Emmys 2012: The Top Reality Contenders (and Long Shots) in the Race
This story first appered in the June 15 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
Potential spoilers and surprise nominees abound in this year's deep pool of reality series and host contenders.
American Idol: Fox - Emmy's perennial bridesmaid (since 2002) didn't break ratings records this year, but it's still the most beloved competition series on TV. And 2012 winner Phillip Phillips is soooo cute!
Dancing With the Stars: ABC - The six-time nominee boasts TV's most bizarre roster of "talent" (Urkel! Navratilova!) and Best Use of Barely There Sequins.
Project Runaway: Lifetime - The design series has "made it work" for nine seasons with Tim Gunn's avuncular guidance and Heidi Klum's impossible gams.
Survivor: CBS - The four-time nominee never fails in showing how effective a diet of not eating can be.
The Amazing Race: CBS - The winningest in the genre's history -- 13 total statuettes -- hasn't dulled a bit in its pursuit of totally stressing out the audience.
Top Chef: Bravo - It scored an upset win over Race in 2010 and promises another strong Emmy showing, largely for managing to incorporate Pee-wee Herman into a Texas-themed cook-off.
Fashion Star: NBC - When Ben Silverman, the guy who developed The Office for NBC, produces a fashion-contest show featuring Jessica Simpson and Elle Macpherson, it's worth noting.
So You Think You Can Dance: Fox - Last year's surprise breakthrough nominee still has some catchy moves.
The Voice: NBC - Say what you will about those spinning chairs. Idol's first major competition ever has the sexy coaches and glossy look to break through this crowded category.
The X Factor: Fox - Who says some bad PR can't net you some Emmy attention? Certainly not Simon Cowell, whose Idol follow-up had just as much drama behind the scenes (fired judges!) as raw emotional talent coming into their own onstage.
America's Got Talent: NBC - The chanting is infectious: "Howard! Howard! Howard!" There might be other judges on the show, too.
Shark Tank: ABC - A panel of entrepreneurs takes pitches from regular folks who want to start businesses, and you get free tips for launching that cat-walking company you've been dreaming about.
Design Star: HGTV - Who knew this interior-design contest series was in its seventh season? Real estate agents in Canada, it turns out.
Work of Art: Bravo - This studio-art challenge is like a thinking-man's Project Runway, with -- if it's possible -- bigger egos and more meltdowns.
The Bachelor: ABC - Quiz: What is the name of the most recent bachelor and is he still with his fiancee? (Yeah, we didn't know, either.)
The Biggest Loser: NBC - Weight loss is still something to cheer about. Two-hour episodes? Not so much.
Antiques Roadshow: PBS - People love antiques. People love money. So a nine-time nominee about how much money you can get for your antique is an annual slam dunk.
Betty White's Off Their Rockers: NBC - Emmy's golden girl is shaking up the race with a new format: finally, a geriatric Punk'd.
Deadliest Catch: Discovery - There's nothing fishy about the enduring appeal of this 2011 winner.
Mythbusters: Discovery - How much Bubble Wrap will protect you in a 35-foot fall? Watch this three-time nominee to find out.
Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution: ABC - 2010's surprise winner is back after a long hiatus. Hide the Cheetos!
Undercover Boss: CBS - If your eyes don't well up watching this series, you're fired from voting.
Doomsday Preppers: Nat Geo - This clever Hoarders-meets-Y2K-paranoia mashup has made the bunker stylish again.
Duck Dynasty: A&E - Country dudes with ZZ Top beards live the good life making duck-call noisemakers. What's not to love?
Pawn Stars: History - Three generations of manly men teach you stuff about junk without you even knowing it.
The Pitch: AMC - From the team that brought you Undercover Boss comes a frightening (read: accurate) look inside the egomaniacal world of advertising, stealthily placed post-Mad Men.
Storage Wars: A&E - Like Hoarders and Antiques Roadshow, this odd glimpse into the world of storage-container auctions is annoyingly addictive.
Swamp People: History - You may not get much of what's said by Troy and Co., but you've gotta appreciate bayou boys who wrestle gators for cash.
Giuliana & Bill: Style - Breast cancer, surrogacy ... this docusoap has it all. And the stars are likable.
Hillbilly Handfishin': Animal Planet - Like Swamp People's beer-drinking cousin, these "noodlers" redefine commitment to one's craft.
Jersey Shore: MTV - Hey, The Osbournes won an Emmy in 2002. Just saying.
Sister Wives: TLC - Filling the void left by HBO's Big Love is this look at Kody Brown's life with four wives and 16 children. Swamp People suddenly looks pretty normal.
Teen Mom: MTV - As the original foursome heads into their 20s, their Emmy window for teen glory is quickly closing.
Toddlers & Tiaras: TLC - After five seasons of tantrums and Tammy Faye Bakker eyelashes, it remains the benchmark of train-wreck TV.
Tom Bergeron: Dancing With the Stars ABC - His dry-witted humor is a work of art on a show where subtlety is a dirty word.
Cat Deeley: So You Think You Can Dance Fox - So authentically bubbly she verges on absurd, this 2011 nominee is a Brit import worth a thousand jazz hands.
Phil Keoghan: The Amazing Race CBS - The three-time nominee once spent the night in a Ukrainian jail for the sake of his job. Can Seacrest say that?
Jeff Probst: Survivor CBS -The only emcee to ever win this prize (that would be four times in a row) is impossibly good at making tribal councils feel important. And those dimples!
Ryan Seacrest: American Idol Fox - What is left to say about Dick Clark's heir apparent? Well, he has shockingly never won an Emmy for hosting Idol and ... more after the break.
Carson Daly: The Voice NBC - It's easy to forget how smooth the erstwhile TRL host really is on live TV, until you see him filling dead air with contestant banter that's utterly Seacrestian.
Heidi Klum: Project Runway Bravo - Passed over for a nomination in 2011, Klum is campaigning hard this year to ensure voters don't say auf Wiedersehen for good.
Padma Lakshmi: Top Chef Bravo - Don't hate her because she's beautiful -- and eats for a living.
Gordon Ramsay: Hell's Kitchen, Kitchen Nightmares Fox - The man who makes Simon Cowell look like the Snuggle bear is bloody awesome as a tyrannical chef-host who cooks up a lot of tears on his competition show and docuseries.
Tyra Banks: America's Next Top Model The CW - Your show is still on? Just kidding -- love you, Tyra.
Nick Cannon: America's Got Talent NBC - Mariah Carey's hubby doesn't so much "host" this show as fling contorted facial expressions at the camera during odd performances and give emotional support to crying kids. That's not to say both aren't important.
Chris Harrison: The Bachelor ABC - His own real-life divorce probably won't help his chances for a nomination. It's kind of like Heidi Klum campaigning for Runway while wearing a hand-me-down prairie dress and matching Crocs.
Elle MacPherson: Fashion Star NBC - The model-actress-businesswoman turned reality host is 48 and hotter than most women half her age. Not to sound superficial, but you know that helps.