1. The Amazing Race: This show might run in the shadow of Survivor but this reality contest won the respect of not only the fans but the Emmy elite which gave this series the Best Emmy for Reality Competition Program ten times. Only losing to “Top Chief” and more recently “The Voice. ”So, what makes “The Amazing Race” so popular? It’s literally a race around the world in which in most seasons two teams of 12 compete (in some close relationship for most seasons) in order to win One Million Dollars. Sure, you have your camera crews following your teams, you have your bickering and your typical reality contest trappings (such as the on-camera interview). What “The Amazing Race” brings to the table and the biggest reasons why the Emmys loved so much until recently is that the contestants do have to connect with the cultures they are surrounded in. This usually comes in the in the tasks (mostly in the forms of “Road Blocks” and “Detours”) that the racers have to do in order to move forward in the race. For instance, a task if your currently in Venice, Italy may require you to learn how to serenade like they do and actually perform it in front of a couple. If your good, you get next “clue” (instructing your next direction in the race). You could also be required to deliver luggage around the city of Venice as well. If you’re in Greece you might have to learn to become one of the guards of the “Tomb of the Underknown Soldier” and learn how the “Changing of the Guard” is done in order to move forward in the race. They are anything but a cake walk, and certain tasks require that ONLY ONE team member can do the task (The “Road Block”) while the “Detours” usually allow both team members to play the tasks (along with the two choices of tasks). At each leg of the race is a Pit Stop and the show’s host Phil Keoghan is always joined by a local representative of that respected nation to welcome the racers when they reach the Pit Stop to be checked in or sent back to do a task, wait out a penalty, or worst of all get eliminated from the race. So, The Amazing Race is your basic reality contest that does get you to think globally while you watch locally.
2. Survivor: This show actually came from the Country of Sweden under the title Expedition Robinson (named after the shipwrecked tales form Robinson Crusoe and the Swiss Family Robinson). Nobody is really marooned here, but the contestants do have to learn certain survival skills to get by in their attempt to be the winner of the season. At the beginning of the series there are two tribes of eight players or three tribes of six players. There are Trible Challenges that must be played. Usually its “Reward Challenges” in which the winning tribe gets food, equipment etc. There are also “Immunity challenges” in which the losing tribe will make the long trek to Tribal Council to vote off one of their own. Eventually tribes will merge into one, and the Challenges will be focused on the individual “survivors” instead of a collective tribe as there can be only one overall Survivor eachseason. The final Tribal Council of the eight runners up prior to the final two Survivors who made it to the finals who must vote on the winner. Survivor does two seasons of contests per TV year and its currentlyin its 34th Season. Most of the production and game was already produced and the winner has been decided…they just have to wait like everyone else to find out who that Sole Survivor is once we reach the point in TV Time.
3. Big Brother: Not in shape for Survivor? Well you’re in luck, you have this series from the Netherlands to try your luck on. The first season was closer to the show’soriginal format and style but it did not click with the Americans. From second season and beyond it truly became “Survivor” in a house…under the watchful eye of Big Brother…who’s role is underplayed in this version (if ever he truly had role) of the TV franchise but we still have cameras watching the houseguests 24/7 for the duration of the game. You have your “Head of Household” who would nominate two house guests for eviction, then they would have to fight for Power Of Veto (since season three) to remove themselves from being evicted, but regardless two people must put up to be voted out by everyone else, and once that is done…a new HOA is selected and the cycle begins again…until you have two houseguests and a jury of the runner ups (like Survivor) having to vote the winner. With the exception of 2008, BB has only ran in the summer months (with a single winter edition to date in 2008 due to the Writers Guild strike). However,the upcoming Celebrity version of the reality contest will premiere in the Winter of 2018 and a new series with everyday people in the summer of the same year.
