Michael Ausiello is Editor-in-Chief of TVLine.
When looking over this year’s nominees for the reality-competition Emmy, the saying “Been there, done that” might come to mind, were it not for one glaring omission and one shining inclusion. For the first time since the category was created in 2003, Fox’s American Idol did not make the cut, and, in its place, NBC’s The Voice did.
Still, when the statuette is handed out–considering that CBS’ The Amazing Race has lost only once in the last nine years–another saying might seem apropos: The more things change, the more they stay the same. While you draw your own conclusions, here’s our assessment of the nominees and their chances:
The long-running CBS travelogue has dominated this category for so long–eight victories in nine years–that, by now, its name is all but automatically engraved on the reality-competition Emmy. This time around, it faces a new challenger from first-time nominee The Voice. But as many times as it was able to defeat American Idol, it still looks like the safest of bets. After all, in addition to the usual exotic panoramas (from India to Azerbaijan and back), Season 20 afforded viewers a ringside seat to the continuing melodrama of Big Brother alumni Brendon Villegas and Rachel Reilly. (Did people like them? No. But they sure loved to hate ’em.)
An argument could be made that, since this ABC crowd pleaser has lasted 14 seasons (and is still going strong) and earned seven reality-competition nominations along the way, it’s time to finally let it win the gold. But unlike in past seasons–in which polarizing contestants as different as Bristol Palin and Chaz Bono generated more buzz than any rumba possibly could–this cycle came and went quietly. (Quick: Can you remember who won? Didn’t think so.) That, combined with the impression that this is lowbrow entertainment (especially when pitted against Fox’s esteemed So You Think You Can Dance), makes it a long shot to take home the prize. Or, as Len Goodman might put it: “Five!”
Like Dancing With the Stars, Lifetime’s fashion show has under its stylish belt noms galore (eight, including this year’s) and nary an Emmy with which to accessorize. However, unlike DWTS, Project Runway has working in its favor the level of difficulty of its challenges. (Anyone can do a mediocre samba, voters might easily imagine, but can they stitch together a cocktail dress out of birdseed and aquarium pebbles?) Still, with perennial winner Amazing Race in the, er, race–not to mention Top Chef, the only program ever to beat it–Runway’s chances of winning are probably about as good as the odds of Heidi Klum wearing something off the rack.
Though fancy footwork is the name of the game on Fox’s sublime Dancing Without the Stars, it stumbled a bit in its eighth season–so much so that the network dropped its results show before bringing it back this summer. The hoofers were, as always, talented and appealing–especially winner Melanie Moore–and many of the routines, stunning. But the (since abandoned) use of all-stars from past cycles was confusing, Mary Murphy’s screeching threatened to render her a caricature, and some of the celebrity guest judges seemed less insightful than armchair critics. A great series, just not at its best.
Not only is Bravo’s savory cook-off the only show ever to beat The Amazing Race for the reality-competition Emmy, its Texas-set ninth season (which oddly concluded the season in British Columbia) left a pretty appealing aftertaste. Winner Paul Qui might have been a little bland, but other items on the menu–a frustrating underdog (Beverly Kim), a bulldozer of a villain (Heather Terhune), and a singularly gruesome challenge (inspired by Charlize Theron’s evil queen in Snow White and the Huntsman)–left viewers coming back for seconds. If voters are hungry for change, The Amazing Race’s goose could be cooked.
Score one for the swivel chairs! While the enduring American Idol and new kid on the block The X Factor were busy playing musical judges, their competition snuck in and stole away Idol’s annual Emmy nod. Is it the caliber of the vocalists that pushed NBC’s singing contest into the race? Perhaps in part–there’s no denying the power of victor Jermaine Paul’s pipes. But more so, it’s probably the appeal of the friction between mentors Adam Levine and Christina Aguilera. As thick as the tension was, the show might have stood a better chance in the drama category!
TVLine.com’s Andy Patrick contributed to this analysis