Monkseal’s Birthday Countdown

This countdown…HAS A WINNER.

So, what are the rules for this epic countdown of reality tv greatness? Something of the order of the following :

  1. To be eligible, the participant must have been a competitor on a reality show series that began airing in or after April 2007, and finished airing before or during March 2012.
  2. I must have watched the entirity of the series or at least made a concerted effort to, because if they were that great then I wouldn’t have wandered off half-way through the run surely?
  3. In the case of a talent show, the contestant must have made “the finals” of the show. No auditionees, or boot-camp exits.
  4. Contestants only are being considered – no judges, pros, or presenters.
  5. In terms of determining ranking, only actions carried out on the reality show/s in question will be considered. Post-show careers, should they exist (and let’s face it, they usually won’t), will have no bearing on the ranking.
  6. If you really really REALLY like someone who doesn’t turn up on the list, and you feel I need to know, rest assured they were totally eliminated in 54th place and I had sleepless nights over cutting them, and, like, probably cried.
  7. UK and US reality shows will be considered, with some bias towards UK shows and those that I’ve recapped ; here or elsewhere. Before beginning you should probably be aware that I have watched all of about 5 episodes of I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, don’t care much for Britain’s Got Talent, and have tried in vain to get into Survivor about 50 times, to little avail.

So with that out the way, let’s get on with it with…

50. Tiffany Pisani

50. Tiffany “Tiffnuh” Pisani – Britain’s Next Top Model 6 (Winner)

On many levels, the production team of Britain’s Next Top Model should count themselves lucky that they’ve got anybody on the list at all. The show is, on the whole, a charmless mess, with not enough camp appeal to match the circus of the American version, and not enough (*shudders at the thought of even saying this*) “genuine credibility within the modelling industry” to gain the cache of the Australian version. On the other hand, I am a sucker for a comedy accent, and Tiffany Pisani had the mother of them all. A near (but not quite) incoherent mixture of English, Maltese, Swedish Chef and someone doing an offensive impersonation of Marlee Matlin that blustered through the series, rendering ever more of each episode a delight of confusion and somehow pulling her to the win over the delightful and talented but Too Real For Living TV Joy and the genuinely horrific Alisha. If I remember any BINT-MODEL contestant in another 5 years’ time, it won’t be a face, or a pose, or a style, it’ll be Tiffnuh’s voice honking “THUNK YUH FUH CULLIN BRITUHNS NUXT TERP MUHDERRL! YERR HAVE VERRTUHD FERR TUFFNUH!”. (Yes I voted. Don’t look at me).

49. Jim Eastwood

49. Jim “Jedi” Eastwood – The Apprentice 7 (4th place)

Jedi Jim Eastwood’s villain edit was a true oddity in Apprentice UK history. Normally an Apprentice villain will either be over-the-top bitchy and unpleasant, but allied with a strong work ethic (Katie Hopkins, Tre Azam) or useless and frantically out of their depth, thrashing out at all around to claw themselves into survival for another week (Michael Sophocles, Goddess Scribbles). Jim on the other hand, was perfectly affable, and very talented. But he when he didn’t get his way, he just stared the Universe down and refused to believe it wasn’t exactly as he wanted it to be and if it wasn’t gave the very definition that he would shoot it in the face if it didn’t get to re-arranging itself. Sometimes it worked (getting 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 orders on the biscuit task, the famous mind-screwing of Leon) and sometimes it didn’t (old people not liking the magazine that Jim told them to like, anything involving the immovable object that was Susan Ma) but his sheer unstoppable self-belief in himself was never less than an inspiration and a delight. When his end finally came, over-estimating just how much Lordalan really cares about the children and their position as our future, you get the impression he decided he won anyway, and helped himself to £100,000 out of Viglen Vaults on the way out.

48. Jean Martyn

48. Jean Martyn –  Britain’s Got Talent 5 (10th place)

For probably no other contestant on this list would one simple Youtube clip suffice as reason for inclusion on the list. So rarely has one human being had So. Much. Fun whilst performing, especially on a Simon Cowell show. If you’re not grinning like a look by the time the confetti sprays then I have to doubt your credentials for even reading this blog quite frankly. Jean Martyn doesn’t let an absence of knowledge of the words, or of the melody, or of her own vocal limitation, or even the lack of a microphone stop her from SINGING HER SOUL OUT. Who am I to try to stop her from gaining her rightful place on the list, as the 21st century answer to the question “what if Victoria Wood wasn’t funny on purpose?”

47. Ingrid Tarrant

47. Ingrid Tarrant – Deadline (3rd place)

(That’s Peaches Geldoff saying that incidentally. Because she’d KNOW). Deadline was a little-watched reality show. By which I mean, it was watched by Syd Little, tucking into a Raisin & Biscuit Yorkie on his sofa looking down his nose at how Z-list the cast was. And also by me. Obviously. I wasn’t missing this shit for anything. The concept was simple. Get 10 celebrities (well…9 and Imogen Lloyd Webber. Well…8, Imogen Lloyd Webber and Blair McDonagh. Well…7, Imogen Lloyd Webber, Blair McDonagh and Ingrid Tarrant. Well, 6 and…well, you get the picture), and get them to create a celebrity magazine (…insert) under the tutelage of Janet Street Porter, Darryn Lyons and Joe Mott (exactly). They would write the articles, take the photos and…well that was it, but Lord knows they made heavy weather of it. Well, most of them did, Ingrid Tarrant just stomped around having a mid-life crisis, constantly talking about her libido, gripping her camera like it was made of liquid nitrogen and occasionally lapsing into Swedish for absolutely no reason. Deadline was a series of many highlights (no really) ranging from Lisa I’Anson missing an entire episode because she had a prior engagement (it turned out this was in fact a hairdressers appointment), Iwan Thomas winning the entire show because he blagged a photo with Kylie whilst she was wandering around like Mr Burns post rejuvenation treatment, and an interview with Sinitta that I swear formed the basis for that basement scene in Zodiac. But most high of all highlights was, after night on two months of programming, Janet Street Porter finally reading out some of Ingrid’s copy from an interview with Rowland Rivron, revealing the woman had the literacy levels of a 5 year old, and had constructed an entire article around the fact that we might like to know that Rowland’s brother’s name also begins with R. A forgotten reality gem. *sniff*

46. Drew McOnie

46. Drew “Cockphone” McOnie – So You Think You Can Dance? UK (8th place)

I would hate to rake over how and why So You Think You Can Dance UK failed any more than Nigel Lythgoe already has, but I can’t help but think it’s partially because BBC 1 Saturday teatime was the wrong arena for any of the genres which the US version clawed itself up to mainstream success via : Contemporary (X Factor already ruined it), Hip-Hop (LOL, the slot between Hole In The Wall and Merlin = so street) and American-Style Ballroom (ZOMG WHY ARE THEY NOT DOING IT LIKE THEY DO IT ON STRICTLY?!?!). Instead the show was left to fall back on that most beloved of UK dance institutions. The STAGE SCHOOL BRATS. And lo, how many of them there were. Sprinkled amidst the foreigns and the one-genre wonder, they danced in their legions. So many that the BBC might as well have just shown prime-time repeats of The Biz. They probably would have got better ratings. Anyway, my point is that if you’re going to go stage school, then truly Drew McOnie was the way to go, with his awkward nudging puppy demeanour, his Epic Love of everything Judy Garland, his amazing hair, his constant brace-pinging, his endearing relationship with near-mute hip-hop girl Lizzie (mostly revolving around him going “ZOMG YOU MUST LISTEN TO MY JUDY GARLAND RECORDS!!!!”), and his presence in the one routine of the series that anyone remembers (see above). But truly Drew’s defining moment was in his final solo of the series, where he danced pirouettes with a gold-bakelite phone receiver (LOL, I’LL BET, AM I RIGHT FELLAS?) dangling from a curly cord emanating from his pants. To “Call Me”. Truly, here was a man unafraid to appear on tv saying “that’s right, here is my gold Bakelite cock”. Nigel thought it was “a little bit desperate”, but what does he know? If nothing else, Series 1 was a valuable bullet in the arsenal of the BBC in the fight to prove they aren’t sexy-ageist against old women, given that it was won by Bonnie Langford.

45. Holly Valance

45. Holly Valance – Strictly Come Dancing 9 (4th place)

It feels odd to be writing about Strictly Series 9 contestants this soon after it’s finished, because I’m still not sure how enduring the legacy of any of its contestants will be (pretentious, moi?). All I know is that Holly Valance morphed somewhere halfway through the series from your typical “the public don’t really get her” pretty female contestant (with an awful sideorder of “zomg Kara must be so jelus!”) to an epic “laid-back and Australian” force that will go down in reality tv history. Cracking up at being in the bottom two, spending an entire Argentine Tango sat on her arse, forcing the theme of one of her VTs to be “me titting around in my own privately-owned helicopter and race car” just because, pulling bemused faces at all of Bruce’s jokes, calling the Charleston rubbish and randomly nailing precisely one dance and no others, all whilst constantly name-dropping her royal friends and making filthy innuendo all over It Takes Two. It probably helped that Holly’s ascent to brilliance coincided directly with Artem getting dosed up on nuclear quantities of painkillers, having sex with Brenda (/NOT HAVING SEX WITH BRENDA, KARTEMITES), and deciding to choreograph for fun instead of to win. Bonus points for being one of the few modern reality show contestants actually worth following on twitter. Team Lazy Rich Bitch FOR LIFE.

44. Kimberly Davis

44. Kimberly “Kimberlypuff” Davis – The Apprentice 5 (11th place)

Ok, ok, so Kimberly Davis was, in the grand scheme of things, a fairly rote mid-boot Apprentice Komedy Kontestant. She failed in the task that was supposed to represent her day job of being (amanagerofpeoplewhoare) creative, she was randomly fixated on naming everything her team touched with a cutesy name, she wanted to call said Team “Shazam” (best team-name that never was yes/no?), she referred to herself as a “rough tough cream puff from New York”, she came back for the final and directed bondage/scat porn…All great, but not anything to propel her above, say, Natasha Scribbins. What gets Kimberlypuff on this list is, as you can see above, her boardroom meltdown, which came out of nowhere and was out of all proportion to anything that happened, or had been indicated by otherwise lovely and generous personality before or afterwards. Yelling, flapping, gesticulating, bugging her eyes out and screaming “I BELIEVED IN YOU! I ENCOURAGED YOU!” at Psychic Lorraine, bearing down on her like the moon crashing into Termina in The Legend Of Zelda : Majora’s Mask. We have never seen its like before, nor will we ever again. Truly a moment in Apprentice history.

44. Stacey Solomon

43. Stacey Solomon – X Factor 6 (3rd place), I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here 10 (Winner)

For providing the greatest gulf between talking voice and singing voice in reality show history, for living the dream of eating a pizza in the shape of Matt Cardle’s face, for being an INSPIRATION for Rachel Adedeji’s one week of having a personality, for making pimping out your child for votes not gross for once, for doing the most enjoyably overdone version of “Who Wants To Live Forever” in reality show history (and there’s PLENTY competition), for making me almost want to watch I’m A Celebrity for more than, like, one episode a series, and most of all for making us realise that it’s true, there IS always Asda.

