Cheat Sheet 2011: Reality Series

Michael Becker/Fox

When ABC's Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution and Bravo's Top Chef won here last year, the message was clear: The reality races were ripe for change. With Food Revolution ineligible this year and American Idol hot off its biggest season ever, this year promises more surprises.


Antiques Roadshow (PBS)

  • PRO: The granddaddy of all picker/pawn/collector shows has earned five nominations and inspired a basic-cable copycat phenomenon with the likes of Pawn Stars and American Pickers.
  • CON: It's on PBS. And there's much flashier competition in the category.

Deadliest Catch (Discovery)

  • PRO: The first-time nominee is like a competition show in the nonfiction category, with thrills, near-death instances and lots of macho moments to appeal to male voters.
  • CON: Generally, lighter fare tends to prevail here. Also, it lacks the mixed-gender appeal of, say, Undercover Boss.

Hoarders (A&E)

  • PRO: A&E's Intervention won in 2009, proving voters' openness to rewarding darker reality themes.
  • CON: Hoarders is probably the biggest downer on TV. After Food Revolution's win last year, it's clear voters are leaning toward sunnier and more inspirational material.

My Life on the D-List (Bravo)

  • PRO: Six-time series nominee and two-time winner Kathy Griffin is that rarest of reality stars: She's as endearing as she is hilarious. She's also one of the biggest self-promoters in the biz.
  • CON: She's won, and the show wasn't renewed for a seventh season. And she hasn't been on the D-list in a long while.

Mythbusters (Discovery)

  • PRO: The thrice-nominated series is the only science-oriented entrant in the race.
  • CON: It's pretty geeky. And if a Discovery series is going to win, voters might lean toward the action and drama of Deadliest Catch.

Undercover Boss (CBS) (LIKELY WINNER)

  • PRO: The two-time nominee has all the inspiration and transformative charm of last year's winner, Food Revolution. Lucky for Boss, Revolution is down for the count this year.
  • CON: Survivor tends to dominate the conversation when it comes to reality programming on CBS.



The Amazing Race (CBS)

  • PRO: The 12-time winner has earned a staggering 47 nominations (many for tech awards) and exemplifies the category with hard-fought challenges. The sheer logistical magic required to pull it off never ceases to impress.
  • CON: Top Chef unseated Race last year, which signals that voters have moved on.

American Idol (Fox) (LIKELY WINNER)

  • PRO: New judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez made the nine-time series nominee totally pop. Insane talent among the final 10, including winner Scotty McCreery, made the show feel utterly reborn.
  • CON: It still doesn't feel as much a reality show as a very entertaining talent show.

Dancing With the Stars (ABC)

  • PRO: Big ratings -- it regularly outperforms most scripted competition -- and headline-making stars have kept the six-time nominee on voters' minds and DVRs.
  • CON: It's feeling a bit worn out. And if a dance show breaks through this year, it would more likely be So You Think You Can Dance.

Project Runway (Lifetime)

  • PRO: The 2010 season was the seven-time nominee's sharpest in years; the rivalry between Mondo and Gretchen alone made the show. And Gunn remains one of the genre's most addictively likable personalities.
  • CON: Host Klum was snubbed -- not a good sign. Neither is zero wins in seven years.

So You Think You Can Dance (Fox)

  • PRO: The first-time nominee, produced by Idol's Nigel Lythgoe, is this year's youthful underdog. Its host, Cat Deeley, also scored a nomination.
  • CON: It skews rather young. And voters might feel a more established entrant deserves glory.

Top Chef (Bravo)

  • PRO: Last year's winner has been a series nominee since 2007. This category clearly favors repeat winners.
  • CON: Its winning last year means voters are still primed for change. And Idol is too well-positioned for a spoil for Chef to be a lock for a second trophy.