Reality TV's best and worst shows. Ken Tucker explains what he loves -- and hates -- about ''American Idol,'' ''Are You Hot?,'' and more fan favorites

By Ken Tucker
March 18, 2003 at 05:00 AM EST

Reality TV’s best and worst shows

The premise here? Simple: Take four popular reality-TV shows and find the three best points and the three worst points about each one. The real reality? Coming up with the three best points, of course.


The Best:
1. Clay Aiken. With his thin frame and smoky voice, he’s like Brit pop flash-in-the-pan Rick Astley but with the potential to be more than a flash in the pan.
2. Ruben Studdard. The guy is so self-possessed, he could star in his own TV show right now; in fact, could he please just be given a recording contract and replace Paula Abdul?
3. Kimberly Caldwell. Isn’t it nice to have a clearly defined obnoxious person to root against?

The Worst:
1. The Simon Cowell act was tired last season; this time, it’s just a bore.
2. Kelly Clarkson reappears on Tuesday. There’s no song on earth she could sing that would make me interested in seeing this poor kid’s overexposed mug on the screen again.
3. I’m actually finding Ryan Seacrest not only less annoying, but kinda funny — as in amusing, rather than ridiculous — this time around. This is a sure sign of my impending insanity.


The Best:
1. The premise — take a bunch of loneyhearts, match ’em up, and marry ’em off — has been executed here in a manner that’s no better or worse than your average online dating service. Or so I would imagine.
2. Many of the contestants seem remarkably sincere and unaffected.
3. Many marriages end in divorce; if watching this sad spectacle moves some viewers to avoid jumping into a hasty hitching, this show will provide a public service.

The Worst:
1. That body-length piece of plastic with a hole in it, so the proposer can only see the thrust-through hand of the proposee? It looks vaguely obscene.
2. We get to vote on who gets married to whom — at this point in our current history, turning voting into a joke seems, well, at the risk of repeating myself, vaguely obscene.
3. Mass-medium marriage? Isn’t this one step away from some kind of cult?


The Best:
1. I actually liked that girl who recited geography facts while juggling and wobbling on a balance board.
2. Footage showing that there are people in America who don’t know there are 50 states in this country was a good reminder of how shows like this are time-wasters that should instead be replaced by FCC-mandated shows with history and English lessons.
3.Someone has to say it: Geri Halliwell is a welcome presence — the once-and-future Spice Girl is well-spoken and refreshingly forthright in her evaluations.

The Worst:
1. The ”American Idol” rip-offs — the three judges, the lineup eliminations — only add to the general air of seen-it-all-before.
2. Making the girls jump around in bathing suits in the ”All American Girl Obstacle Course”? Nobody needs a variation on ”The Man Show”’s trampoline-jumping.
3. Um, er, ahhh, I watched the whole two-hour premiere and — WHO CARES ABOUT THIS SHOW???


The Best:
1. Utter honesty in advertising: This is a meat market, impure and simple.
2. Two of the judges, macho-smuggie Lorenzo Lamas and model Rachel Hunter, obviously despise each other, thus lending some tension to the tedious parade of toned bodies swaggering in front of them.
3. It’s over after this Thursday, and so low-rated, it’s unlikely to return.

The Worst:
1. Lamas’ laser-pointer, zooming in on what he perceives to be ”flaws” in the bodies he examines. I never thought I’d be rooting for Howard Stern, who does the same thing on his radio and TV show, but if Stern sues Lamas, any discomfort the latter endures is well deserved.
2. Lamas thinks comments to contestants like this are funny: ”Did you get those big boobs so they’d match your behind?”
3. The show may have convinced some stupid producer in L.A. to give Lorenzo Lamas another job.

What do you think about these reality shows?