Best of 2012: Emily Maynard, Dan Gheesling, Reza Farahan among top reality stars

Sometimes, reality stars just need a little bit of love. For whatever reason, awards shows and year-end top ten lists often choose to act like reality TV is the unwanted uncle at the family party, when really they are just being snobbish and refusing to admit that this uncle is a blast to hang out with.

Like with all of our other nominees for Best of 2012, we went about this category trying to figure out the best seven people to add to this list based on a specific criteria. We weren’t looking for a lifetime achievement award (hence the absence of Kardashians, “Jersey Shore,” and Jonathan Penner from the list), but rather people who specifically in this past year made a big impact either via being supremely entertaining, supremely controversial, or just really good game-players. In some cases, they are all of the above.

Be sure to vote for your favorite in the poll below, and we are going to announce the winners for this category and others during our grand reveal on Friday, December 21 at 12:00 p.m. Eastern time.

Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson, “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” (TLC) – You may like her or you may loathe her. Either way, you probably have not been able to avoid this tiny “beauty queen” entirely this year. Honey Boo Boo created a nationwide crazy with ridiculous catchphrases, controversial parenting practices, and lots of temper tantrums. If any person out there says that “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” was not a pop-culture phenomenon in some way in 2012, they’d be lying.

Dan Gheesling, “Big Brother 14” (CBS) – Now, let’s go from meltdowns to mindgames. Anyone who loves “Big Brother” knew going into season 14 that Dan was one of the best players ever, but after watching him shatter alliances, make sneaky moves, and even hold his own funeral at one point, there’s really no debate anymore that he and Dr. Will Kirby are the cream of the crop. He ended up losing at the end (the first time any former winner has made it that far) thanks to both a bitter jury and a solid alternative in Ian Terry, but this should in no way diminish the greatness of his game or the entertainment he brought.

Emily Maynard, “The Bachelorette” (ABC) – Emily’s another one of those “love or hate” reality stars, but what is fascinating about her largely is that there are three separate sides to her story: what “The Bachelorette” showed us, what she shows us through her own posts online, and what the tabloids show us. Her season was largely made by some of the great guys that she had to choose from (Arie Luyendyk Jr., Sean Lowe, Jef Holm), but regardless of how you look at it, Emily helped to give the franchise a spark it had lost in recent years.

Heather Dubrow, “The Real Housewives of Orange County” (Bravo) – “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” has grown repetitive, and the “New Jersey” show this year was pretty much just hours upon hours of people with shrill voices screaming at each other. What made Heather and this season of the “Orange County” show refreshing was that she had everything you would expect to see from a Bravo “Housewives” star: there was class, ridiculous showcases of wealth, funny moments, and also a little bit of drama mixed in. It was nice to see someone be entertaining without constantly fighting with other women, so we have to hope this can be an inspiration to future stars of the show.

Kim Spradlin, “Survivor: One World” (CBS) – There were a ton of good nominees for a “Survivor” contestant from the excellent season that is still on the air; as a matter of fact, we would probably pick “Survivor: Philippines” over this one if we were just talking about the shows as a whole. However, one of the reasons why “One World” doesn’t get as much credit is simply because Kim was that good. She dominated this game in a way that we’re not sure a female player ever has before, as she strategized, lied, formed alliances, broke alliances, won challenges, found an immunity idol, and never had to play it. Kim did not go begging for camera time, but her gameplay was something that all past and future “Survivor” players (including those from the current season) have to look at in awe.

Reza Farahan, “Shahs of Sunset” (Bravo) – The ratings for season 2 of the show this fall are up, and you have to thank Reza in part for that. His energy and gigantic personality (one perhaps the size of the entire state of California) have made him the breakout star of this show, which has progressively gotten more entertaining week after week. When this show first premiered, we thought of it as little more than a hybrid of “Jersey Shore” and “The Real Housewives.” However, it’s proving itself to be much more.

Si Robertson, “Duck Dynasty” (A&E) – Finally, we have to talk about a Robertson. We included Jase as one of the breakout stars of the year, with our reasoning there being that he is the guy that really does not get very much of the credit. Si is a little bit more in-your-face, and he fits this category perfectly in that he is consistently the funniest, craziest member of the A&E show’s cast. What also makes him so fascinating is that there is still a little bit of pain behind that famous beard, and you know it is there even if Si doesn’t talk about it.

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