42. Dr Nicole Williams

42. Dr Nicole Williams – The Mole USA 3 (2nd place)

For the uninitiated, the format of The Mole is fairly simple. 12 strangers have to play games for cash prizes. Well, 11 have to play games for cash prizes – 1 of them is a plant from the producers whose aim is to cause the team to lose, without being identified as the saboteur. Each round culminates in a quiz about the Mole’s identity (Is The Mole male or female? Which team was the mole on in the Ring Toss challenge? Which outlet mall will The Mole be opening in 6 months time?), with the lowest scoring contestant going home. All this preamble is to highlight to you the true joy of The Mole, which is that the “innocent” contestants best bet of advancing is to act as shady and unpleasant and unnatural as possible to make themselves look like an actor-cum-ringer. Hence…well Dr Nicole Williams OBGYN, who tapped into her inner diva to hellacious effect, cussing out the poor, refusing to participate in challenges, and constantly getting into bitch-fights with her fellow contestants. Culminating in this glorious show of insanity. In the end, she did beat Paul in this game, riding the wave of her insanity all the way to the final before losing to almost equally alpha-bonkers history teacher Mark. Never has a threat of murder been so endearing and adorable, whilst at the same time being very very real. Sadly her employers didn’t see things the same way, and apparently promptly fired her. BOO! The Internet applies to me that she has recovered though, career-wise, so I feel guilt-free propelling her to the number 42 slot on this list.

41. James McCullogh

41. James “I CAN ASSURE YOU OF THAT” McCullagh – Young Apprentice 2 (2nd place)

In the end, it was somewhat of a struggle to identify which of the Young Apprentices to put on this list. As a reality collective they are still children and therefore not quite baked, both in terms of their actual personalities, and also in terms of the excesses a reality show edit can take them. So in the end I went for the one who I feel best embodied the spirit of the show, and the fact that he was amazing is just a side-issue. Old before his years, a philistine and proud, growing and learning and growing during his time on the show, having no real plans for the future beyond “get smarterer and more rich”, possessor of the best grade in GCSE Economics in Northern Ireland, slightly outside the social norm even for this show (but not to the degree of a Harry Maxwell), charmingly abrasive, a Captain Vanilla, sulky, a kick-ass manager, tousle-haired, and the more random member of one of the most random Final Twos in reality show history. Never have I gone from finding someone entirely dislikable to entirely lovable in the space of a series of The Apprentice (except maybe Stubaggs, but that was a complicated relationship that hasn’t got less so with time). I’d ponder what James is doing now, but it’s probably sitting in a park throwing things at pigeons, so I’ll just pretend it’s that.

40. Seth Caro

40. Seth Caro – Top Chef : Just Desserts (10th place)

Top Chef is an American food competition reality show, where America’s next generation of top chefs compete to show off their culinary prowess. It has taught me many things about flavouring, prepwork and liquid nitrogen. Top Chef : Just Desserts is the spin-off for pastry chefs, bakers, and dessert-specialists. It has taught me that pastry chefs are mental. And none more mental than Seth. Here is the path of destruction he beat in his four episode stay :

  • Immediately forming an alliance with the one other straight male chef on the show, on the grounds that he can identify with him more than all the gay chefs. After the show it turns out the other straight male chef was…kind of a paedo.
  • Shaving into the sink. The kitchen sink
  • Dedicating a challenge based around creating a dessert inspired by brand-name candy to his sick mother, then collapsing onto the floor crying “THE RED HOTS WERE FOR MY MOMMY!!!” until the guest judge has to come and give him a hug
  • In a challenge where contestants had an entire bar’s worth of liquors to choose from to inspire a dessert, flipping his wig over there being no grapefruit
  • In a challenge to make a wedding cake, deciding not to make a wedding cake because “that’s just not who he is”. Then losing
  • In a challenge revolving around a high-school bake-sale, where teams were judged on appeal to teenagers palettes, serving a mocha-financier with orange cream sauce. That looked like this. At a high school bake sale.
  • Spending the entirety of said challenge hiding behind his stall because he hates children, whilst they all called him “the angry looking one”
  • Accidentally flipping an entire plate of someone’s desserts on the floor in one challenge, then spending the rest of the time “helping” him to replate, despite the contestant clearly being on the verge of killing him with a piping bag throughout.
  • Finally being eliminated after getting into a fist-fight with a member of production crew over whether he had to use paper cups.


39. Susan Ma

39. Susan “THAT’S SO UNFAIR” Ma – The Apprentice 7 (3rd place)

Because she’s her, and you’re you.

38. Luke Jackson

38. “Angry” Luke Jackson – So You Think You Can Dance UK 2 (2nd place)

After months of battle, the second series of the ill-fated (and let’s face it, probably haunted) UK version of So You Think You Can Dance came down to two men. In the red corner stood Matt Flint. Short, soft, radiating light and goodness. His routines were about jolly things like going on hearty days out to the sea-side, doing the Lindy, and making romantic desert-based love to your librarian girl. His pre-live shows audition footage featured him walking soulfully on the beach, teaching pre-teens how to dance, and helping old ladies get their kittens across the street. His favourite movie was Happy Feet, the jolly dancing penguins movie. In the blue corner stood Angry Luke. Tall, hard, icy, radiating RAGE AND TURMOIL. His routines were about smashing up detention halls, blood-thirsty vampires, and punching women in the face to Jessie J records. His pre-lives shows audition footage was him laying some truths down on Nigel Lythgoe about the true nature of choreography. I have no idea what his favourite film was, but I bet you have to get it from under the counter in a brown paper bag. Anyone who knows me at all (or who can read and see that giant picture up there), will know which side I was on.

37. Nancy Dell'Olio

37. Nancy Dell’Olio – Strictly Come Dancing 9 (11th place)

Somewhere midway through the last series of Strictly I went bonkers and, in a fit of pique at her elimination, spammed a Digital Spy “Your Highlights Of The Series So Far” thread with every amazing thing I could remember that Nancy had done. I can think of no better argument for her inclusion than to include it in full :

  • Nancy winking at the end of the camera in her rumba like she was announcing “BULLY’S SPECIAL PRIZE!”
  • Nancy emerging from her coffin pissed as a fart
  • Alesha’s “2” paddle getting an airing
  • Nancy threatening to sue everyone over everything
  • “I’M GOING TO CALL THE AMBASSADOR!”, “THIS IS NO HELPING ME DANCE!”, “THIS IS NO MADRID!” and everything related to Nancy getting trapped in that pen with that bull.
  • “Italian Siren, Nancy Dell-‘Olio”
  • Nancy going “REALLY?” when told she was in the Bottom 2 for the fiftieth time
  • Alesha telling Nancy she needed to shut her legs and stop being such a trollop (BUT NOT LIKE THAT, SHE NEVER MEANT IT LIKE THAT)
  • Nancy’s goodbye…speech/tone-poem.
  • Claudia’s face whenever she had to speak with Nancy
  • Nancy sliding her legs round like they were covered in Vaseline at the start of her tango and it being the best dancing she did all series
  • Nancy getting murdered by her boa
  • Nancy repeatedly saying that everyone has dreamed of her doing this since they were a little boy/girl
  • Nancy kissing Bruce on the face and laughing at him when he told that stupid vaguely homophobic joke
  • “I WAS THE CAPE!” (*endlessly*)
  • “I am the most famous Italian in the world”
  • Nancy becoming the first Strictly contestant ever to get booed
  • Nancy “teaching” Anton “Italian”
  • Nancy counting her steps out loud into the camera IN ENGLISH during her paso
  • Nancy groaning “PULL ME UP! PULL ME UP!” like a dying jackdaw every time Anton had to pull her out the splits
  • “It happens”
  • Nancy as Morticia Addams and the attendant hilarity of imagining her being married to Harry
  • Nancy screaming “GIVE US A KISS!” at Anton then punching him in the cock
  • Nancy deciding she knew how to choreograph better than Anton
  • Anton flinging Nancy over his shoulder and pointing her clunge directly at the camera like it was an actual bazooka

If I were allowing myself to include her antics on tour, she’d be even higher.

36. Bert Keeter

36. Bert Keeter – Project Runway 9 (6th place)

It’s been a difficult few years for the Project Runway franchise. First the move from Bravo to Lifetime, which is the US equivalent of moving from ITV2 to Living. Then the ridiculous turmoil the show threw itself after allowing EVIL Gretchen to beat SAINTLY Mondo in Series 8, which (*checks watch*) it’s still flagellating itself over as I speak. in the form of an entire “All-Stars” series created just so he could win it. Also, at some point in there, Sky stopped picking up new series, so chances are even those of you who might have some idea of the show have probably lost me completely. So trust me when I say that Bert Keeter was a true ICON, with one of the greatest edits in reality tv. In his first episode Bert revealed that he had been a big shot in the 70s, but then his lover had died of AIDS and he had become homeless for years and this was his chance to PUT HIMSELF BACK ON THE MAP. He won the first challenge in OTT Positive blaze of turning his boxer shorts into a glam fashion forward design. Then every episode afterwards he acted like a MISERABLE OLD GIT who hated all the young people, kept on correcting them all the time over minor petty details about fashion history (“ruffles are ELIZABETHAN, not VICTORIAN, my GOD”), rolling his eyes at every challenge the show threw at him, and resting on his laurels until he was finally turfed in a challenge about being inspired by birds that he clearly could not be arsed with. Then he (and Laura, whose opening gambit was “WHAT THIS SHOW REALLY NEEDS IS A PRIVELEGED WHITE GIRL!!!” so you know I love her too) put out better collections than everyone in the final combined and then smugging it up all over cocktail parties the East Coast over. Oh Bert, you miserable old bastard, I salute you.

35. Rachel Tucker

35. Rachel Tucker – I’d Do Anything (4th place)

The primary selling point of Rachel Tucker throughout I’d Do Anything was her professionalism. Good old reliable Rachel. So polished, so poised, so rock solid, so dependable. Such a trooper. And of course the up-shot of all this was that the public started to find her super-boring after a while, repeatedly voting her into the bottom two against the judges wishes (well, except Barry Humphreys who couldn’t abide her, not at all because she wasn’t a teenage girl with her boobs hanging out, not at all , nothing to do with that). The answer to this? By capping off an already epicmazing and MENTAL performance of “Cabaret” by changing the lyrics to her own name, dignity and rhyme schemes BE DAMNED. With this one act, Rachel stamped her place in Andrew Lloyd Eyebags reality show history more than all the solid, dependable, workhorse efforts she’d produced in the previous two months of competition combined. It wasn’t enough to get her a place in the final, sadly, but Rachel Tucker’s departure from I’d Do Anything truly defined going down in a blaze of RACHEL! Sorry, glory.

34. Noirin Kelly

34. Noirin “Magivag” Kelly – Big Brother 10 (11th place)

No, Isaac doesn’t really count as a contestant, deal with it. Anyway, the main battle in Big Brother 10 (because heaven forbid that any Big Brother series now not revolve around the battle between two equally obnoxious cliques) was between a bunch of chippy wannabe intellectuals (Freddie, Siavash, Marcus, Bonkers Bea) and a bunch of chippy wannabe anti-intellectuals (Lisa, Sophie Bigtits, David, CHARLIE OH MY GOD CHARLIE, FLAMES, FLAMES ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE). But the real story of the show revolved around Noirin Kelly, and her magical vagina. Until Noirin, the landmark Big Brother tease was Pete Bennett, who had Nikki, Aisleyne, Lea and Lisa all dancing attendant around his penis. But he was a RANK AMATEUR compared to Noirin’s glittery mystical hoo-hoo, which transcended all gender, class and race boundaries. Over the course of the run she received sexual attention from Cairon, Angel, Sree, Tom, Isaac, Freddie, Marcus, Lisa, and Siavash. If you count her ever-lasting and eternal love for herself, and presume that Kenneth probably wanted her as well, because frankly Kenneth would stick his dick in a toaster if you painted tits on it, that’s HALF THE ENTIRE CAST. And then Bonkers Bea started a hate campaign against her based around how she was a ho and everyone else in the cast and Davina all joined in and she went home. FOR SHAME. Just think how much more powerful her spell could have become if she’d lasted the month and a half after she left that the show apparently tried to carry on.