4. The Voice: The show was the creation of John de Mol (who also created Big Brother) along with singer-songwriter Roel van Velzen. They wanted to do a singing contest that could be better than X Factor (which become the popular singing contest in the UK) or its distance cousin of sorts Idol. So, what they came up with, is the focus on the talent’s voice and that voice alone…now how they looked on stage. Thus, The Voice was born, and the American version has become the Emmy’s favorite show which it won four times Outstanding Reality-Competition Program non-consecutively since 2013. The judges who are singers in their own right, have their chairs and backs turned from the artists and towards the audience. If they like a certain singer based on the quality of their voice alone they can press the red button in front of them and they will turn around and see who they are. If they are the only one who turned, they automatically go to that judge’s team. If more than one chooses to turn, then the singer can decide which judge’s team he or she wants to be on. The judges have to be careful however because there is a limit on how many singers they can take on. There have been voices that the judges wanted nothing to do with (or they maxed out their team limit) and if no one turned during their performance they are automatically eliminated. However, they try to be nice to the contestants that did not make it…unlike someone we know from the UK. Like all other reality contestants, it’s a Darwinian contest and knocking out singers one by one is the norm. The Voice has its duet battles and Judge’s steal at their disposal and eventually the viewers deciding who goes on and who will win. So far, a contestant on this showhas yet truly reached the status of superstar or have a high profile following like some have had on other shows. But yet the concept of The Voice tries to be positive and focus on substance over the symbolism which is lacking in the real world of popular music.
5. America’s Got Talent: There was one good thing that Chuck Barrisand Chris Bearde did with The Gong Show. That was they planted the seeds for a better talent contest that Simon Cowell himself would create in the future building on the legacy of The Gong Show. That being was the Got Talent franchise. America got the first crack at seeing this contest go to air in 2006 before the UK counterpart finally got its turn a year later. On the Gong Show, it just took one judge to get a performance stopped dead in its tracks. On Talent, it takes a unanimousdisapproval of all the judges and pressing their red buzzer to kill the act. Got Talent goes for the honest act and not just the novelty or the bazaar as The Gong Show was known for (but even The Gong Show had its downright serious acts and even a little of both). Once they got their talent put in place, the viewers will make the final choices but still an act can be buzzed even up to the finale. I have not personally heard of an act that got ran out when they made it to the finale…but I am sure if it ever happened it will be big news. So far, the only one that was able to truly capitalize of being a contestant on AGT was Jackie Evancho, even though she did not win in the year she was a contestant (2010). She recently signed a new deal with Sony Music, and sung the National Anthem at the inauguration of our 45th President Donald Trump. Still AGT is a great platform for Americans to at least try to show to America what they can do as a performer whatever that skill might be. Also, I have to say, it’s kind of nice to see Simon Cowell back on the TV screen judging some kind of American TV talent contest.
6. American Idol: Before we had “American’s Got Talent” or “The Voice” we had this show. While its UK counterpart Pop Idol only lasted two seasons (and that is in part because Simon Cowell wanted to create a better show i.e. X Factor), Idol was a powerhouse in America. It made Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood superstars and Fantasia Barrino found modest success in the R&B genre. We turned in to see those who were able to make it in front of the big judges themselves only to be shot down big time (even if William Hung had his 15 minutes of fame) or make it. It also made radio personality Ryan Seacrest a superstar and media magnet (succeeding Casey Kasem on the long running radio program “American Top 40,” and recently co-hosting Live with Kelly Ripa)and in spite of “X Factor” doing well in the UK, Simon Cowell was content at least for a while at being a judge on American Idol, before giving X Factor a try in America…and FOX itself allowed it to fail. Now ABC wants to bring American Idol back and Seacrest is planning to host the show once again. Can it make a comeback? Especially with Katy Perry’s declining popularity as a singer…but then again Idol had Paula Abdul, and The Voice had Christina Aguilera who’s 15 minutes of fame ended more less. So, who knows?
7. Dancing With The Stars: In the UK were it originated from (as well as South Africa), this show is called “Strictly Come Dancing.” Everywhere else and in America, it is called “Dancing With The Stars.” This show takes celebrities of various genres of media, movies, TV, music, politics, sportsetcetc., and draws them into the world of Ballroom Dancing competition. They are paired with a professional ball room dancer and train with that dancer for as long as they are active in the competition and were not eliminated from the contest. Most the ballroom dance disciplines are highlighted (Viennese Waltz, Paso doble, Quick Step, Rumba etc) each season. While all the judges were skilled in dancing and movement its Len Goodman and Julianne Hough who trained and competed in the sport of Ballroom Dancing. Bruno Tonioli and Carrie Ann Inaba are not really the ballroom types but both developed their skills in choreography. While the show has declined in recent years, the show is not in any danger of being cancel as far as I can see.