Author: Alison Cherry
So You Think You Can Dance (Fox, 2005-present)
Premise: A group of professional chefs compete in two challenges per week: a “Quickfire,” in which they often must cook something in less than half an hour, and an elimination challenge, which are more complex. One chef is eliminated each week by a panel of chefs, guest judges, and food critics.
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Publication Date: December 9, 2014
No parents. No limits. No clue what they're in for.
Shy, cautious Claire has always been in her confident older sister's shadow. While Miranda's life is jam-packed with exciting people and whirlwind adventures, Claire gets her thrills vicariously by watching people live large on reality TV.
When Miranda discovers her boyfriend, Samir, cheating on her just before her college graduation, it's Claire who comes up with the perfect plan. They'll outshine Miranda's fame-obsessed ex while having an amazing summer by competing on Around the World, a race around the globe for a million bucks. Revenge + sisterly bonding = awesome.
But the show has a twist, and Claire is stunned to find herself in the middle of a reality-show romance that may or may not be just for the cameras. This summer could end up being the highlight of her life... or an epic fail forever captured on film. In a world where drama is currency and manipulation is standard, how can you tell what's for real?
Alison's Top 5 Favorite Reality Shows
So You Think You Can Dance (Fox, 2005-present)
|Two of my all-time favorite contestants, Melanie Moore and Sasha Mallory, dancing a contemporary routine in season 8.|
Premise: Ten male dancers and ten female dancers are paired up and perform choreography in at least one randomly selected dance style each week. Viewers vote to eliminate one guy and one girl per week.
Best points: The level of talent on this show is phenomenal, both among the dancers and the choreographers. (It has won six Emmys for outstanding choreography!) The show’s format doesn’t give you a lot of time to get to know the dancers as people—it’s really almost all about dancing—and I actually appreciate that about it. It’s rare that watch a reality show and feel like the winners are chosen based on talent alone. Bonus: I am really good at calling the winner of this show in advance.
Worst points: After every routine, a panel of judges gives the dancers feedback about their performances, which is meant to guide the voting public. However, I already know a lot about dance, so I find all the talking unnecessary—I just watched the performances, I know whether they were good or not! I often fast-forward through all the talking, which cuts my viewing time down from two hours to 45 minutes. Ah, the wonders of DVR.
Top Chef (Bravo, 2006-present)
|My favorite Top Chef winner, Stephanie Izard, proudly displays an amuse bouche during season 4.|
Best points: I can barely make a hard-boiled egg without consulting a cookbook, so the speed and agility with which these chefs cook is astounding to me. It’s almost like watching them do magic tricks. The challenges are also incredibly creative—I’ve seen chefs prepare entire meals with one hand, concoct appetizers from ingredients they bought from a vending machine, and build landscapes out of dessert items.
Worst points: As with all cooking shows (except visual ones like Ace of Cakes,) the viewing audience has no way of knowing whether the right people are being eliminated, as we can’t taste the food. Also, this show makes me incredibly hungry.
The Amazing Race (CBS, 2001-present)
|Bopper and Mark, one of my all-time favorite teams, searches a field full of mini hot air balloons for their next clue in season 20.|
Premise: Teams of two travel to a different country each week and complete a series of challenges as quickly as possible. The last team to arrive at the “pit stop” at the end of each leg of the race is eliminated.
Best points: This show is edited really well—the scenery is beautiful, the camerawork is extremely professional, and the producers are great at creating dramatic tension. Even if two teams are actually hours apart, it appears to the viewers as if they’re neck and neck. Many of the challenges relate to local customs, which are fun to learn about, plus there’s the schadenfreude of watching people do annoying tasks like searching a packed china shop for one specific figurine.
Worst points: The producers always pick at least one team of people who don’t actually get along, and they spend the entire season bickering and screaming at each other, which gets grating very quickly. Also, because speed is the goal of the show, it’s rare that anyone gets to pay much attention to the local culture or admire the scenery. It seems like such a waste to race around the world without actually seeing anything.
Mythbusters (Discovery Channel, 2003-present)
|Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, ready to white-water raft on rafts made of duct tape in season 14.|
Premise: Two special effects experts set out to prove or disprove the validity of myths, old wives’ tales, adages, and improbable-sounding news stories and movie scenes.
Best points: I love watching people be wildly enthusiastic about things, and hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage are so excited about science (and possibly even more excited about blowing stuff up!) I also love how much effort they put into doing things that are completely useless and ridiculous, just to see if they’re possible, like building a functional sailboat out of duct tape (success!) or cutting down a tree with machine-gun fire (success, though it was areally big machine gun, and it took a while.) This show is both hilarious and informative, and it’s rare to see anyone have this much fun on reality television.
Worst points: Though I’m sure they take precautions to make sure everyone is safe, Adam and Jamie are constantly putting themselves in situations that looklife-threatening. Those blast shields just don't seem strong enough to protect them, and I’m always afraid someone’s going to die in the name of science. What if they don't get out of the sinking car in time? What if the sharks actually do try to eat them? Busting myths is very stressful, as it turns out.
Work of Art: The Next Great Artist (Bravo, 2010-2011)
|The judges take in contestant Sara Jiminez's performance art piece in season 2.|
Premise: Fourteen up-and-coming artists compete in visual art challenges. Each episode culminates in a gallery show, and then one artist is eliminated by a group of judges.
Best points: Everyone on this show is completely nuts. There was a guy who went by “The Sucklord.” There were people who made “art” with their own bodily fluids and hair. There was always one girl who photographed herself nude for every challenge. I was a visual art major in college, and these are exactly the kinds of people I interacted with every day, so it was very cathartic to be able to laugh at the weirdness without having to actually, you know, be in the room with them.
Worst points: Apparently nobody watched this show. It was canceled after two seasons, and I mourn its passing.