Between adults eating animal guts, children dressing like prostitutes, and obscenely wealthy Real Housewives comparing themselves to “single mothers,” you can’t get any lower than the cheaply produced, franchise-ready cultural black holes that comprise a certain sector of reality television. Our admittedly harsh assessment includes the people on them, so many of whom are nothing more than deluded circus freaks who feel like it’s their “duty” to be famous. Since it’s summer — prime time for the genre’s dregs — we’ve gone ahead and ranked the most unfortunate personalities currently infesting reality television.
The women of VH1’s Mob Wives, if we’re to believe what its producers tell us, spend their lives as fabulously as any other basic cable bimbos in jewel-toned skintight dresses and Louboutins. The difference being that their lifestyles have been achieved as a direct result of violent crime and (possibly) wrongful deaths. Even if these women aren’t for real — and, honestly, what crime family would let their dirty laundry be aired out by these ninnies? — there’s something deeply unsettling about the premise behind the entire enterprise.
On her new show Miss Advised, Allison — once the scourge of the Internet — heads to Los Angeles to do what she does best: try to emulate Carrie Bradshaw. On TV, she is no less annoying than she was online, but the real offense comes in her attempt to be a Thinking Man’s Modern Woman while saying things like, “The perfect dress for a first date says, ‘You can take me home to your mom, and I might give you a blow job on the way there.” Her ultimate goal, to find a husband, feeds the archaic fairy tale that still inhabits so much of reality television. But on Allison, it seems particularly obnoxious. Just watch the moment in the pilot when she dumps an unattractive guy for being unattractive, but only after he helps her move boxes.
Photo: Evans Vestal Ward/2012 Bravo Media, LLC
The real-estate magnate continues to reign over The Celebrity Apprentice with the same elements that first made him a TV personality so many years ago — the hair that is both simultaneously full and barely there, the voice, the inexplicable bombast, and the tired “You’re fired!” catchphrase. New York’s biggest gasbag continues to remain relevant on television and he seems to be responsible for the possible rejuvenation of Arsenio Hall’s career, about which everything is odd. But, at the end of the day, he’s just incredibly unlikable.
Photo: Mathew Imaging
Although you could potentially say that all the Real Housewives are collectively the worst people on television, it’s just not true. Regardless of how they may see themselves, some — like Phaedra Parks of Atlanta, Kathy Wakile of New Jersey, and Lisa Vanderpump of Beverly Hills — are simply harmless entertainers. But it’s New Jersey’s Giudice and New York’s DeLesseps who can rightfully claim the title. The ease with which they use their children as catalysts to earn more airtime and potential viewer sympathy is both transparent and disturbing. It doesn’t help that both women are also kind of nuts and impossibly convinced that they’re classy human beings, which is an impossibility for any person who volunteers to be on a reality show. They might want to take cues from New York’s Sonja Morgan and Beverly Hills’ Adrienne Maloof, both of whom forbid their kids from appearing onscreen in the first place.
Like most reality stars, Palin’s fame is not built upon any discernible talent. Unlike most, her entire “career” — which, thus far, is comprised of losing on Dancing With the Stars and helping invalidate her fighting with random gay people at gay bars — has come about as a result of her last name. Which is fine. Happens all the time. But if you’re going to seek out fame, don’t then spend all your time complaining about it. On Life’s a Tripp, her new Lifetime show, Bristol moves to L.A. with her child, where she doesn’t really do much besides cry about the glare of fame while being filmed crying about the glare of flame. It’s like an ouroboros of pointlessness. Apparently, sharing airtime with reruns of Reba and Unsolved Mysteries means more to Bristol than raising her son without camera lenses in his face.
Stanger fashions herself a modern-day matchmaker. What that means is: Unemployed actors and actresses come to her office in L.A. hoping to find a mate, but mostly looking to be on television. Stanger helps these people find love through cocktail mixers and heavily choreographed conversations. She continuously ascribes to traditional standards and practices: meet, fall in love, have sex, get married. And if you don’t agree, she’ll berate you, because she “tells is like it is” (which often involves being nasty, insulting, and nonchalantly bigoted, specifically toward Hispanic women). Every time she is given the opportunity to dress down her clientele’s potential female suitors, she turns the notch on feminism back by about a half-century. Essentially, her rule of thumb for women is threefold: Be thin, be tan, and have straight hair. Oh, and always be quiet. Honestly, it’s a terrible attitude to have in 2012, but one to unapologetically propagate on TV in 2012? Unacceptable. As Vulture’s Julie Klausner has put it, Stanger would serve a better purpose if she were “turned into dog food.”
Photo: Nicole Wilder/? Bravo
Anyone who has seen an episode of Jersey Shore doesn’t need to watch more than that to understand the gist of what goes on on the show: Cartoonish Italian stereotypes drink, fight, have sex, and then drink some more. They also fart and cry, and sometimes they make phone calls. They go to the gym and the beach, too. But it’s Ronnie who is the biggest jerk of the group. As unpredictable as the rest of his housemates, he is the only one who has come way, way too close to pummeling his girlfriend. He’s gotten in plenty of fights with others, too, but the amount of times he’s become so irate and rageful that we were convinced that domestic abuse was about to occur is inexcusable. The guy seems downright dangerous, so when MTV sandwiches particularly gruesome episodes with PSA’s about domestic violence, we can’t help but think that the best solution would be to send this neanderthal packing.
Photo: Jeff Daly/MTV/PictureGroup
Watching Dance Moms makes the parents on Toddlers & Tiaras look like the Cleavers. For some reason, there are mothers and fathers out there who purposefully put their young children on television in revealing outfits and sit back while they perform quasi-sexual dance routines. As if that weren’t enough, some of these parents are such monsters that they submit their kids to the wrath of Abby Lee Miller, the dance coach from hell, an obese woman who treats children like worthless dogshit — all in the name of dance. Yes, that’s what we’ve come to: There is a widely watched reality shows in which an adult woman berates children so furiously that her voice leaves her sounding like Macy Gray after an all-night bender. Think about the children, you guys!
Somehow, this wannabe-actor took a strange career trajectory by turning his behind-the-scenes job in development at Bravo into on-air gig as gossipmonger/talk-show host. What that means is: In addition to creating the shows that propagate the worst myths about women (that they’re catty, dumb, and incapable of being anything but jealous of one another, always in spite of the deluded proclamation that they’re “independent”), he uses his on-air pulpit to further these illusions, fanning the flames and inflating the egos of dozens of Real Housewives. No one throws both women and gay men under the bus with equal vigor quite as swiftly as Cohen, who has grown from a Bravotv.com blogger and occasional host of Housewives reunions into a self-appointed Chatty Kathy, rumor-mill-churning editor-at-large of sorts, and autobiographical memorist. Yet for all his loghorrea, when a Real Housewife’s husband hanged himself last year, Cohen remained relatively tight-lipped about the network’s irresponsibility, letting the story speak for itself (in an episode whose credits, like so many Bravo shows, touted “Andrew Cohen” as executive producer).
Isn’t it weird that we live in a world where Kris Jenner holds such power in popular culture? This one woman’s unyielding hunger for money and fame (or, at least, more than she started with, which was already a lot) has steered her into the odd position of “momager,” in which she uses reality television as the pulpit from which to hawk products. You can buy some of these products, while others — like her daughter’s relationships — are there for you to invest emotion in. It’s a strange vortex she’s created, a vacuum in which the private lives of her children — including the underage ones — are essentially invoices worth millions of dollars. Maybe that’s the only way to “keep up,” so to speak.
Photo: Dimitrios Kambouris/E/2012 NBCUniversal Media, LLC