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Reality-TV Index

Despite predictions (and prayers!) to the contrary, reality television has not faded. In fact, this season’s new shows are especially inane—and, as every network exec knows—writer-strike-proof. Here’s a guide to seven new ones.

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The Show The Premise The Host Should You Bother Watching? Guilt/Pleasure Ratio

Better Half

Trained professionals— photographers, cooks, comics—have two days to teach their trades to their significant others, who then compete for $20,000.

Susie Essman

Sure. It’s Tell Me You Love Me lite: You get a glimpse into the dysfunction of someone else’s relationship, and instead of sitting in stony silence, these couples actually yell at each other. The weak link is Essman, whose “I’m a loud, funny comedienne-chick” shtick gets tired fast. Stick with screaming at Larry David, Susie.

America's Most Smartest Model

Sixteen models live together and compete in modeling challenges and intelligence competitions for $100,000.

Ben Stein

Nope. Though we love Ben Stein, this is a pretty depressing career turn. He’s consistently surprised by how dumb the models are, but you won’t be. For your weekly fill of “very stupid pretty people,” you’re better off watching Beauty and the Geek.

A Shot at Love With Tila Tequila

MySpace “celebrity” Tila Tequila looks for love among sixteen lesbians and sixteen straight men, who fight to woo the eponymous bisexual.

Tila Tequila

For the love of God, no! It’s all of the creepy parts of MySpace—the random shirtless guys who send spam, the scantily clad buxom women—come to life. This is not a guilty pleasure; it’s just pure trash. You’ll be a worse person for having watched it.

Kid Nation

Forty kids run an abandoned town (cooking, building, cleaning), sans adult intervention.

Jonathan Karsh

Definitely. The kids’ commentary alone is priceless: When 11-year-old Mike loses the town-council election, he says it feels like he was “digested and crapped out by a coyote, torn apart by vultures, and tossed off a cliff.” Who knew child labor would be so much fun to watch?˚

Kitchen Nightmares

A celebrity chef (and professional egotist) roams the country on a motorcycle, revamping troubled restaurants.

Gordon Ramsay

TiVo it and watch it when you’re pissed off. We’re so used to politically correct politeness, it’s weirdly cathartic to watch Ramsay tell people they’re total idiots. About half of what he says is bleeped out for profanity, and it’s fun to see Ramsay spit out food he calls “disgusting.”

The Next Great American Band

Rock bands compete, American Idol–style, for a record deal. Three judges give comments, and America votes.

Dominic Bowden

No, wait for the real American Idol to return. The formula works for pop singers, but not for rock bands. Even if they were good (which they’re not), they would lose their edge the minute they stepped on a reality-TV show’s stage. Bowden is just as annoying as Ryan Seacrest, but with worse hair.

Last One Standing

Six athletic men travel the world and compete with indigenous tribes in the remote cultures’ violent masculinity face-offs.

None

Yes, but not if you’re squeamish. There’s lots of blood, puke, and tribal nudity, and it’s scary what this pretty likable bunch of guys has to endure each week. Is it exploitative to film tribes for a cheesy reality show? Watch and decide for yourself?

Photographs: Giovanni Rufino/Courtesy of Bravo (Better Half, Essman); courtesy of VH1 (America’s Most Smartest Model, Stein); courtesy of MTV (A Shot At Love, Tequila); Monty Brinton/courtesy of CBS (Kid Nation, Karsh); Eric Leibowitz/Courtesy of Fox (Kitchen Nightmares); Kharen Hill/Courtesy of Fox (Ramsay); Frank Micelotta/courtesy of Fox (The Next Great American Band); courtesy of Fox (Bowden); courtesy of Discovery Channel/BBC (Last One Standing).


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