Last night my joy over the return of RuPaul's Drag Race, the best reality show on TV, was tempered when the usually brilliant Ru trotted out one of my least favorite reality TV show twists. All the returning queens were going to be competing in groups. Really? There's not enough drama that we have to resort to cheap tricks in the first episode?
There are a bunch of these tropes that I think we need to banish from all reality shows forever. Fighting for the genre's purity is sort of like trying to keep a toilet bowl germ-free, but here are the six worst things reality shows try to do to gin up excitement. They should be banished forever.
Competing in Pairs: I will say for Drag Race that it found an interesting way to have the queens select their teammates (by choosing who would like to work with whom and if they matched they were a team), but I hate when any show that doesn't usually have teams institutes this ploy. What happens is one contestant gets saddled with a dud and ends up going home prematurely. That's just what happened to Pandora Boxx last night when the vicious Mimi Imfirst dragged her down. Now our poor Pandora has to go home before her time through no fault of her own. This seems like a waste. And the worst is that the teams always get dismantled about half-way through the season, making the loss of our early favorites that much more sad.
Team Challenges: Last night Dancing With the Stars was preempted by the Presidential Debate (I know which one I'd rather watch too) so the stars were forced to dance with their partners in big groups. This is bulls**t. This means that the crappy people from one group will get off scot-free and the good people from the losing team will be in danger. That is not fair. And you can't compare the dancers who can do crazy stunts with those who can't. What happens on shows that use this too often (I'm looking at you Project Runway and Top Chef) is that you end up with mediocre contestants getting way father than they deserve by floating on other people's talents. If a contestant can't get by on his own merits he should pack his bags.
Bringing Back Eliminated Contestants: This is one of Big Brother's weaknesses, when it tries to appease the crowd by concocting some lame "twist" that allows a fan favorite back into the house. I'm sorry, it may be good for ratings in the short term, but it's bad for your show in the long run. If an elimination has no stakes then why do we have to care about it? Also, if you get voted out, then you are gone fair and square. No one should have an extra advantage over anyone else.
The Judge's Save: Shows like American Idol and The Voice spend a lot of time letting us know that we get to make the final decision about who takes the top prize. We know better than the judges, the show tells us. Well, sometimes that is not true. Sometimes the judges get to save someone and tell us that we're a bunch of idiots and we don't know what we like. Guess what, Simon Cowell, I do know what I like and what I don't like and that is why I voted the way I did. This show isn't called Cowell Idol, it's called American Idol 2: The X Factor Revenge. If you don't want America to decide, then don't let them in the first place.
No Elimination: The Amazing Race and America's Next Top Model love this gimmick (and so does just about every show) where someone gets to finish in last place only to find out that no one is being sent home this week. What the hell! This is such a lame cop out. As I said before, the elimination has to mean something, and sometimes that means making hard choices like sending a popular contestant home. In the end the blow of losing someone we love is the reason why we watch these shows. Don't take that away from us.
Extras in the Finale: When Survivor started messing with having a final three instead of a final two, the ending of the show went right in the s***ter. What is great about reality finales is that it is a showdown between two people. One wins and one loses. That is rough. Know what lessens the blow? When two people lose. It's not as rough. Then who cares. And there is always that third person (cough, Phi Phi O'Hara, cough) that doesn't deserve to be there and won't win in a million years and you just wish that the producers would have the stones to send her packing. Don't fool us by keeping extra people around. We know who has a shot and who doesn't.
The Fake Finale/Premiere: Another favorite of Top Chef (Sidenote: wouldn't you love to see a competition show called Top Cher? I would!) and Project Runway, they decide not to eliminate someone right before the final cookoff/runway show and instead, when they get to New York or wherever they're going, the questionable contestants face-off to see who makes the finale. You know that guy who keeps texting, calling, and emailing you but just won't set a date to go out with you? This is the same thing. Either do it or don't do it. Don't string us along. The same goes for the premiere where the host says, "You still have to prove to us you should be here. Not all of you have made it on the show yet." Um, yes they have. We are watching the show and they are on it. They have made the show. Don't string people along. We wouldn't want a boy to do it, and we'll hate you just as much when you try.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
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