EMMYS: Reality-Competition Overview

Andy Patrick is an AwardsLine contributor.

Considering that upstart docureality series like Duck Dynasty and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo are dominating ratings and pop culture, reality-competition series have largely been overshadowed. NBC’s buzzy singing contest The Voice last year injected some fresh blood into the Emmy reality-competition field, which had mostly been filled by the same shows for the past decade. In fact, CBS’ The Amazing Race has snagged the Emmy every year but one since the category’s inception in 2003. However, The Voice is coming in strong in ratings and challenging Amazing Race’s hold on the title. So while you contemplate whether the reality-competition category is primed for a shakeup this year, here’s our assessment of the competitors.

THE AMAZING RACE
The show has taken home the statuette nine out 
of 10 years, so there’s no question whatsoever about whether it will be nominated again. (If anything, the question is, where will producers put their 10th Emmy?) And although The Voice is generating ever more buzz, CBS’ globetrotting thrill ride still earned its fair share 
of attention in its 22nd cycle, thanks to a controversial trip to Vietnam. Maybe this will even be the year that four-time also-ran Phil Keoghan gets the (golden) girl.

AMERICAN IDOL
Is it time to change the Fox sing-off’s title to Fallen Idol? After nine consecutive noms, the reality juggernaut got locked out of the category in 2012 by rival The Voice. And with a big ratings slide and the unappealing Mariah Carey-Nicki Minaj feud casting a shadow over the competition, this year Emmy voters might smell blood in the water and snub Idol again.

THE CELEBRITY APPRENTICE
Though NBC’s original Apprentice won nominations in 2004 and 2005, its parade-of-has-beens spinoff has never received a nom. Given the right-leaning politics of boss man Donald Trump—not to mention the show’s continued exploitation of addled Gary Busey—there’s not so much as a combed-over hair of a chance of that changing.

DANCING WITH THE STARS
Nominated every year since 2006, ABC’s ballroom smackdown has yet to quickstep away with the Emmy. And its last season was the uninspired 16th edition, meaning its cha-cha-chances of emerging victorious this time around are slim to none, though an eighth consecutive nomination is within reach. (A better bet: a second win for affable host Tom Bergeron, who last year became the first host to win over Survivor’s Jeff Probst. Probst, who has four previous trophies, wasn’t even nominated.

THE GLEE PROJECT
Unlike so many reality-competition series that don’t really launch the next top anything, the sophomore season of Oxygen’s televised talent search produced a viable star for the Glee mothership in the form of winner Blake Jenner. The triple-threat teenage dream beat a diverse, talented crop of competitors—the suspenseful finale found him taking on a Muslim beauty and a spunky gal in a wheelchair—to eventually land the role of football star and glee-clubber Ryder Lynn. So who knows? If The Glee Project’s root-for-the-underdog spirit (and successful track record) catch voters’ attention, maybe a surprise Emmy nom could materialize.

PROJECT RUNWAY
Lifetime’s haute couture face-off has been racking up noms since its days on Bravo. And yet its 11th cycle felt so last season, thanks to a twist in which individual challenges were replaced by team competitions. The twist was a misfire, so now the question is whether the show’s streak of eight straight nominations might finally come unstitched.

RuPAUL’S DRAG RACE
How fun would it be to see Logo’s campfest in the running? No T, no shade, but its best chance of being recognized is a nod for its wiggy host(ess). Unfortunately, that chance is as slim as RuPaul is.

SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE
While it’s a far more legitimate talent contest than Dancing With The Stars, Fox’s sublime dance-off gets a fraction of its ABC counterpart’s viewership (and even less of its buzz). So it’ll be lucky if enough voters board Mary Murphy’s hot tamale train to win it a third nomination.

SURVIVOR
Once considered a real contender to bring The Amazing Race’s winning streak to an end, CBS’ long-running adventure series hasn’t been nominated since—yikes—2006. In 2012, even Jeff Probst—the victorious host the four previous years—failed to score a nom. After an unremarkable fans-vs.-favorites season, a nomination for the show seems highly unlikely.

TOP CHEF
Aside from The Amazing Race, only Bravo’s cook-off has ever tasted victory in this category—and that was three years ago. Unfortunately, there was more excitement in its 10th season in its web offshoot, Last Chance Kitchen, than on air, so a seventh nomination is probably all that it’s going to be served by Emmy.

THE VOICE
Arguably the contender with the best chance of stealing away the reality-competition Emmy from The Amazing Race, NBC’s singing contest has going for it strong numbers, enough buzz to drown 
out a hive, a nomination last year, and do we really need to mention the swivel chairs? Also to its credit, the show once derided as an American Idol knockoff managed to swap out judges Christina Aguilera and CeeLo Green for Shakira and Usher without missing a beat.

THE X FACTOR
Considering the Great Britney Spears Experiment was a total failure, Simon Cowell’s post-American Idol endeavor doesn’t stand a chance of breaking into the top category. Maybe the third season will be the charm.

  1. RuPaul’s Drag Race has deserved a nom for a couple seasons now. This year was insane and I’d LOVE to see at least Ru get a nod. But I’m not holding my breath. :-(

  2. Only Top Model calls their seasons “cycles” oficially. I think he was just looking for another word when it comes to Runway.

    Amazing Race will, sadly, deserve this award every single year. There’s really no comparing this production with any other show done in a studio or with contestants walking a few streets from their set over to Mood. It’s eithe get tired of voting for them or don’t vote at all, because it will always be the more deserving.

    It’s nice that enough people decided to go against them at least once for Top Chef and it should’ve happened to Project Runway too for the Mondo-Gretchen season (they did screw up their submission that year though).

    I doubt anybody else wins this year. The Voice isn’t that great either, it’s just new and fresh when compared to Idol.

  3. As a whole, the singing competition shows (The Voice, American Idol, and The X Factor) have become too saturated and none of them besides Idol’s Clarkson, Hudson, Underwood and McPhee were the break out stars. Since AI6 through today one question, where are the breakout stars now? Also on the Voice and X Factor there are a lack of or no breakout stars on those shows. And what happens where the shows stars 15 minutes of fame are up, those show value drops very quickly. The Dancing competition show (Dancing With The stars and So You Think You Could Dance?) is about finding America’s best dancer. the past couple of season of both shows have greatly daminished the quality of both shows.
    Top Chef the only show to beat TAR have loss some value since its win 3 years ago. So I say The Amazing Race with its production value still good will pull off its 10th Emmy win and maybe Phil Keoghan will win his 1st reality host Emmy. I would say Jeff Probst will be nomonated again this year and could win the emmy, but the emmy voters may well finally award Phil Keoghan this time.

  4. SWAMP PEOPLE is a strong contender and is most deserving of votes. The Amazing Race is blah blah blah been there done that….

    1. Swamp people is not a reality competition show! TAR will win get your facts right! You sir are BIASED!

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