They won't win Emmys, but they keep us viewing
Benjamin “Coach” Wade
Combining Daniel Day-Lewis’ austere mien with the chatty narcissism of an Oprah guest, the “Dragon Slayer” spouted enough third-person New Age philosophizing and braggadocio to become, in Jeff Probst’s words, “one of the most hated figures in ‘Survivor’ history.” Coach described his foundation as “unbreakable, unbending, unyielding, immeasurable, immovable, invincible,” thus providing the Navy with names for their next six destroyers. Jaws dropped as he told of surviving a brain tumor, or escaping the clutches of diminutive Peruvian warriors deep in the Amazon, though a lie detector report submitted at the season finale suggested the loon was on the level after all.
“Rock of Love Bus”
Showtime may have “The Tudors,” but Poison’s lead singer was the real Henry VIII, lining up damsels for his harem. Flavor Flav’s similar pick-my-ho show was a droll goof, but Michaels really seemed to take it all seriously, his eyes narrowing at the prospect of swatting away each little mouse with a lazy paw. Typical pronouncement: “I’ve planned the most romantic date in the history of mankind: Swamp Boat Gator Date. And you wonder why I’m single.” Too bad this third season was reportedly the last; if the show had yielded six “wives,” we could’ve enjoyed a string of familiar fates: divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded … fried. NeNe Leakes
“The Real Housewives of Atlanta”
If there’s one reason Atlanta’s trash-talking, conspicuously consuming matrons broke Bravo records (averaging 1.3 million viewers per installment), it was the irrepressible, zoftig NeNe, who mowed down BFFs Kim and Sheree while claiming her secret was “my realness. … I like to have a good time, and I’m very humble.” NeNe had a lot to be humble about: She discovered her supposed father Curtis didn’t sire her after all, and she and hubby Gregg were reportedly evicted from their mansion. Still, she was a ready source of sass and jive, from such maxims as, “Close your legs to married men,” to threats like, “You touch me, girl, and I will wear that wig off your head!” Annie Duke and the Mesdames Rivers
“The Celebrity Apprentice”
Poker ace Duke is used to hiding her true feelings, while Joan never met a snap she wouldn’t verbalize. Throw in the mother hen’s protectiveness for her delicate little chick, Melissa, and who can be surprised at the clashes that made this eighth incarnation of the Donald’s job carnival the wildest yet? In dissing Annie and Brande Roderick, Melissa came up with the year’s best name for a girl group — “Whore Pit Vipers” — while Mama outdid herself by calling Duke “worse than Hitler.” Yes, the guy who killed 6 million Jews certainly pales before a pro card player who connives a little. Thanks as always for your contribution to civil discourse, Joan. Jason Mesnick
How did a lovable single dad and “Bachelorette” reject become the man we loved to hate? Meet the John Kerry of reality TV (he voted against Molly before he voted for her). The timing of his dunderheaded ineptitude (Did he really blindside Melissa? Was the network in on it all along?) was pored over as if investigating FDR’s prior awareness of Pearl Harbor. “You have every right to be irritated,” he lamely conceded. If ABC is smart, it has already set up a camera and mic for when toddler Ty is old enough to learn how stepmom came to join the family. Talk about your Kodak moments.