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The grand reality TV hierarchy

March 31, 2010

I’ve been playing around with this idea for a couple of years now, and I wrote about it over on my other blog a few months ago. The idea is this:

Not all reality TV stars equal all other reality TV stars. There’s a stratified structure, kind of like the food pyramid, only the people at the bottom are the ones we think of as laughable, and I think we all know we’re not supposed to laugh at whole grains.

reality tv collageAt the top are the celebrities who have deigned to be the host of some reality show, usually a competition of some kind. Then there are the reality TV stars, people who at any given moment, are the rage of some show or other. Next up are the reality TV stars of lesser-watched shows, or spin-off reality shows. Under that level are the has-beens whose moment has passed recently, and on their heels, the ones who were like, on The Real World eight years ago. Then there are the reality TV figures who weren’t ever really popular, or who were on awful, short-lived shows like The Mole or Temptation Island. And now we see there are even the wannabes or rejects from the reality television world, like the balloon boy parents, the White House party crashers, or that debtor who pretended to have a Prius incident. So it goes something like:

Heidi Klum (Project Runway), Padma (Top Chef)

Jeff Lewis (Flipping Out)

Lauri Waring (Real Housewives of Orange County)

Danielle Staub (Real Housewives of New Jersey)

Matt Roloff (Little People, Big World)

Diane Ogden (Survivor, season 3)

Valerie Penso (Temptation Island)

Prius asshole

That said, this is the nation of possibility, right? So these levels are permeable, letting people claw their way up, or falling apart like a sloppy James Franco simile, allowing people to slip to lower levels. I could argue that Lauri Waring is taking a slide, for example, as she becomes more vicious and mean-spirited with each season of RHOC. Jon Gosselin, now mocked for his manhood and scrapping at any television contract he can muster, is hovering around Temptation Island level, which I presume is something like a circle of Hell. All he needs is one DUI and he’s right down there with the Heene parents. But Kate Gosselin is holding her own, even though she had a flare up with her dancer on Dancing with the Stars last week. My money’s on Ms. Scrappy to make it to Jeff Lewis status: she’s got a similar perfectionism and all she needs is a good occupation or cause to peddle, and she’s there.

Now then, what to make of Sarah Palin and her nonfiction assault on the wilds of Alaska that she’ll be filming for the Discovery Channel? Send those votes in!

7 Comments leave one →
  1. msjacks permalink
    March 31, 2010 10:34 pm

    I’m not quite sure I agree with your order of things. Heidi Klum and Padma are not on the same level; Heidi is a celeb in her own right. I think there’s a difference when you take your celebrity to reality TV, rather than when you gain it from there. I think, in the grand heirarchy, there should be some accountability for that. Also, celebrities like Simon Cowell et al tower above Padma, and even Heidi to some extent.

    Where do the VH1 shows fit in here: The Flavor Of Love/I Love New York/Rock Of Love/Charm School/I Love Money/Real Chance Of Love/Frank The Entertainer: A Basement Affair/Daisy Of Love trajectory?

  2. msjacks permalink
    March 31, 2010 10:40 pm

    Also I have no idea who that Flipping Out guy is- shouldn’t, like, The Queer Eye For The Straight Guy men beat that person?

    AND guess what? Salahi is gonna be on a Real Housewives this year. I think DC.

  3. evmaroon permalink
    April 1, 2010 12:27 am

    Padma is definitely on a Heidi level to me, but I can acknowledge that others may disagree. I really was just trying to put in examples, so we can change those up. And good question about the VH1 shows — I don’t really watch them. Where would you insert those?

  4. evmaroon permalink
    April 1, 2010 12:28 am

    you are missing out if you’re not watching Flipping Out. He’s exacting but he also seems to care about his close buddies. I thought the Queer Eye guys were old news!

  5. msjacks permalink
    April 1, 2010 12:54 am

    they’re old news, but they were the first ones to do it. carson got his own reality show, and “the food one” whose name escapes me judges a cooking show on… TLC, maybe? they’re all historical and shit!

    maybe this merits a flowchart.

  6. evmaroon permalink
    April 1, 2010 12:55 am

    a flow chart! I love it! sometimes I think about making a universe of these shows, like they had for sex escapades on the L Word. and then I start to shudder uncomfortably.

  7. msjacks permalink
    April 1, 2010 12:56 am

    I’d insert them below the housewives, but above “flipping out” because i’ve never even heard of that show.

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