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Reality-TV Index

A recurring guide to which shows are on the rise and which are about to crash.

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Left: Trajectory.
Right: Guilt-pleasure Ratio  

American Idol
Tuesdays, Fox, 8 p.m. Results show: Wednesdays, Fox, 8:30 p.m.

Premise
Amateur singers abuse melisma and R&B classics on this ratings-gobbling reality-show juggernaut.

Should you bother watching?
Well, someone’s watching it, but . . . the Tuesday-night episodes offer little more than stagy bickering between the judges and dull karaoke pop. Stick to the results show, which recaps the previous night’s performances in five seconds, rather than five minutes.


Left: Trajectory.
Right: Guilt-pleasure Ratio  



Cheerleader Nation
Fridays, Lifetime, 7 p.m.

Premise
High-school cheerleaders shoot for a national championship, while wearing way too much eye makeup.

Should you bother watching?
Yes—if you liked the bitchy fun of Bring It On. Come for the genuinely suspenseful competition sequences (will Megan stick that back handspring?), but stay for the snotty way that cheerleader Ryan back-sasses Coach Donna—who also happens to be her mom.


Left: Trajectory.
Right: Guilt-pleasure Ratio  



Top Chef
Wednesdays, Bravo, 10 p.m.

Premise
Twelve aspiring chefs slice, dice, and julienne their way to a $100,000 grand prize and a spot in Food & Wine magazine.

Should you bother watching?
Absolutely. It’s Big Night meets Project Runway, complete with a thin-skinned weeper (Dave), a pretentious prodigy (Stephen), and a smug, man-jawed villainess (Tiffani). As a bonus: Even non-foodies can pick up cooking tips (e.g., always “shoot” your pasta). Mangia!


Left: Trajectory.
Right: Guilt-pleasure Ratio  



8th & Ocean
Tuesdays, MTV, 10:30 p.m.

Premise
In this reality drama in the style of Laguna Beach, toothsome young models take on Miami, one leering catalogue editor at a time.

Should you bother watching?
No. Watching these dull-witted models jostle for position is painful enough. But the best reason to skip it is the cosmetic surgery writ large on the face of agency boss Irene Marie—who proves an ironic mascot for a show devoted to exposing the “beauty” industry.


Left: Trajectory.
Right: Guilt-pleasure Ratio  



Miracle Workers
Mondays, ABC, 10 p.m.

Premise
Elite physicians treat complicated cases (like a boy born with half a heart). Call it Extreme Makeover: Health Edition.

Should you bother watching?
Sadly, no. The doctors can’t stop grandstanding, and there’s little pleasure in spying on folks at the most vulnerable moment of their lives. Plus, seeing what medical science can do when money is no object isn’t uplifting—it’s practically pornographic.


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