33. Same Difference

33. Same Difference – X Factor 4 (3rd place)

X Factor is generally remembered as an almost unmitigated disaster, partially because it was won by a gap-toothed pickled onion that couldn’t sing, and partially because it was the first real series where Simon tried to push for a group to happen against all odds. And of course…they didn’t. It’s not as though the competition was particularly imposing either. The boys category consisted of the worst singer in the history of the show ever, a guy who had received the “pretentious twat” edit from his very first appearance, and…well…Leon Jackson. And that was the STRONGEST category. Let’s not even get started on Meaty Minge. And yet against that weak opposition, Simon’s Frankengroups foundered. First Futurepoof, then Phoebe & The Woo Woo Girls fell by the wayside leaving Same Difference as his only hope. How fortunate for him then that they were a BEACON OF POSITIVITY and also vaguely incestuous feelings in an otherwise miserable series. Constructing a sinister toy-army by blowing glitter in their faces. Bouncing up and down on top of a giant bed. Duetting with Jason Donovan. This. Truly they were X Factor trail-blazers, clearing the path for novelty acts, OTT staging, and everything you’d generally now expect from a category mentored by Louis Walsh. Except, and this is the capper of why they’re on the list, he hated them, and thought they were “too cheesy”. As a result, I choose to believe that it was Same Difference who broke Louis’ brain, and turned him into the batshit-uncle he is today. That or Sharon leaving. Hey, they’re both positive things.

32. Misha B

32. Misha B – X Factor 8 (4th place)

I feel like I spent too much of the last half of last year talking about the “X-Factor crystallised” cautionary tale of Misha B. Suffice it to say that she went from this (the greatest performance in X Factor history) to a hollowed out shell of herself, on a horrific never ending rollercoaster of Tulisa & Louis calling her a bully, random appearances by estranged mothers to carve out a sob story, insipid “ballidry”, fakey-fake tears, the dilution of her rap-breaks until they just involved her going “READY SALTED WALKERS HA HA HA!”, the 50th unnecessary version of Purple Rain on this show has ever seen, that thing up there where they made a rhino-horn turd out of her hair and added on a monobrow and called it “styling”, and…my God…musical theatre. Despite all this, in the end, she was only 1.3% away from making the final and pulling it towards almost being watchable (Marcus Collins’ vocal chords apparently deciding to take a last minute holiday). What could have been, if X Factor wasn’t quite so…X-Factory.

31. Jessica Wild

31. Jessica Wild (/Jose Sierra) – RuPaul’s Drag Race 2 (6th place)

One of the real signs of the worth of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” as one of the best new reality show franchises of the last five years is that its mix of educational content and even-handed delivery means that it’s VERY hard to find any discussion of where everyone doesn’t front like they’re an EXPERT in US drag culture. Forget the fact that this show is their only exposure to the US drag-bar scene, they’ll quite happily opine about how it is a CRIME to take your shoes off for a lip-sync, or how black queens need to use yellow foundation, or how Ru loves fishy queens too much. It is as a novice then that I present to you the fact that I LOVE Jessica Wild in all her sloppy incoherent kind of rubbish glory. I know it’s not an accident that her finest hour was dressed as a chicken rather than a woman. I know the path of the surreal was subsequently beaten harder and better by other drag queens on the show (Yara Sofia dressing as a dwarf Spanish infanta talking about working in a fast food restaurant and getting shagged by a penis that was so massive she crapped herself, whilst running round on her knees yelling “AI AI AI AI AI!”. For example). I know that her lip-syncs were desperate, and her 5 o clock shadow was practically a 9 o’clock shadow, and even deep down I know her RuPaul impression for Snatch Game (the show’s inspired take on Match Game aka Blankety Blank) wasn’t very good and also that his reading in “the Library challenge” (basically a “be a massive bitch” challenge) was…kind of racist.  But underneath it all…I just loved her, like she LOBBED THAT DREENK (ie Absolut Berri Acai).  I cannot help my taste sometimes, such a meagre thing as it is.

30. Stephanie Beacham

30. Stephanie “Double That And Have A Drink On Top” Beacham – Strictly Come Dancing 5 (14th place) ; Celebrity Big Brother 7 (5th place)

It’s always a shame when your divas let you down. You might hope that Joan Collins is a glam bitch, but whenever she appears on the chat shows she’s whining about how when she walks down the street the boys all have their trousers down round their thighs and you can see their pants how awful. In your head Joan Rivers might be a stone-cold acidic bitch, but on reality tv, when someone criticises her daughter even slightly she has a pant-shredding hiss-fit and storms off. Shannen Dohertey is presenting Scream If You Wanna Go Faster USA and making cameo appearances in Bo Selecta USA. Thank the lord for Stephanie Beacham, who apparently in real life is 100% the 80s megabitch she was on screen. Firstly in shredding apart Vincent Simone’s nerves and her fellow contestants reputations in her one week “competing” on Strictly (“THAT GABBY CREATURE CAN GET HER LEG UP OVER HER HEAD” ❤ ❤ <3), then latterly performing a rather bizarre purpose as Vinnie Jones’ right-hand woman, performing stone-cold mafia hits on irrelevant groupies and midget girl-rappers alike. Who knows where she’ll turn up next, but wherever it is, someone’s getting a perfectly worded tongue lashing.

29. Steph Fearon

29. Steph Fearon – Over The Rainbow (4th place)

One of the oddest, and most interesting things about Over The Rainbow, and shows of its ilk, is that it spans so much life-experience in the ages of its contestants. Even though the age-gap between oldest and youngest contestant was a derisory 5 years, the whiplash obtained from cutting from Danielle dreaming in her bedroom (WITH HER SHELF) preparing for A Levels and Sophie sitting in her Welsh village waiting to be auctioned off to a passing chieftain for three sheep and a copy of Roy Chubby Brown LIVE! on DVD, and grown women like Steph pulling pints and sitting on 20 years of experience in kids tv, or Amy Diamond doing…whatever Amy Diamond did, was substantial. What force could bridge this gap, keeping both girls and women living functionally under one group? That’s right, the force of a DEN-MOTHER. Never was this more obvious than in Steph’s sterling performance during Stephanie’s sing-out. That hug. That wink. That “DO IT!”. That air-punch. In ten years time, when Old Eyebags stops titting around on ITV and returns to his true home on BBC One Saturday Night Tea-Time and does a search for…I dunno, Janet in Rocky Horror or something, the girls that get put through that ringer can only hope he hires Steph Fearon as House Matron, Mallory Towers style. (Also from that video, lol at Jessica wrenching Stephanie’s arm off) (Also LOL at Diet Barrowman clapping like his arms have both fallen asleep and he’s not sure what to do with them) (So many Dorothy memories).

28. Donny Osmond

28. Donny Osmond – Dancing With The Stars 9 (Winner)

It’s a well known fact that in Strictly Come Dancing, life ends at 40. Sure there have been a few token 40+s in the end-game (Comedy Julian, Lesley “LAAHHHHHHH!” Garrett, the Donobot), but really it’s a young person’s game, as evidenced by potential winner Letitia Dean greeting her impending 40th birthday like an oncoming Logan’s Running, and Dr Hamela basically getting “WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, I’M 33!” tattooed onto her cleavage. Out oldest winner is 39 year old Eternal Toddler Chris Hollins and that is how it will remain. The Americans though, embrace age more fulsomely, as evidenced by the victory of ENTERTAINMENT LEGEND Donny Osmond. Donny should serve as inspiration for all of Strictly’s Older Legions. Rather than whining about his age or putting on a pantomime of youth, Donny just got on with the job at hand, doing the paso doble to Dead Or Alive whilst dressed as Adam Ant’s dad and snogging the face off Bruno. Sure Jennifer Grey came along a year later and did the same thing for the older ladies, and danced much better doing it but…she was kind of whiny and who could forget or forgive “OH MY GOD LULU WHAT HAVE YOU PUT IN YOUR PORRIDGE BECAUSE I WANT TO IT NUM NUM WHERE’S MY PAY-CHEQUE EIGHT! EIGHT! EIGHT! NOBODY PUT BABIES IN CHELSEE!”. Donny Osmond is the face of Strictly GREY POWER, and forever more shall remain so.

27. Chris Fountain

27. Chris Fountain – Dancing On Ice 3 (Runner-up)

And so, inevitably, and perhaps tragically, we’re getting towards the part of the list where some people are on here for being likable and also being good at the stuff they’re supposed to be good at for the show they’re on, rather than just because they’re hilarious trainwrecks. Which may make future entries more boring, but given the limp flaccid poot that the end of this series of Dancing On Ice is turning out to be, probably a salutory example in this case. The story of Dancing On Ice 3 was COCKY OVERDOG ICE-HOCKEY RINGER Chris vs ADORABLE PLUCKY YOUNG-MUM UNDERDOG Suzanne vs hilariously adorable SKATE-OFF QUEEN Zaraah Abrahams. To make it even better, all three were paired with my three favourite pros in the history of the show : Pixie Witch Frankie (at her most pinched and psychotic and vengeful and magic. I bet she cast a spell after they got pipped to make all of Robin’s daffodils turn into poison ivy), Grumpy Dead-Eyed Jock Fred Haversack, and Matt Evers’ arse. It is testimony indeed to Chris’ Ultimate Skating Skills that he was by far my favourite. Whether it be nearly headbutting an entire dining set in Props Week, being cocky enough to add fifty spins to a routine just because he could, doing a FREAKING AXEL (ish) or generally being gaymazing, Chris Fountain owned my skating heart from beginning to end. Then he lost in the final because he was too fat to do the flying properly. DAMN YOU DANCING ON ICE. DAMN YOU ALL TO HELL! WHAT DOES FLYING EVEN HAVE TO DO WITH ICE-SKATING ANYWAY?!

26. Adam Lambert

26. Adam Lambert – American Idol 8 (Runner-up)

I think this is the only picture of him on the Internet not either tonguing it up with some fluffy indie-gay at Burning Man or trying to eye-fuck some suburban Minnesota housewife from under 13 layers of make-up. Such are the trade-offs I suppose. Anyway, Adam Lambert is notable for two reasons. Firstly, along with Crystal Bowersox, Mindy Doo, Joshua Ledet, and David Cook, Adam Lambert had one of my favourite voices on American Idol in the past few years. Secondly, and which fact pulls him up onto this list, is that he enacted revenge for Will Young, Jim Verraros, and that one from Eton Road who Simon Cowell kept on calling “weird and fascinating” as really obvious shorthand, by being so RIDICULOUSLY homosexual that not even Syco’s powers of ruthless closetting could prevent their obviously being “one of them” on his show, a breakthrough which had subsequent effects both positive (Johnny Robinson) and negative (*shudders*Diva Fever*shudders*). Even with that the biggest marketting angle for weeks was “he’s just like Twilight!”. I mean, I only watched the first Twilight film, but I think a androgyqueer Elvis-cowboy grabbing his dick and singing about his Ring Of Fire would have been out of place anywhere in the franchise. Call it tokenism if you will, but the satisfaction as a viewer was immense.

