Heaven (WB):  I don't know why I like watching this wholesome show.  Oh, wait, yes I do.
  • West Wing (NBC): The best drama series I have ever become addicted to.  The writing and plots are phenomenal, and the acting and casting is superb.

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