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Tuesday July 11, 2006 12:22 am

Finally Some Reality Stars With Skills

Project RunwayToo often the stars of reality television are famous simply for being famous. Their only talent is the shamelessness of appearing on one of these shows. The Real World was originally an experiment in human nature – “what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real?” – but after seventeen seasons it has become simply a pageant for those that want to be on TV but lack the talent and dedication to do so legitimately.

There have been a few exceptions to this rule. American Idol contestants choose to compete on the show not just for a chance at winning, but for a chance at gaining exposure. That is, exposure that they can actually use. Very few cast members of reality shows like The Real World, Survivor, Big Brother, or The Bachelor actually are able to use their “exposure” to jump-start their careers.  However the contestants of talent showcases such as American Idol, America’s Got Talent, or Making the Band have the potential to hold on to their “fame” after the shows end.

Lately there have been more and more shows that take this concept to the next level: the contestants are aiming not just for “fame”, but for success. Programs like the Ben Affleck/Matt Damon vehicle for aspiring filmmakers, Project Greenlight, or Project Runway - which premieres its third season tomorrow at 10pm EST – both focus on people with actual skills such as fashion design.

Other shows that followed people being creative include three cooking programs, Bravo’s Top Chef, FOX’s Hell’s Kitchen, and The Food Network’s The Next Food Network Star. HGTV Design Star, which premieres July 23, will feature competing home designers. 

These shows all have the potential not only to be quality TV, but to serve as stepping-stones for the cast members. Their prize – whether they win or lose – will not simply be fifteen minutes of fame, but hopefully a lasting career. They aspire not to be the world’s next big celebrities, but rather the “next big thing” in their respective fields… even after the cameras stop rolling. 

Read More | Time

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