25. Carla Hall

25. Carla “Hootie Hoo” Hall – Top Chef 5 (3rd place) ; Top Chef All Stars (5th place)

Probably the most rootable contestant in my history of watching cooking based reality shows. Just look at that face, and imagine it yelling “hootie hoo!” and also possibly a song about beef tongue or a passionate homily about loving what you cook. It has never been more difficult to watch someone lose via one last-minute moment of self-doubt. Twice. Carla Hall is basically a muppet made flesh, a muppet with roots in soul food and top level training in French haute-cuisine, and a super-secret history as a model. One day she and the Swedish Chef will meet, and adorable babies will be made.

24. Kirsty Swain

24. “Fat Deaf Old” Kirsty Swain – So You Think You Can Dance UK 2 (4th place)

Seriously, So You Think You Can Dance UK 2 had two things going for it, between the indifferent choreography, the monotonous judging, and the “will this do, eh, no it won’t, but we’re on air anyway so why not?” air that permeated the whole affair. Firstly the awesome contestant head-shots (BOW DOWN!) and secondly the personalities. Kirsty (the honorific was always a joke, given that she was not in fact fat, deaf or old, but the show sure presented it like she was) was a particular highlight – ebulliant, weepy, loud, and constantly pushing herself to the limit of sanity. Clearly cast as “likable fodder”, with her Pineapple Studios style and lack of athleticism, in much the same vein as Tapper Tom or Disco Paige, Kirsty transcended her role by being part of one of the only memorable pairings of the series with AndrogyLee, performing some of the only memorable routines of the series (ie they were to Adele songs). TEAM RAGGY DOLLS 4 LIFE! In the end, for whatever reason it wasn’t quite enough to beat…well even Katie Love, but lord knows I enjoyed every Hammer-dancing, pussy-popping, shrieking, meltdowning, head-cracking, adorable moment of it.

23. Wagner

23. Wagner – X Factor 7 (6th place)


22. Rachbot
21. Evbot

22. Rachel “Rachbot” Stevens – Strictly Come Dancing 6 (runner-up)

21. Evan “Evbot” Lysacek – Dancing With The Stars 10 (runner-up)

It seemed like it would never end, that golden period of Strictly Bothood. Series after series they lined up, each more tinnily handsome and deadly proficient than the last. Deathly dull and rote and awkward in interview, but compelling artistic virtuosos on the dancefloor. Colin, Mark, Gethin – all well media trained and lovely people, but found it hard to emote and gush and cry and meltdown and giggle-snort like they were supposed to to win the public over. And then it peaked with these two, and never really came back, the subsequent bots being either relying on personality over technique (Jasebot) or were just…well…broken (GAVBOT 4 EVER). But what a peak it was. Both deeply awkward and beautiful people, having been trapped in their respective bubbles of pop svengalis and hardcore skating coaches, and both quite good at the whole dancing thing. In an ideal world they would marry, and have many beautiful cyber-babies, but as it is, their stars were cross’d by Snooty Mole Butlers and the distance across the Atlantic. Neither of them would want to risk rusting after all.

20. Kieron Richardson

20. Kieron “Gay-Face Vulcan” Richardson – Dancing On Ice 5 (3rd place)

As I indicated earlier, Chris Fountain is my favourite skater on Dancing On Ice of all time. I have never enjoyed anybody else on the show’s performances even…oooh…let’s say 57% as much as his. And yet, as this weekend’s final shows, skating is but one part of the Dancing On Ice experience. The other half is grnding your teeth in boredom at the utterly awful Final Twos. Usually two soap dullards who were better than everyone else from the beginning who skated through the competition doing dull routines and having no personalities, they make the end of the series unbearable as the actual interesting people fall by the wayside. There are odd exceptions : Stefan (adorbz!) and Gaynor (Could.Not.Skate) ; Sam (OTT grumpy fakey showmance GOD) and Laura (OTT frumpy fakey happy-happy not-even-famous Mistress of Boobs) and of course Chris Fountain (<3), but mostly it’s bores. And so I end up identifying with the also-rans. The Chicos, the Chemmys, the Danniellas, the DONKON JAYMES’s. And none more so than Kieron Richardson, who was up against the two biggest bores of all time Hayley “Tits’n’Teeth” Tamaddon and baby-waving Gary Lucy. He didn’t win, or even come close, but the sheer joy he had in skating every week in whatever dumb outfit Dean had made up for him (neva 4get PUNK WEEK!) was inspirational. I first saw him as a special guest of Ricky Nipple’s on Strictly, putting more energy and enthusiasm into his 5 seconds of VT rooting for him than Laila Rouass put into an entire series of dancing. I’m so glad he got his very own reality-tv joruney to giggle and gush over.

19. Chris Bates

19. Chris “wrrrrrrrrrrr” Bates – The Apprentice 6 (Runner-up)

I put something in my comments for this countdown recently saying that I couldn’t put someone higher, because they didn’t *click* for me until midway through the series. There was no such problem with Chris Bates. From the very first moment of his audition tape I was sold on him as the best representation of one of my favourite Apprentice archetypes – young academic overachiever with no experience of the real world. Just hearing that voice  growling away humourless like a home counties Barry White about how “I’m extremely funny”, “I’m in an exceptional bracket”, “I’ll take all the skills I have and drive them to the maximum”, “I want to be recognised by everyone around me as being succesful”, “I wany people to realise and accept that I am and extremely talented young guy”, and best of all “I want to be the person who is recognised universally as being a pinnacle of excellence in whatever it is I do” (<3 ❤ ❤ <3). It was transparent he was heading for an hilarious fall, and so it was, as he started the show on an amazing losing streak that caused Lordalan to call him a GREAT BIG LOSER and was only saved by sharing boardroom’s with the victims of PALOMA’S CURSE and also, oh yeah, being the most succesful Project Manager in Apprentice History (until Jedi Jim’s billion pound order made that look really redundant and made everyone awkwardly shuffle their feet). Then he started winning, then he sold a dress made entirely out of ties, then he did a dance around Paris in a beret (<3) then he threatened to punch Stuart Baggs in the face and called him a fat twat (<3 ❤ ❤ ❤ <3) then Margaret accused him of spending his free time wanking himself off with his GCSE certificates (<3 ❤ <3)  and then he lost to Stella in the final and thereby neatly avoided being locked in a cage and poked at by oompa-loompas, or whatever the prize was that year. This meant he was the only person to escape from the UTTER TRAINWRECK of Series 6 with his dignity intact, which was quite some feat for someone as hilariously delusional as that audition tape would suggest. Also, not gonna lie, he was fit, innit.

18. Carianne Barrow

18. Carianne “Cawianne” Barrow – The Bachelor UK (Winner (I KNOW RIGHT, I STILL CAN’T QUITE BELIEVE IT!))

One of the main problems with watching lots and lots of UK reality shows, as I do, is that precious few are purely merit/talent based. 99% of the time, either the sappy-hearted general public or a benign story-editor with an eye to future series renewals has their hand on the tiller, and as such a good guy will always win, no matter how unsuited they are to doing so (*cough*TOM PELLEREAU*cough*). So sometimes…sometimes you like to a villain win. In the past 5 years really I’m coming up with Aaron Allard-Morgan rom Big Brother 12 (ditched the series about half way through), Ulrika on Big Brother (was more a grumpy cow than a true villain) and this glorious MEGABITCH. It helped that the cast of The Bachelor only had a handful of really likable girls (Keshia, Zivile, Nicky) and the rest only rose to likability at the moment when they realised it was a load of old shit and told the whole sorry shambles to go do one (hi Georgie!). So it wasn’t too heart-breaking to watch Carianne lie,bitch, squeal, pout, scream profanities and shag/not shag a camera-man on the way to somehow winning the heart of Gavin Henson over Laila Moomin-Troll in an ending that still makes no sense and, as a result, is still effing glorious. All whilst sounding like Joe Pasquale’s sociopathic daughter. Carianne and her drama carried the latter half of the series, then promptly tossed it into a volcano and called it crap in bed and SO BORWIN!

17. Ruth Lorenzo

17. Ruth! Lorenzo! – X Factor 5 (5th place)

It’s hard to describe Ruth fulsomely without feeling a bit grubby, because the Internet has fired her into extreme over-ratedness via the prism of the already over-rated Dannii Minogue and into the stratosphere of over-ratedness that was the entirity of X Factor 5 (you remember, the one where Eggman Quogg finished third?). To hear most fanboards speak of it, when she sang Purple Rain, all wars briefly stopped, cancer started going backwards, and Rupert Murdoch looked down from his giant throne of skulls and shed the only tear of his life. Which over-wrought solemnity is to deny the true glory of Ruth Lorenzo, which was that she was a leather-lunged holiday bar-singer who BELLOWED everything at the volume of a helicopter taking off directly into your face. Really Ruth Lorenzo was born two decades two late to be the greatest muse Jim Steinman never had, and that was the magic of her. That and the fact that she had one of the few lezzmances (ie a female bromance) in the history of reality tv, with THE BEAST herself Alexandra Burke (not in this countdown because, snotting all over Beyonce’s sleeves aside, she was D-U-L-L). Of course, master-music-mogul Simon Cowell wanted her to sing everything in Spanish, because she is a bit Spanish. And to think it took another three years after that for the backlash to really kick in in force…

16. Jodie Prenger

16. Jodie “La Prenj” Prenger – I’d Do Anything (Winner) ; Andy’s Over The Rainbow Dog-Hunt (host, compere, winner in all our hearts)

Reality tv has a complicated relationship with those who hail from THE NORF. On the one hand they tend to do quite well in the public vote, having a strong regional identity and often automatically assumed “down-to-earth” status. On the other hand they have to put with being patronised up the backwaters. And no reality tv contestant better represents THE NORF’s legacy than Jodie Prenger. Just a humble girl from Blackpool, fresh from triumphing on The Biggest Loser, and dragging along a first-date boyfriend (who was later amazingly discarded ruthlessly and completely, like Cris Smith to her J-Lo) trying to make it in the West End. The scene where she met BARROWMAN! for the first time and they both bellowed in hysterics and having finally met their OTT match will live in memory forever. The public took Jodie to their hearts, far more than the snobby muckity-mucks on the panel wanted them to, and so it was that they (Andrew, Cameron, Barry…although that was more because, as Jodie was over 20 years old, Barry had no interest provoked in…well…his muckity muck actually) set about TO DESTROY HER by really passive-aggressively giving her awful, impossible, inappropriate song-choices to do like this , this and sweet zombie Jesus THIS . Naturally this culminated, as it always does, with them over-reaching themselves, bunting her Sondheim on the grounds that it’d be too sophisticated for her and then watched hleplessly as she smashed amazing intoxicating cheap sentiment right into the back of the net. Then she did this in the final, a performance so intense that I’m not convinced that Cameron wasn’t actually trying to electrocute her through that metal guard-rail as she sang it. Even this last ditch attempt was not enough, as Jodie steam-rollered Jessie for the win. And what a win. FOR THE NORF!

