Screen savors: Competitive spirit

Reality TV offers average people the chance to excel at something- anything - in a diverse range of contests and challenges.

Food, fashion, singing, dancing, weight loss, extreme sports – you name it and people are vying to go on national television to prove they’re the best at it. In a spate of reality TV shows that range from top chefs and top models to overeaters and overachievers, ordinary people are pitting themselves against each other to attain extraordinary results.
While most viewers are familiar with such popular shows as American Idol, Dancing with the Stars and The Biggest Loser, some of the lesser-known competitions are no less intriguing and entertaining.
I have never actually seen Dancing with the Stars, as I don’t get it on my HOT package. However, every time another pair is eliminated from the show, they appear on The Ellen Show or Jimmy Kimmel Live, so I get to see them do one of their dance routines, and they really are amazing.
And speaking of amazing, one of my favorite competitions is The Amazing Race (HOT Zone). The show takes paired teams literally around the world as they rush to reach a different destination each week. To reach each pit stop, they must perform activities that require endurance, skill, ingenuity and teamwork, and the last pair to arrive is eliminated. For the viewer, the thrill lies in watching how the teams overcome obstacles while getting to see exotic parts of the world in a heart-stopping race against time. The prize for the last team standing is $1 million, a reward well earned by any standard.
In another show, a standard by which the contestants are judged is beauty – and then some. On America’s Next Top Model (HOT Channel 3), 13 wannabe supermodels are put through their paces until one ultimately earns the title of ANTM. In a competition produced and hosted by the stunning Tyra Banks, the girls are judged not only on their good looks but also on their ability to walk, dress, pose, act, converse and think on their feet. Not such an easy feat, the girls – and the audience – discover.
The world of fashion is also daunting for the designers who create the clothing for the models to showcase on the catwalk. On Project Runway (HOT Channel 3), produced and hosted by former supermodel Heidi Klum, young designers compete to earn the opportunity and the cash to start their own line. Each week the contestants are assigned another way to create a fashion-forward look within two days, which is judged by a panel of fashion mavens. Every week, the judges eliminate a designer who doesn’t make the cut. For the viewer, the intrigue lies in watching these creative artists dream up – and make with their own hands – an astonishing array of haute couture. For someone like me who can’t even sew on a button, this seems like sheer genius.
Did I say genius? That brings me to another favorite –Beauties vs the Geeks (HOT Channel 3). In thisseemingly unlikely competitive combo, a bevy of beautiful girls go headto head with a gaggle of gangly geeks. Every week, each team is given achallenge and texts from which to study. The twist here is that thebeauties are tested on their knowledge and intelligence, while thegeeks have to master charm and social skills. The two teams are housedtogether in the same mansion, and each week one on each team iseliminated. What is heartwarming about this show is the way each grouplearns to view each other with new eyes. The beauties, who wouldotherwise never have given these guys the time of day, get to see pastthe nerdiness and discover the sweet, sensitive soul of the geeks. Andthe guys, most of whom have never even been on a date, get to befriendthe gorgeous girls and become more confident and self-assured beforeour eyes.
In this competitive genre, married couples also get into the act. Everyweek on Things I Hate about You (Home&FamilyChannel), a different couple competes to see which of the two is themore annoying to live with. Each spouse presents a video log of theother’s most annoying behavior, which is rated by a panel of three (twocomedians and a relationship expert). At the end of each show, thespouse with the least number of points wins. The interesting thingabout this program – not the least of which is host Mo Rocca, who is ariot – is that people don’t realize how irritating their personalhabits are until they are caught on tape and aired in public.
Well, it’s obvious that one of my nasty habits is that I love to watch TV. No contest there.