Emmys 2016: ‘Survivor,’ ‘The Bachelor,’ ‘American Ninja Warrior,’ ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ top Reality Competition picks
The Outstanding Reality Competition Program category at the Primetime Emmy Awards is broken. It has been for years. When you look at the nominees, routinely they include “The Voice,” “Top Chef,” “The Amazing Race,” and “Project Runway.” All are good shows, but we suspect at times that the voters aren’t taking the category seriously and don’t bother to even examine the rest of the field. They may even look at some other programs with an attitude of either condescension or indifference.
We’re well aware that this is a problem that is probably not going to be fixed, but we wanted to in this article share who, by our money, are the six most deserving contenders for Reality Competition for this year. We’re not making legacy picks or grading based on subject matter.
“America’s Got Talent” (NBC) – In the age of singing-show domination, herein lies the oft-ignored contender that gives us something different every week. Over the years the producers have refined this format, added a wonderful twist in the Golden Buzzer, and also presented even more variety and fewer singers with sob stories destined to make it to the end of the season. We do think still that the British version is the best one of the franchise, but “AGT” has made tremendous strides and has arguably one of the best hosts out there in Nick Cannon who’s not afraid to silly himself up for the sake of having a good time.
“American Ninja Warrior” (NBC) – Look back at the past few years and tell us how many new reality competition shows have succeeded on network TV. The answer is “very few,” which is probably why this field rarely changes. “American Ninja Warrior” is an exception to the rule. Sure, it is an adaptation of an old property, but who thought this would become such a nationwide sensation, and inspire arguably a sport unto itself? It’s superbly edited, and over time it has done an excellent job of learning how to focus on the people just as much as the obstacles. This is why it has the staying power that other physical reality competitions do not.
“The Bachelor” (ABC) – We could say that it is a surprise that this show has never been nominated in all of its years on TV, but it’s really not. Emmy voters are a cynical bunch, and we don’t think they are tapped in to the various meta-levels on which this show is entertaining and culture-defining. Sure, for some it is fairy-tale love story of one guy who manages to find his future wife among a sea of women; for others, it’s a hot mess, something they watch for the drama or the unintentional comedy. If the whole purpose of the Emmys is to point out the exceptional, are you really going to deny that “The Bachelor” is exceptional when it comes to cultivating its brand? The failures of so many other shows to capture attention in the reality-dating subgenre further prove its achievement.
“Dancing with the Stars” (ABC) – There still remains something magic even after all of these years, watching “Dancing with the Stars” contenders enter the ballroom for the first time. One of the aspects of reality TV we love the most is its celebratory one, where you simply have a good time watching people dive into the great unknown. This show is a huge production, a learning experience, wonderfully-cast by and large, and a model of consistency. Tom Bergeron is outstanding in live-TV settings, and having roughly the same judges and pros every season adds to the wonderful feeling of familiarity.
“RuPaul’s Drag Race” (Logo) – The whole skill-based show a la a “Top Chef” or “Ink Master” has a tendency to become formulaic, given that you have certain casting archetypes and challenges you want to get to week in and week out. It’s sometimes hard to find creativity or energy in such a space, unless of course your name is “RuPaul’s Drag Race.” There are few shows out there with this much heart; it’s hilarious funny at times, personal and touching at others, and artistic almost the entire time from start to finish. Few shows have this degree of passion, or really this degree of fun from start to finish.
“Survivor” (CBS) – We made it no secret that with “San Juan del Sur” and “Worlds Apart,” the CBS staple had a rough 2014-15 season. That’s what made their turnaround more impressive. While you argue at times against the story editing of “Cambodia,” there was a tremendous display of strategy and many interesting innovations to the game. “Kaoh Rong,” meanwhile, was surprisingly enjoyable despite very little hype. You can argue over the winner, but it brought us great characters like Debbie, Tai, and Aubry, and gave us a really great journey to that final tribal council.
Now, we turn this over to you! Vote for your favorite among this list below, and head over here to check out other Emmy articles from the past few weeks! We’ll be announcing the results of our polls come July 13, one day before nominations are announced.
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