15. Matt Di Angelo

15. Matt “The Brat” DiAngelo – Strictly Come Dancing 5 (runner-up)

Excuse me, I need to go and have a think about this one…

14. Lisa Appleton

14. Lisa “MEE-MOO” Appleton – Big Brother 9 (8th place)

It says something that Big Brother, one of, if not THE defining UK reality show of the five years before the five covered in this countdown, and which I FEASTED on during my adolescence serving as my gateway drug to watching far too many of these shows, manages to only scrape two contestants onto the countdown in five series. And one of them is this one, surely the most random of all LOLRANDOM endgame competitors. Lisa floated above the clique madness of Big Brother 9 (in which first one clique (the Whisper Club) then the other (B-Block)) both turned out to be massive arseholes. Then it turned out most of the floaters were arseholes as well. But not Lisa. Mostly because she was too busy telling tales about her past as a teenage archaeologist or a sandwich-munching bouncer or lifting up an entire car using only her pinkie finger or how her daughter inherited her super-powers or…I seem to remember something involving a hamster, although I’m entirely sure I want to. At any rate, all of these stories were clearly born solely of major head-trauma, but then again so was her being the only person to ever PROPERLY tell Rex to fuck off, thus validating his needy desire to be the Series Villain. Also she karate-chopped her way through a door, accepted a marriage proposal, took part in an impromptu game of Golden Balls, singularly failed to punch her way out of a paper bag and…was probably the last great housemate the show ever had. A franchise dies (or moves to Channel 5, which amounts to more or less the same thing) with her.

13. Manila Luzon

13. Manila “I RUV SHOO!” Luzon(/Karl Westerberg) – RuPaul’s Drag Race 3 (Runner-up)

The real core question of RuPaul’s Drag Race 3 (not that silly “Booger” vs “Heather” nonsense where the answer was obviously “FUCK OFF DELTA WORK, AND NEVER COME BACK”) was Raja vs Manilla. And I was very much a Fanilla right from the beginning, combining as he did high glamour, gross-out humour, OTT Asian stereotypes (which he obviously very much had a right to pedle, being as Filipino as anyone with the birth name of Karl Westerberg can be), and a flipant suburban rich kid attitude to everything. Manila mostly coasted through the competition on amazingness, but the one time she found herself in the Bottom Two and the show’s chosen elimination face-off : A Lip-Sync TO THE DEATH. There, she produced this, arguably the high point in the show’s history. Other iconic “Lip-Sync For Your Life”s have come and gone (Jujubee’s “Black Velvet”, Dida Ritz’s “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)”, Shannel’s “The Greatest Love Of All”, Bebe’s “Stronger”, Carmen & Raja’s “Straight Up”, Morgan’s “Two Of Hearts”, everything about Raven’s “Never Gonna Get It” from the breakdown onwards) but none who made you hope quite so fervently that your favourite sucked more often. Gaymazing scenes.

12. Alex Reid

12. Alex Reid – Celebrity Big Brother 7 (Winner)

Sticking your penis into Katie-Price-Jordan-Andre-Terwilliger-Hutz-McClure is like a modern-day Fame Wheel Of Fortune. It can make your career (Peter Andre), ruin it (Gareth Gates), or just establish you as a human being who is famous (Leandro Penna). For Alex Reid, his spin on the wheel did not end well. Ridiculed and blamed and called a bad step-dad, he went into Celebrity Big Brother bruised, traduced and accused of having a fist fight with Dane Bowers (everything wrong with our modern celebrity culture demonstrated there by the word “accused” as opposed to “celebrated for the fact”. And so began the greatest Celebrity Redemption Arc of the last 5 years. Alex Reid proimised his booing opening-night crowd that he was going to go in and make them love him, and turn those boos into cheers. And unlike when it happened with Anthony Hutton, it wasn’t because there weren’t any other options. Well, it wasn’t solely because there weren’t any other options. Alex Reid’s rise to lovability was mostly fuelled by his willingness to learn about How To Be Famous from such luminaries of the genre as Stephen Baldwin, Ivanka Trump, Vinnie Jones, Basshunter, Heidi Fleiss, Lady Sovereign and Nicola Tits, and then proving to be better at it than all of them. Endearing, naive, kind-hearted, delusional. mildly deranged and highly skilled at KICKING THE SHIT OUT OF SNOWMEN, Alex Reid was truly as much a parable of our reality age as Chantelle Houghton was of the last one. How amazing that they have found one another in true love or some bollocks like that.

11. Kara Tointon

11. Kara Tointon – Strictly Come Dancing 8 (Winner)

ZOMG SHOCKBOOT! It probably says a lot for Kara that this entry is probably going to end up more an explanation of why she didn’t make Top 10 rather than why she did make Top 50 (or indeed, Top 11). Because Kara bowled pretty much as close as you can get to a perfect game on Strictly Come Dancing, not just on the show (are they any hold-outs that don’t think she was the best dancer of her series? Of the show? Ever?) but off it as well. She accrued 10s a plenty, danced memorable dances, provided TEH SEXXY DRAMA, pissed Len off, was never in danger of being eliminated, won handily, and proved adept at every genre. She received a massive career boost, landed herself a (hot) boyfriend, and was adept at winning over all but the most hardcore of Matt Baker stans. Bar falling on her bum in Week One (which is nothing a little time-machine action couldn’t sort out) I can’t imagine anyone doing Strictly better. She went through the show like a hot knife through butter, a bullet through Ricky Martin’s brain (COME ON), a Gregg Wallace throughout a dessert trolley, leaving nothing in her wake but a clean white line and a trail of bodies. I was in awe, but at the same time…some times I like a little bit of mess, you know? All hail Kara Tointon, too perfect for this life (or at least to win this list).


Stella English
Joanna The Cleaner From Leicester
Ricky Nipple
Anybody Who Danced With Ian Waite
Harry Judd
Chelsee Healey
Danielle Hope
Welsh Ginger Sophie Evans
Danniella Westbrook
Sam Attwater
Nickelodeon Girl
Crystal Bowersox
Someone from Paris Hilton’s British Best Friend Who Comitted Suicide, A Fact Which Made Me Too Awkward To Include Them, Even Though They Were Epicmazing
Any More Drag Queens (That I’m Aware Of)

10. Ronald & Christina

10. Ronald & Christina Hsu – Amazing Race 12 (Runner-up), Amazing Race 18 : Unfinished Business (7th place)

The Amazing Race is a globe-trotting reality show, where teams of two people with an existing relationship lasting at least a year, race around the globe in order to win (*Dr Evil finger*) ONE MILLION DOLLARS. Building your team is a delicate balance between picking someone whose skills compliment your own, allowing you to win the race, and picking someone with whom you have a sufficiently interesting relationship to get on the show in the first place. Christina chose her 58 year old father, and the result was tv gold.  Christina was herself probably the second or third greatest female racer in the history of the show : a peppy, steelily competitive Tracy Flick type who partnered with anybody else, alive or dead, would have won the whole show single-handed. Instead she was stuck with her dad, who picked up a hernia on the first few legs, and spent the rest of the race complaining and doing awful dad things like pick at how she was putting on weight, tut at how lazy she was (as she literally carted him around) and chided her for having too high an opinion of herself (leading to all-time great reality tv quote “I’m giving you optimism with the real truth flavour”). This, along with her despairing, exhasperated insistence on repeatedly calling him “Daddy” and fretting that he’d always loved her sister more, leavened Christina’s annoyingly alpha personality, and gave her a millstone to overcome so great that it was very hard not to root for her. Somehow they made it through Ireland, Holland, Burkina Faso, Lithuania, Croatia, Italy, India, Japan and Taiwan all the way to the Finish Line in Alaska, where Christina carried her dad up an ice-wall and through 500lbs of fish guts right to the finish line, in first place. Where she promptly tanked the entire race single-handedly, ballsing up the final puzzle-based Roadblock (a task that only one team-member can perform) and handing the victory to tedious blinky crustafarians TK & Rachel, prompting Ronald to tearily declare on the Finish Line that he really loved his daughter and this was the first time in his life that he’d said that and meant it. . Reality tv endings don’t get more Shakespearian.

Except they did, when Christina & Ronald returned for a season featuring teams who wanted one more chance. Ostensibly because Christina wanted to travel with her dad one last time before her wedding day (SIDEBAR : to a man who competed with her on the first race, who created almost exactly the same dynamic Ronald had with Christina with his own baby sister. I SWEAR YOU COULD NOT SCRIPT THIS BETTER) but mostly clearly because she wanted them to suffer a loss, if it came, that was entirely his fault. And so it was, after another hilarious rampage of father-daughter nuttiness, wherein she repeatedly tried to catch other contestants out as rule-breakers and actually threw herself out of a moving vehicle when she realised it was headed in the wrong direction, that Ronald cost them the race in a Roadblock (a task that only one team member can perform) by just…wandering around Varanasi aimlessly for hours. The circle was closed, the story was over, they went out holding hands floating down the Ganges. Reality tv is at its best when it feels like real-life has contrived itself into making something approaching an interesting fictional narrative. Such were Ronald & Christina. (He also told her that she had “boogers in her bones” at one point <3)

9. Austin Healey

9. Austin “WUZZ ROBBED” Healey – Strictly Come Dancing 6 (4th place)

Some contestants you just love more for not winning. I mean, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t some sort of Survivor : All Stars (Google it, bitchez) vendetta against past winners manifesting itself towards the end of this countdown. There are still three winners to come before we end. But sometimes a person who would make a likable, solid winner, makes for an amazing rallying post to whine, and whine and WHINE about for years after their actual defeat. Such are the ranks of the WUZZ ROBBED (/WIZZ ROBES), if you’re in a Nintendo state of mind. Every great reality franchise has at least one (in this case of this list, I would imagine it’s Kara Tointon). And for me, there is no greater WUZZ ROBBED than Austin Healey.

In the years of its growing pains Strictly, like many troubled adolescents, focused its eyes on big burly sportsman and wished it WAS THEM, all muscled and arrogant and burly and powerful and macho. Darren Gough, Matt Dawson, Kenny Logan – the nation loved them all. Except me. I thought they were all, not to put too fine a point on it, kind of…wankers? Or a less strong word. Anyway, with Austin Healey I finally got it, and learned to embrace my inner sarcastic arrogant chippy sonoffabitch. And, after a (too) long and (too) controversial series it looked like the Leicester Lip would finally come good. Cherie Lunghi had withered on the vine, Christine Blankley’s fan-base turned out to be all smoke and mirrors and Sarge had finally buggered off to do that cruise. Nothing could stand in his way, not Smuggo Chambers & Vibroknickers; not The Rachbot, performing full leaderboard death drops every week ; and certainly not (LOL) Lisa Snowdon. Austin Healey would crush all before him, Erin would lay to rest the ghost of Dummy Dance, I would do a dance even greater than the one I was to do when Kara won, what could go wrong?


