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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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I Want to Be a Hilton
The Premise: Paris’s mom preps “societally delayed” contestants who seek the penthouse-trust-fund-purse-dog trifecta.




Should You Bother Watching? Astonishingly, yes. Kathy Hilton’s kiss-off (“I’m sorry, you’re not on the list”) is both stupid and brilliant—just like the show itself. And the strivers are a perfect blend of hateful and endearing, such as Jaret, who declares of Hilton, “Her shoes cost more than our mobile home!”




Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy
The Premise: Two contrasting families trade matriarchs for a week: Abandonment issues and serial pouting ensue.




Should You Bother Watching? Sure. The moment when vegan evangelist Barbara shows a gruesome animal-rights video at a dinner party belongs in the Reality TV Hall of Fame. But with red-staters reliably cast as charming naïfs to the blue states’ uptight Wasps, the fish-out-of-water gags can get old fast.




Hit Me Baby One More Time
The Premise: It’s where-are-they-now? karaoke, as former pop stars perform a hit, along with a few new tracks.




Should You Bother Watching? Sparingly. Some bands are fun to revisit—decent acts like Howard Jones are mixed in with grating has-beens like Wang Chung—but overall, the show’s just depressing. Do we really need video evidence that Loverboy should now be called Loverhandles?




Beauty and the Geek
The Premise: Seven dorky guys are paired with attractive but dim gals; all compete to bag $250,000 and, possibly, each other.




Should You Bother Watching? No. The girls are tested on brains while the guys are tutored on “game,” i.e., what you should hate instead of the playah. (One such lesson: seductive massage techniques.) With a premise this sexist, the show makes you wish the couples will flee, not hook up.




Hell’s Kitchen
The Premise: Twelve aspiring chefs compete to win a restaurant, under the sharp-tongued tutelage of chef Gordon Ramsay.




Should You Bother Watching? No. Tormentors can be fun, but even Simon Cowell is leavened by the gooey sweetness of Paula Abdul. Ramsay is more like Cowell on a bender: He berates contestants so over-the-top-ishly that you expect—and root for—one to rear back and sock him in the jaw.




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