Best TV of the '00s: Reality Participant / Contestant
Whether we like it or not, the '00s introduced us to a new form of celebrity: the reality star. In previous decades, the closest we got to this were especially entrancing personalities from MTV's Real World. These people gained fame for acting like well-crafted exaggerations of their real selves.
Faster than you can say, "I didn't come here to make friends," networks picked up on the public's fascination with reality TV like Survivor and they pushed it to the popularity that it has reached today. Now, reality shows barely reflect what happens in normal people's lives but are generally more like high-concept game shows or extremely scripted improvs. But people keep watching, because the personalities are big and captivating.
Yup. Strategic footage editing does wonders. Here are some of our personal favorites from the genre, but feel free to comment with your own worthy additions!
Anderson Cooper, The Mole
Bob says: No, not the celebrity editions. Those were lame. I'm talking about the first two seasons of the ABC show hosted by Anderson Cooper. This was like The Amazing Race or Survivor, only for people who loved spy movies. A reality show that the viewer could actually play too, and it was a ton of fun. I'm happy that Cooper went on to fame and fortune doing news, but I'd pay him personally if the show came back and he hosted it.
Richard Hatch, Survivor
Allison says: For me, Richard Hatch is the choice because, quite simply, he put Survivor on the map. Whatever happened after the fact, for the time that he starred on the first edition, Hatch was the reason to watch. He was audacious -- walking around naked -- he was dynamic -- making deals and playing people -- he set the template for every other Survivor to follow, from Jonny Fairplay to Richard B. to Russel. Hatch's tenure was legendary.
Rob Mariano, Survivor, The Amazing Race, Rob and Amber: Against the Odds
Isabelle says: Rob Mariano was one of Survivor's best players and favorite villains. He knew the game very well and played every aspect of it (including being sneaky and lying) to get closer and closer to being the sole survivor. Rob took part part in Survivor: Marquesas, during which he was voted out before being able to become a jury member. However, his game play allowed him to win Survivor: All-Stars. Boston Rob set a then Survivor's series record by winning 16 reward and immunity challenges both as a tribe member and individually during his appearance on the first Survivor: All-Stars edition.
He proposed to fellow All-Stars contestant Amber Brkich on national TV. Both ended up teaming up for an edition of The Amazing Race, where they tapped into their survivor skills to make it as far as they could, which was eighth place. The duo later starred in their own reality specials or series such as Rob and Amber: Against the Odds. As a fan of both Survivor and The Amazing Race, Rob was one of my favorite players as he always played the games and never let the games play him and he was entertaining.
Katee Shean, So You Think You Can Dance
Michael P. says: Katee Shean stole the fourth season of So You Think You Can Dance. She almost got killed by pre-competition editing that explained she had a lack of passion, but she ended up boosting up eventual winner Joshua to new heights. She was part of a few SYTYCD firsts: Bollywood and Pas de Deux. You knew producers loved her when she was focused the most on the finale and was given $50,000 even though she lost.
Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth, The Apprentice and many others
Joel says: Omarosa was a self-made woman who doesn't take any shit from anyone. How do I know that? She told us at every opportunity, in every episode of every reality show she ever did. She was the perfect villain, especially during her turns on the first year of The Apprentice and the first season of The Celebrity Apprentice. She never pulled any punches, loved to get into confrontations with fellow contestants, and acted like a complete and total bitch. And she wouldn't have it any other way.
Her arguments with Piers Morgan during the Celebrity Apprentice were epic, and she ended up getting far too personal with him, as we see in this clip:
Ozzy Osbourne: The Osbournes
Jason says: The one-time "Prince of Darkness" proved to be a befuddled, muttering teddy bear when he allowed MTV and America into his home back in 2002. For the next three years, the series made stars out of Ozzy, his wife Sharon, and two of their children, Jack and Kelly. It's hard to imagine now, when everybody who ever even knew a celebrity can get a reality show around their lives, but it was still somewhat novel when the Osbournes did it. And more than anything, it pulled back that rock-and-roll curtain of mystique and revealed that Ozzy was a loving father and husband, and didn't live in a cave dining on the heads of bats. America fell in love with him all over again, and he gained a new generation of fans that, to this day, know him more for his wandering around his house, than they do for his music.
Flavor Flav: Surreal Life; Strange Love; Flavor of Love 1, 2, 3
Nicole Richie: The Simple Life
Kona says: The Simple Life was just one of those shows that you would find yourself watching completely by accident. Of course I knew who Lionel Richie was, having been entranced at a young age by his ability to dance on a ceiling, but I had no idea that he had a daughter named Nicole. So whether she was telling a family she and Paris were staying with during the second season that, "I'm black people too," or talking matter-of-factly to David Letterman about her past struggles with heroin, she displayed a sense of humor and sharpness that her then-partner in crime, Paris Hilton, clearly did not have. While they both tried to convince the audience that they were in on the joke, Richie was the only one I actually believed.
Russell Hantz: Survivor: Samoa
Jonathan says: Squeaking it in just under the wire (Survivor: Samoa only finished just a few weeks ago), Russell Hantz made quite the impression on myself and the rest of the country. I should point out that up until Samoa, I hadn't watched a full season of Survivor in over four years. Russell, though, is the type of person that got me watching it in the first place. Never has a player so expertly manipulated and blindsided as many opponents as Russell did and despite the fact that he outwitted, outplayed, and outlasted every last face he stared down, the jury still didn't pick him as the sole survivor. Blame his crude demeanor, his endless lies, or his cutthroat gameplay, but as a viewer, all of that is why he was so great to watch.