8. Lauren Samuels

8. Lauren “Confident Monster” Samuels – Over The Rainbow (3rd place)

Sometimes it’s hard to be a woman. Or at least it is on reality tv, where it surely must be accepted now that women have a much smaller margin of error, personality-management wise, than men. At least with the general public, if not amongst the White Knights of Internet Messageboards. Very rarely has this been emobided so fully than with Lauren Samuels. She started off an inoffensive sort of contestant – a strong singer, a very literal interpreter of songs (right down to the lyric level), and probably “too experienced” to win the show – on target to be an inoffensive Niamh/Ben James Ellis sort of boot. Then, in one judges comment, the whole train jumped the tracks and became a glorious trainwreck. Because out of nowhere Charlotte Church decided to warn Lauren she was too confident in her own abilities (the bitch) and then the show realised what it had done and tried to course-correct, and then Lauren noticed the same and followed suit, and what happened next :

  • An ill-advised segment where Lauren went with her friends to the fairground and they made one another little moustaches out of candy floss, to show she had friends
  • An ill-advised segment where Lauren announced that Jenny had SNUCK into her room in the night and stuffed Lauren’s “relatively expensive double-quilted make-up removal pads” into her sporran
  • An ill-advised sympathetic back-story about how Lauren was deaf and then she wasn’t, which, whilst I’m sure this wasn’t the case, kind of came across as Lauren having had water in her ear once after swimming
  • An ill-advised attempt to wedge her into Sondheim to get her to show emotional depth and the rampaging frowny-face that resulted made it seem like a Wobbofett had been released into the wild
  • An ill-advised attempt by Lauren to show her bond with the animal kingdom by yelling directly into Toto’s face, which I swear she only survived because of Jenny’s encounter with the same
  • An ill-advised post song chat segment where Lauren went through all the girls in cast, calling them out as CLEAN and NOT CLEAN
  • An ill-advised segment where Lauren went into the woods at midnight and spent the whole time crying for her mommy wearing pink ear-muffs
  • Let’s face it, I’m going to use this opportunity to say “relatively expensive double-quilted make-up removal pads” again
  • Because Jenny was Scottish
  • Geddit?

Anyway, the best part of all this UTTER nonsense was that Lauren actually ended up benefitting from Charlotte calling her out as being (*shudders*) confident because the show didn’t have an effing clue what to do with her, and the attendant carnival of the bizarre got her all the way to the Final Three just because it was a Perpetual Motion Machine and could not be stopped. And glad I am that it couldn’t be.

7. Pasha Kovalev

7. Pasha Kovalev – So You Think You Can Dance 3 (5th place) ; So You Think You Can Dance 7 & 8 (All-Star) ; Strictly Come Dancing (professional partner)

Let’s face it, being a reality tv contestant isn’t exactly a fast track to respectability. As career-choices go, it’s basically one step above “personal injury lawyer”, “timeshare saleswoman” or “Rebekah Wade”. So it’s nice to see somebody who has managed to make “professional reality tv star” an actual long-term career path, and actually maintained their dignity. More or less. Apart from that one solo he did where he seduced a torso. And all those comedy VTs with Chelsee. But other than that, Pasha Kovalev has, over the past 5 years, very much been the poster child for never getting a real job and instead spending your adult life trolling for a phone-vote.

Most people reading this list will probably know Pasha best from his current role as a professional partner and one half of Team Ka$ha on Strictly Come Dancing, but I’ll always remember him best for his role as the most succesful male ballroom contestant in the history of the US version of So You Think You Can Dance. Fresh out of Siberia, shy, a computer nerd and a gentleman, his defining moment was probably when his first partner (Jessi Peralta, an amazing hyper-sexual nutcase) injured herself out of the competition at the last minute which meant that Pasha (after crying like a big woobie for Poor Jessi obviously) had to dance with Bette Midler. Or at least a convincing drag lookalike. And from there he rode the momentum of a nation’s “awwwws” to fifth place (/sixth, but I REFUSE to believe he got fewer votes than Lauren Effing Gottleib. REFUSE), acing hip-hop, swing, jazz and broadway on the way.

And that could have been that, but Pasha Kovalev has a little thing called work ethic, translating his position first into a recurring All-Star role on two future series of the show, picking up a pay-cheque teaching future champions how to ballroom, and then parlayed that into a role as a Strictly Pro, when he hitched onto Evil Moira Ross on one of her regular trawls through So You Think You Can Dance/Burn The Floor cast-offs. Basically Pasha Kovalev is one of the main reasons why career advisors in schools across the nation can advise their charges that, if they don’t want to be a doctor or a lawyer or a crime-fighting werewolf, then jumping up and down dressed as an angst-filled samurai fox from the future (aka “Contemporary”) for Nigel Lythgoe is a perfectly viable alternative. Which can only be a good thing.

6. Yasmina Siadatan

6. Yasmina “MOAR BASIL!” Siadatan – The Apprentice 5 (Winner)

On reflection (which obviously is what this countdown is all about, The Apprentice Series 5 was definitely my favourite series of The Apprentice ever, and probably my favourite reality show series, all told, of the last 5 years. More polished than Series 1, more varied than Series 2, more likable candidates than Series 4 (ie, any), more competent candidates than Series 6, and more drama than Series 7, but capping it all off, and pushing it over Series 3 is that it crowned my favourite Apprentice winner of them all -innumerate resaurateur Yasmina Siadatan.

Yasmina was central to so many of Series 5’s greatest moments. The orgy of basil, tomato, basil, human-hair, basil, “YES CHEF!”, basil, sloppy bellinis, and MOAR BASIL that was her PM victory on the catering task. Four hundred and fift…shit. Getting into a throwdown with Debrabarr in the Ideal Homes channel over who got to PM. Her ongoing bromance with James. That time she told a suddnely horribly overconfident Lorraine that she, personally, did not give a crap about her visions and she was to do what she told. That time after she backstabbed her Paula and got her fired and emerged, bloody and traumatised and told everyone else to consider that if she did that to her best friend, WHAT WOULD SHE DO TO THEM? (NB : Yasmina was not brought back into the boardroom after this, despite being on the losing team…not Tom levels, but quite often). That time she made besties with a voiceover artist for her team’s cereal commercial, who then got cut from the edit by PM Kate, leading Yasmina on a ROARING RAMPAGE OF REVENGE that culminated in her besting Kate in the final.

But most of all, more even than for being likable and relatable and relatively human seeming on THE APPRENTICE of all shows, I love Yasmina for her absolute, almost game-breaking perfection at Project Management. Her ability to find exactly the right, usually incredibly safe and boring, route to winning whatever task she was put in charge of was awe-inspiring, and I don’t think anyone else has ever perfected the art to quite the degree she did. That she then won the whole series for being a RISK TAKER only makes the whole thing sweeter.

5. Jakob Karr

5. Jakob Karr – So You Think You Can Dance 6 (Runner-up)

Consider this a brief respite from feeling like you have to try and guess who comes next on the countdown. So You Think You Can Dance 6 was actually the first iteration of the show I watched all the way through, as live. And the fact that I was hooked on the franchise from the off (such that I pimped it out to anyone who would listen, such that I actually got excited about the British, such that I still think the British version could have worked if the choreography hadn’t been HORRIFIC, and every judge other than Nigel being functionally useless) was mostly down to Jakob Karr. Well, and Ellenore. And Legacy. And the adorably naff Di Lellos. And a bit Katherine. And also Molleeeeeeee’s mother for christening her Molleeeeeeee.

Because Jakob Karr is just good at dancing and that. Sometimes all I need from a reality tv contestant is to be really really good at the thing they’re supposed to be good at. Also being quite hot and having an endearing personality and also flexible and also sweaty often and also FLEXIBLE. That all helps. But sometimes you just want someone to give a performance and make you say “holy shit!” and then watch it 15 times on Youtube and make a spreadsheet to try to empirically prove whether it was Top 3 Jakob Karr So You Think You Can Dance Performances Of All Time, and also possibly write a song about it for acoustic guitar and three-part-harmony. And whilst I’ve loved other So You Think You Can Dance alumni of the past 5 years (pretty much everyone mentioned above, Danny Tidwell, Brandon Bryant, Janette Manrara, Kayla Radomski, Jeanine Mason, Mark Kanemura, Robert Roldan, Melanie Moore, Twitch) none of them have propelled me to quite the same heights of giddy fanboyism as Jakob did. Just…so flexible. SQUEE!

4. Alesha Dixon

4. Alesha Dixon – Strictly Come Dancing 5 (winner), Strictly Come Dancing 7,8,9 (judge), Britain’s Got Talent 6 (judge)

I have to admit that one of the first things to pass through my head when I decided to count down the greatest reality tv contestants of the past five years, is that that time-period matches very snugly and neatly indeed with the Age Of Alesha on Strictly, the reality show that forms the very CORNERSTONE/HEART/MANTLEPIECE/MIDDLE BIT of this blog. No reality contestant has dominated a franchised to quite the degree that Alesha has the last five years of Strictly.

Firstly, and most obviously, as a contestant. Excellent dancer, engaging personality, great storyline, smashing pair of nans, a popular winner and even to this day holding the record for highest average score of any contestant (probably. I’ve not checked. It might be Ricky Nipples for all I know). But whilst other Strictly winners have parlayed their win into a career in the theatre, or as Anne Robinson’s bitch, or in REALLY embarrassing adverts, Alesha wasn’t letting go. She spent most of Series 6 circling the show as a pundit, alligning herself with the public opinion, and then swooped in after Arlene did a bad thing (ie, said something bad about The Holy Sarge) to pick up a role as a judge. For three whole series Alesha sat in judgment, awkwardly at first, sufering a few bumps in favour as she criticised noted public favourites, Craig Kelly and Laila Rouass (both of whom we remember fondly to this day, yes we do). Then slowly getting into her stride in Series 8 and finding her place as an advocate for the public on the panel. Then getting a bit bored and mental in Series 9 and doing wacky things like scoring Nancy Dell’Lollipop a 2 and spending the last month of the series utterly pissed.

And now she’s gone. A wrench away from the show such that it reduced Craig to jibbering that she was “ITV trash” (LOL) as he prepares for Maestro, the reality show based around how well you can wave a stick around. We face up to this new Alesha-less era, hopeful, but slightly afraid. Mostly that they’ll drag Arlene out of the attic again (PLEASE, GOD, NO) but partly because it’s hard to imagine the show without her. Or that bloody laugh.

3. Saaphyri Windsor

3. Saaphyri “54th And Crenshaw” Windsor – Flavor Of Love 2 (DQ), Charm School (Winner), I Love Money 2 (5th place)

Yes, yes, ok. I promise this is the last one you’ve never heard of.  But this would not be a trawl through the last 5 years of reality tv without a representative from the scuzzy bargain-basement of fun that was the “Flavorverse”. What started off a simple twist on The Bachelor (where the lover-boy in question wasn’t a handsome WASP but a psychotic midget hype-man who wore a giant clock), bred spin-offs like bacteria in a petri dish. The period covered by this list saw (*deep breath*), Flavor Of Love, Rock Of Love, Rock Of Love Bus, Daisy Of Love, Real Chance At Love, Real & Chance : Legend Hunter, I Love New York, New York Goes To Hollywood, New York Goes To Work, For The Love Of Ray J, A Shot At Love With Tila Tequila, Frank The Entertainer In : A Basement Affair,  Charm School, I Love Money and ultimately, sadly, the franchise destroying Megan Wants A Millionaire (/Murderer). And I watched…most of them. Some of most of them anyway. What can I say, that year of unemployment was a bitch, and those channels sure don’t play music videos any more.

