Reality show programming continues to be a regular staple of the American television diet. And it seems like we cannot get enough of it, so every year new shows are introduced in an attempt to create something different and/or interesting. Old favorites return for the season, promising to be the “best” season yet, sometimes succeeding, often times failing. Here’s my list of some hits and misses over the last year in reality television programming:
Lawyers + Reality Show = A quick death
I’ve been watching The Apprentice since its debut, and there are always a few lawyers in the mix of contestants. For some reason, reality show producers like to cast really obnoxious lawyers. It must be a reality show rule.
So, what do you do when you’re David E. Kelley, creator of the popular shows Ally McBeal, Boston Legal, and The Practice, and want to give reality television a shot? How about a reality show where EVERYONE is a lawyer! That’s gotta be a recipe for success! And with that, NBC birthed The Law Firm. Hosted by the world-famous lawyer Roy Black (he was…er, I guess his claim to fame is being Rush Limbaugh’s attorney), the show assembled all of the obnoxious lawyer rejects from other reality shows (well, that’s just a guess) and put them into a competition where they would try civil cases before a “real” judge. Exciting cases. For instance, in the first episode, one team worked on a case involving a…dog bite, while the other team worked on a case involving a woman being pulled over by a city coroner, and not a cop, thus inflicting emotional distress (I guess). Real nail-biters, those cases. In theory lawyers would be voted off from the losing team until one remained to claim the grand prize of $250,000. Trouble was, no one watched the show (except maybe for myself) and NBC cancelled it after two episodes, sending it over to the Bravo network.
The Best Fake Reality Show No One Watched
My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss technically debuted in 2004 on Fox, but I’m including it here as the show continued into 2005.
Man, what a show. My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss was a wicked parody of The Apprentice. The catch here was that the billionaire mogul of the show, N. Paul Todd, was actually an actor named August Caimi. In fact, aside from the candidates, everyone else on the show was an actor. The candidates didn’t know that N. Paul Todd was an actor. So, each week, the candidates would have to participate in bizarre business taks (selling hot soup in the midst of a Chicago summer, selling a “natural” tampon made of…twigs, among other things), all the while having to deal with N. Paul Todd, who offered up to the candidates nonsensical business advice which proved to be more confusing than helpful. Of course, each week the losing team went into the “boardroom” where Todd fired someone, seeming at random. Fox pulled the show after a handful of episodes, and posted the remaining episodes on its web site.
Hell In the Kitchen
Here’s a new spin on the reality show format: take a British celebrity chef (Gordon Ramsay) and his popular U.K. show and import it to United States. The result? Hell’s Kitchen. Ramsay would take a group of contestants, some who are professional chefs and some who are not, and basically abuse them until one remains, who will win their own restaurant as the prize. Ramsay’s approach with his contestants was the insult them, scream obscenities, and bully them as they completed their tasks, which each evening was the operation of the Hell’s Kitchen restaurant, which usually resulted in chaos and diners leaving after not getting their meals in two hours. Thankfully, Fox is set to debut the second series of the show early this year.
There Can Be Only One
Donald Trump, apparently not learning from the mistake that was made when series three of The Apprentice aired only a couple of weeks after series two ended, was back with the fourth series of The Apprentice and a new addition: The Apprentice: Martha Stewart, both shows airing on the same week. Stewart’s version wasn’t really any different than Trump’s version, with the only difference that it was incredibly dull. Trump’s version was slightly more interesting. Martha Stewart’s show didn’t have a catch phrase (like Trump’s “You’re Fired!”) and instead Martha sent each fired candidate off with a handshake and…a going away letter. The finale was a dull affair, with magazine publisher Dawna beating out natural foods chef Bethenney to be Martha’s apprentice. Dawna’s “dream job” was to work on a new Martha Stewart magazine. Over at The Donald’s world, the Oxford scholar and all-around nice guy Randal Pinkett beat out financial journalist Rebecca Jarvis. At the end of the finale, Randal went from all-around nice guy to possibly the most hated reality show contestant in America when, after Trump asked Randal if Trump should also hire Rebecca, Randal said no.
Part two: American Idol Gets Older