At any rate, they need a representative, and by far the most epic of Flavorverse contestants was Saaphyri Windsor. Her journey started inauspiciously enough, getting thrown off Flavor Of Love 2 (because…somehow the first one didn’t result in true happiness and a soulmate forever for Flavor Flav before it even started for a fight. Which went something like :

  1. H-Town (yes they’re all called things like this, and we will get to it, because this is a LONG write-up) bagsies a bed, wanders off
  2. Saaphyri, not realising this, bagsies the same bed
  3. H-Town returns, tells Saaphyri to get off her damn bed
  4. Saaphyri declines
  5. H-Town throws flowers in Saaphyri’s face
  6. Saaphyri flings herself on top of H-Town, beats the shit out of her, all whilst screaming “GET OFF ME, GET OFF ME, GET OFF ME!”
  7. Afterwards, even as a designated Bad Person, Saaphyri demonstrates her talent for winning arguments

Sadly, this got Saaphyri Windsor disqualified from the race for Flavor Flav’s heart. (*sniff*). In the same episode, Somethin takes a giant crap on the floor in front of everyone. This does not get her eliminated for another TWO EPISODES.

So anyway, this might have been the end for Saaphyri, but future Oscar Winner Mo’nique (/some producer) had a plan. Get all the trampiest girls from Flavor Of Love and enrol them in CHARM SCHOOL TO TEACH THEM HOW TO BE LADIES. Then eliminate them for reasons including “being a physical danger to herself an the other contestants”, “lying about having participated in hardcore pornography” (not doing it, just lying about it) and “being a slutacious whore”. It also spawned my favourite wikipedia note ever : (Note: For censorship reasons, this episode on iTunes is called “Big Booby Girl No-No”). Anyway, this was the start of the second greatest Redemption Arc in reality show history, as Saaphyri morphed from roustabout to serious businesswoman, with her own lip-chap and Indian Hair empire. She won the grand prize by demonstrating business brains that would make an Apprentice contestant jealous, genuine charm, and also crying when she was supposed to. My favourite Saaphyri Charm School moment went something like :

1. As part of his romance based reality show, Flavor Flav gives all his girls charming nicknames, such as “Hottie” (because the contestant was hot), “Smiley” (because the contestant smiled a lot), “New York” (because the contestant was from New York) and “Thing 1 & Thing 2” (because this franchise’s relationship towards black women is occasionally problematic)

2. Mo’Nique rightly identifies that this practice is DEGRADING AND EMBARRASSING

3. Mo’Nique holds a ceremonial “name-burning” ceremony, where the girls reject their Flavorverse persona, and display their real selves via their real, normal names, like Margaret, Abigail, and Schitar.

4. Mo’Nique tells Saaphyri to burn her awful oppressive name, “Saaphyri”

5. Saaphyri tells Mo’Nique that it’s her real name

6. LOL

Also her saying “Damn, this is LA, people got tits!” and “maybe we could do something fun…LIKE BRUNCH!”. Got to love brunch.

From there, Saaphyri’s reality tv journey took her to “I Love Money”, the part of the franchise for people who were sick of pretending to fall in love with a minor celebrity, and also sick of pretending they wanted to be a better person, so they just competed ruthlessly for cold hard cash. Needless to say, Saaphyri redefined the term “boss bitch” to the degree that one contestant redefined the term “under her thumb” to “under her boobs” to describe her hold over the rest of the cast. Then she got eliminated because she fell off a balance beam. But these things happen.

Then Saaphyri went to prison for a LONG TIME for stealing her uncle’s identity. But she says she didn’t do it, and that’s good enough for me, because frankly, I would fear for my life if I said it wasn’t. For services to amazing journey arcs, whooping asses, enormous tits, and Real Heart (eliminating one of the people in her own alliance because she was worried her slagginess around the show’s horny, well-built, and disgusting male contestants would land her with a pregnancy she couldn’t afford ❤ forever), Saaphyri is truly the star of the Flavorverse, which I mourn daly, which lands her as the highest person on this list you’ve NEVER HEARD OF, and I hope this PhD thesis has shown you why.

2. Debra Barr

2. Debra “DebraBarr” Barr – The Apprentice 5 (3rd place)

It says a lot about the brilliance of Series 5 of The Apprentice that it didn’t wilt under the weight of its most charismatic contestant (the way Series 2 got utterly stifled by The Badger), but instead was only heightened by her presence. That’s right, Debrabarr is both the ultimate Apprentice candidate of the last 5 years, but also possibly the greatest ornament the show has ever had. A woman who first appeared to be just a rote Apprentice Boss Bitch (not that there’s anything wrong with that – I still love Kristina Grimes in those odd moments when I don’t remember that she set up in business with Jenny Celery) but who gradually, over her three months on the show, revealed layers upon layers of personality, ultimately resulting in the greatest Reality Show Redemption Arc OF ALL TIME.

Because just when you thought you knew Debrabarr, she’d reveal another surprise. Unlike most Apprentice Sales Warriors, she was a massive leftie and PC Thug. She tried to turn Margate gay. She is, after 8 series, still the only candidate to tell Nick to fuck off. She got into fights in car-parks. She was randomly best friends with Lorraine out of NOWHERE. She was randomly ruined by this friendship when Lordalan revealed after the series that he wanted to bring both Debrabarr and Lorraine into a four-way final a la Series 4, but Nick & Margaret stopped him because they thought Lorraine was too shit to deserve the honour (MORE SHIT THAN HELENE, WHO QUIT IN WEEK 4, BUT NOBOY NOTICED). She loved rocking horses. She cried like a baby when James got fired. She owned the Shopping Channel task like nobody has ever owned it before, selling out Pollo Panchos and telling SHEILA HOW REGAL SHE LOOKED.  All her work colleagues both loved and feared her and put amazing things on her Interview Round testimonials like “she thinks she’s the dog’s bollocks”. She hated any and all injustices against her imaginary BRAHN BABY. She prompted the only thing Paula said in the entirity of the first 4 weeks of the programme when she suggested that Debrabarr learn to manage her own personality before she started on her. She DEMANDED that Ben bring her back into the Boardroom so she could tear both he and Noorul a new arsehole (<3) She told Mer-King Howard to make his own bloody sales and stop piggy-backing off her when he, I dunno, whined about their salesbooks or something. She didn’t get fired, she got told to “keep in touch”. She was Yasmina’s greatest and most comedic adversary, getting thwarted by her at every turn, like Dick Dastardly trying to catch the pigeon. She was 7ft tall, caked in Odo glamour, and apparently she now works in Office Angels or something.

She is, and always will be…Debrabarr.


1. Ann “Widdy!” Widdecombe – Strictly Come Dancing 8 (6th place)


1. Gavin Henson

1. Gavin “Gavbot” Henson – Strictly Come Dancing 8 (5th place), 71 Degrees North (Runner-up), The Bachelor (The Gavbotcheler)

Can I just start off by saying that I do not fancy him even a little bit? At some point, in repose, he almost looks a bit like Lee Pace, but otherwise he’s musclebound and orange and has slung it up Charlotte Church, and none of those are really on My List. It’s also not really because of his “dry sense of humour” which I think, not to get all Feminist Blogger on you, would be described if he were a woman (WHAT A THOUGHT! GAVINA!) as “being kind of a bitch”. No, what propels Gavbot to the top of this list is his sheer versatility (as that picture above shows, ahem).

Gavbot’s true reality achievement is to be both a gloriously brutish, husky-hating, smug, he-man overdog villain on 71 Degrees North, whilst at the same time being a woobieish, watery-eyed, kid loving, Katya-sassing, jive-fearing, Scott-baiting, judge-snogging, adorably oblivious sweetheart underdog on Strictly Come Dancing 8. When both were airing at the same time. And both times he got out at exactly the right time. On 71 Degrees North leading the final chase through the Arctic Whatnots over Some Guy From Hollyoaks, Who Even Cares? right until the last rope bridge which he fell off through over-confidence. On Strictly, besting the Dread Lord Widdy, winning a nation’s heart and then getting out of the way for the actual good dancers (and Matt Baker) (just joking) (OR AM I?) to compete in the final. It takes a preternatural sense for what makes good reality tv to be able to pull of both those feats, and that’s why Gavin “The Gavbot” Henson is the greatest reality tv contestant of the last 5 years.

Also he then became The Bachelor, and made me recap a reality show only because he was on it, and OH MY GOD what a glorious festival of bullshit that was.



328 thoughts on “Monkseal’s Birthday Countdown

  1. Penny

    Right that’s it. Alesha WOZROBBED and I’m off. You can make Dom Littlewood the winner now for all I care.

    Alesha is unquestionably the only reality performer I have been really truly invested in over the last 10 years for their own sake without my hormones doing the talking (admittedly the fact that she was dancing with the lovely Matthew Cutler did help). Best moment was when they both forgot the Foxtrot completely and he said “follow me” and they simply danced a pure foxtrot for the rest of the routine so beautifully that CRH was audibly sniffing when he did his summing up. Yes OK, I’m too soppy and overly swayed by physical beauty. But your top three had better be bloody good.

    1. Penny

      (creeps back in and sits impatiently waiting for the big reveal waving “Monkseal for Head Judge” flag)

  2. NotTheRealJoe

    If Saaphyri is the last person on the obscure list, I’ve officially watched every single series you’ve mentioned (well, I watched Charm School…and that’s my lot from the Flavorverse)

    If I can mention another obscure contestant who contributed to reality television in such a batshit crazy way over the past five years, it has to be Miles Mendenhall from a Bravo show ‘Work of Art: The Next Great Artist’. It’s like Top Chef, but for artists, which means it’s about a thousand times more stupid but manages to be make more sense than Top Chef: Just Desserts. I have never seen anyone manipulate the producers in such passive-aggressive attention-seeking ways. Highly suggest it.

    1. monkseal Post author

      Most of the promo shots for I Love Money had the relevant contestant fanning themselves with dollar bill fans, or supping from a coconut, or just reclining artfully on a hammock. Saaphyri had a crossbow. And a knife. And a GUN.

      Such is Saaphyri.

  3. Robbie

    Hurrah for Debrabarr! I feared that Yasmina would be the only Series 5 representative, but I was simply forgetting the sheer regality (NOT JUST SHIELA HAD IT, YOU SEE!) and power of her glorious antagonist… Those killer blue eyes, that phenomenally wide jaw, the Redemption Arc that deserved its own Indiana Jones film… (though what would that be? ‘Indiana Jones and the Redeemers of the Debrabarr’? ‘Indiana Jones and the Corporate Raiders of the Redemptive Arc/k’? ‘Indiana Jones and the Boardroom of the Crystal Skull-with-its-virtually-deformed-Jaw’?)

    I did want Alesha at number one, but it is genuinely quite affecting to be reminded, with your customarily caustic wit and wisdom (hmmm rather too alliterative, that clause), of ‘The Apprentice’ Series 5. I miss 2009!

    Long may you reign as the king of reality bloggers, Monkseal!

  4. Carl

    Reading your Apprentice writeups I can see how much you enjoy the show and you make the people like Debra and Yasmina and all the others seem so vivid. I’m glad the UK version seems to have maintained quality. The Trump version imploded very early on and is now just an excuse for has-beens to be humiliated.

    If you haven’t seen it I would suggest watching season 3, which was a hell of a lot of fun, with many interesting train wrecks, ending with the best implosion I can remember on a reality show (Tana).

      1. min

        It was definitely the one with the best ad task ever – Dove soap 🙂
        Wasn’t it the first time there was no winning team because they were both so awful?

      2. monkseal Post author

        Trump just wouldn’t let Cucumber Dick : The Homosexual Commercial win like it deserved to. Such a homophobe.

    1. monkseal Post author

      I’ve watched all of the civilian Trumps and none of the celebrity ones. I felt Season 3 went on a little bit too long, but watching Tana and Craig get smited in quick succession was amazing. Also oblig. Angie was ROBBED.

      1. Carl

        I had forgotten how much I loved Angie until I watched some of those episodes again recently. That year had some great/awkward/hilarious people (remember John of the wallet chain? Or rageaholic Chris? Or Verna walking off into the distance, which inspired many chops?).

        Kendra looks a little like Debra Barr.

      2. Carl

        That year had so many crazy people I had forgotten all about Audrey (who was so angry ALL THE TIME) and hilarious Kristen, who stomped around like the Chynna of The Apprentice, and then towards the end wore that ridiculous white pageboy cap (perhaps because someone said it would soften her). The funny thing is that when Tana went nuts at the end, Kristen and Chris seemed so sane and likeable in comparison.

        (I actually had a very slight crush on Alex and Chris, I’m ashamed to say, LOL)

      3. monkseal Post author

        Audrey was only angry because she was carrying the scars of being beautiful. Didn’t Tana call her entire finale team “pretezels” or something? God she was lame.

        (I win – I had a slight crush on effing MICHAEL. The one who only dated Eastern European women. *blech*)

      4. min

        That’s where the ‘Decision in my Head’ comes into play … although no one won, the person fired was from Team Let’s use no Water, which means that Team Cucumber had a win 🙂

        Good move not watching the Celeb version. I wish I could unwatch Piers Morgan but it’s with me for life, I fear.

  5. Jenny Simpson

    Kristina went into business with Jenny Celery – whaaaaaaattttttttttt? Well, that explains why she’s not on your list.

    The Debrabarr series (as it shall now be renamed) must have been the best one overall, but the best single episode has to be Kosher Chicken,

    1. monkseal Post author

      Yeah that one was a doozy for me, but then Kristina’s grasp of morality was ever shaky. It was part of her charm.

  6. Carl

    If you’re looking for more obscure reality shows, there was a CBS summer burnoff series called The Cut, with wooden Tommy Hilfiger. It’s been so many years I have forgotten more than I can remember, but there was this entertaining clique of a snobbish woman in a fur coat, an “artist” type with white/pink frizzy hair, and their gay friend. They always ended up on the same team and always seemed to pull out wins until the show finally managed to get them separated and started picking them off. There was also a woman named Princess, who was in the bottom two again and again, and dragged through each time until she made the finals. Her highlight was a hilarious episode where she attended an “important” party and recited some type of vulgar sex poetry. I also remember Russell Simmons appearing in an episode, and his being slightly stunned at Hilfiger suddenly decrying a challenge win as being unethical – a thinly veiled excuse to get rid of one of the clique. There was also a hilarious challenge where they had to open up a store and meet celebrity guest (the daughter from the Sopranos), and most of them had no idea who she was.

    1. monkseal Post author

      I wouldn’t even expect anybody to be surprised when I say I’ve seen it. Definintely the best of the crop of Trump rip-offs that all sprung up at the same time, except maybe I Want To Work For Diddy/that one where the boss was secretly a dart-throwing monkey.

      1. Kerry McCormack (@KerryMc1978)

        Have you seen Bridalplasty? I caught an episode the other day and have since been trawling the interweb looking for more episodes. Basically, a group of women are sharing a house while competing to win the wedding of their dreams by having (a lot of) plastic surgery and bitching about/ backstabbing the other contestants, with some random wedding style tasks (flower arranging etc) thrown in. At the end of each episode, someone is eliminated with the words “Your quest to become the perfect bride is over. Your wedding will still go ahead, it just won’t be perfect” (Ouch, burn). It’s everything that I should hate in a show but manages to be unintentionally hilarious.

  7. Jemma

    Ah the year Yamima beat Kate was a wonderful one. Always preferred Yasmina (this has nothing to with the fact that Kate wore the same shorts as me to 2010 race for life and looked better in them. She even had the confidence and slimness of thigh to go legging-less unlike me). Anyway that’s irrelevent as Kate was annoying and rubbish…

  8. Verns

    Happy bloggy birthday, Monkseal. I know you know we know, you know. But could you please, you know, get on with it?

  9. Drooboy

    Happy Bloggoversary. Unless there’s a big last minute SHOCK! TWIST! I think we can guess the #1 but v. much looking forward to the write-up. And the picture.

  10. Min

    Happy birthday Mr Seal. Here’s to many more.

    Does happy dance at number one, wearing cowboy hat and bemused scowl.

    Have to say my favourite 71 degrees North moment was when he took the rabbit they had been given for dinner, skinned it, cleaned it, jointed it and then sautéed it in butter. I have had my fingers crossed for Celeb Masterchef ever since.

  11. Left Feet

    I sort of guess he would win, do you prefer him or Densie Lewis as your fave Strictly celeb?
    I’m sure as his rugby career is going down the toliet there will be more reality TV for the Gavbot probably either the Jungle or celeb Big Brother.
    Happy B Day are you going to do a Strictly World Cup this year? Helps to get exicted early and to try and remember which year Brian Capron and Jaye Jacobs took part!

    1. monkseal Post author

      *cracks knuckles and prepares non-answer* If we’re talking about just Strictly alone then Gavin wouldn’t even be in my Top Five of all time, it’s the whole thing. If we’re comparing like for like, then Denise would beat Gavin, as would Alesha, Austin, Kara and probably a few others. But they haven’t migrated to other shows (sadly) so…it’s an inexact science.

      (Equally sadly), Gavin’s rugby career is probably one of those logs that will never flush totally.

      Strictly World Cup will begin shortly after the end of The Apprentice/The Voice. I have already sorted the first set of groups, and they are waiting in a spreadsheet. I had a long Easter break.

  12. Allgrownup

    Happy anniversary. Gavbot at number one, whoda thunkit? 😀

    Cheers for many years of laughter *raises glass and wanders off to the Non-App bar*

  13. Kerry McCormack (@KerryMc1978)

    I’d discounted Gavbot as being your winner as he only came 5th in scd and feared that someone dull like the Helen Entity had won. Huzzah for 71 Degrees North (which i’d for some reason forgotton about) and your far better memory of reality shows. I really should have trusted your taste better.


    PS- Happy Blogversary:)

  14. Carl

    Gavin and Katya were the best to watch in that series. I will always remember their strangely mechanical, yet also strangely sexy cha cha to “Doncha.”

  15. pamminxy

    happy blogversary 🙂
    was there any doubt about the gavbot?

    can’t believe you missed the gloriousness of joan v the poker player on celeb apprentice 2 – not forgetting the rodman or the ego that was Clint (ah losing the jingle task was just one of so many moments – cluck cluck splash)

    thanks for the fun, the eddification (as i look up the wtf references on urban – old out of touch biddy here) and the links – the verna moment lead to me watching the rest of that series – huge lols at tana telling bruce and kris jenner she honestly believed they were looking at the next apprentice due to the fabulousness of her event! – now watching series 1 (ah what a difference between the porffesional skill levels in uk and usa versions whilst still maintaining the same plonker characteristics of the contestants – and the difference in the realism of the tasks (lordalan’s version of the tana/kendra final task would probably have been here go run a jumble sale) – will be looking for 71 degrees north too – have finally watched the debrabarr series and catching up on the rest – so very weird to finally see them for the first time yet be so familiar from reading the blogs

    and i love love love the gnome that is (yet he really is the roughly the same height 5’9 as the other guys) – i never would have watched the voice but for you – and tbh the voices are very much just background for me and the interaction of the coaches the reason to watch Poor danny – all the schtick he is getting for trying to bump up the contest factor – it aint just about the voices getting picked it’s about the voices picking between the judges

    is it strictly time yet?

    1. Ferny

      I watched the epicness of Celeb Apprentice USA 2 – has there ever been a more unlikeable mixed up cast of people (in which I include the worst of the lot, Donald Trump)?? It made me like JESSE JAMES.
      I still don’t think I ever understood why cluck cluck splash was supposed to be funny, but that jingle task was definitely the best episode.

      1. pamminxy

        lol yup – tho i absloutely loved “chicken of the seeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaa cluck cluck splash” still makes me giggle – tho i will admit that the timing was off in the boardroom and that version left me cold

    2. monkseal Post author

      71 Degrees North isn’t really worth the bother. It does fit the standard reality tv trope that the runner-up is always far more interesting than the winner (cept the Helen-Entity obv.) because Gavbot and (EPIC UNDERDOG) Angellica Bell are the only interesting people in either run combined.

      1. pamminxy

        ok who is the helenentity?
        and thanks for the advice on 71 degrees – i always appreciate the gavbot more through your eyes than mine (tho i may try to find a clip of him hurtling off a bridge – what’s not to appreciate there? :D)

      2. monkseal Post author

        Finished second on The Apprentice – was an intergalactic being specifically designed to be perfect at The Apprentice, won 10 out of 11 tasks, including 3 as PM. Lost because The Apprentice she was designed to be perfect at NO LONGER EXISTED.

  16. JillyBoyd

    Huzzah! Happy anniversary! And yes, truly Gavbot is the deserved winner. I enjoyed every minute of his run on the show, and in particular when he was Satan and stole Katya’s virginity on Halloween.

      1. JillyBoyd

        I figured it was either that, or Katya was REALLY keen on showing us her new pretty red dress.

        And Gavin’s tits, of course.

  17. Ferny

    Of course it was Gavbot, it had to be. It’s hard to know how oblivious he is to things, but it’s the fact that you are constantly trying to work him out that makes him interesting. On one hand he married famous party girl Charlotte Church and he’s some kind of action man, then he’s really smug and big headed, then he’s stupid, then you find out he’s actually quite funny, then Cawianne says hes a big old weirdo, but he’s shy and super awkward and terrible at small talk….
    As Shrek would say, he’s like an onion. Many, many layers…

  18. Jenny Simpson

    Bravo! Was trying to work out whether it would be Dom Littlewood, Gary Rhodes, Simon Ambrose, Lee McQueen or Lulu named as the winner.

    Blimey, you’re certainly inspiring me to check out some programmes I had never heard of…

    Hope you don’t mind me plugging my blog, but I did my top 5 reality TV people because of your countdown… – I think we only have CONFIDENT MONSTER in common (but mine is a bit Masterchef-heavy)

  19. lpf20 (@lpf20)

    A most entertaining run down, though I was predicting Alesha for number 1. Was surprised to see Widdy – you fooled me for moment while my computer buffered. Though Gavbot is a worthy winner – he’s great press-fodder.

    Keep up the good work, Monkseal. Thank you for the entertainment.

  20. katy

    Have you seen the advert with Gavbot and KATYA? Why Katya?! Why would you lower yourself to such things? I’m not even convinced this ad actually made it to air – even if the Daily Mail had it pegged as the 2nd worst advert of last year. I mean… I watch a lot of telly and I never saw it. Thankfully.

    Still…. apparently not as bad as Jenson and his amazing cup of tea!

    1. monkseal Post author

      I don’t know most of those, but anybody voting for that Direct Line shit needs their head read.


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