In a 500-series reality world where TV personalities can make all the difference between success and failure, networks are always in search of those that can draw a loyal audience:
Family values matter most to ’19 Kids and Counting’ clan
While Jon & Kate and their eight became tabloid fodder over marital problems, and the Octomom became more freak show than superparent, TLC’s big-family stars the Duggars — of “19 Kids and Counting” — seem to be giving reality auds a taste of how smiley and smooth-running a packed household can be. Merging elements of organization voyeurism, playfulness and values-preaching, the show has turned the devoutly religious Jim-Bob and Michelle into warm-hearted parenting models who miraculously avoid seeming like robotic day care center operators. The kids, meanwhile, are a rare reality-world portrait of youth that isn’t materialistic or drama-obsessed, but rather cheery and helpful.
‘Hoarders’ host helps clear the clutter conundrum
Sure, there’s a whole show built around dirty jobs, but taking in what junk-junking specialist Matt Paxton has to contend with on A&E’s “Hoarders” is enough to think that no salary is too big for that kind of work. Paxton, who has a Richmond, Va., business called Clutter Cleaners, is an author on the subject and one of the show’s hoarding specialists. He is also its most charismatic and sympathetic figure when guiding disturbed souls through the agonizing process of emptying out their monstrously trashed, wretchedly unsanitary residences. Whether acting as a project cheerleader, talking tough to behaviorally sensitive subjects or attacking houses riddled with waste in all forms, Paxton has become a quietly heroic figure in a reality niche that, in the case of the grimly watchable “Hoarders,” showcases the desperate and mentally ill side of extreme makeover candidates.
Giuliana & Bill Rancic
Couple not afraid to share trials, trauma in tumultuous year
Reality television of one form or another initially brought Bill Rancic and Giuliana DePandi separately into our homes: Bill as the first winner of “The Apprentice” and Giuliana as an E! correspondent. They became their own reality stars as a romantic duo, however, with Style network’s “Giuliana & Bill,” which for five seasons has chronicled their coupledom from engagement through the first years of their marriage. The pair’s specialty is a kind of camera-ready openness (steeped in their clearly strong bond) about a wide range of husband-wife issues, from day-to-day entanglements and work vs. home concerns, to life curveballs like their struggle to conceive and, this past year, Giuliana’s breast cancer diagnosis.
Passion for pastrami resonates for food connoisseur
Food television is littered with in-your-face personalities, but Adam Richman is the genre’s stuff-your-face hero. His eating challenge-based Travel Channel show “Man v. Food,” which ended its run this past year (hopefully for his health alone!), proved to be an ideal merger of subject and fanatic. Richman’s style is aggressively pig-out-friendly but with a strong self-deprecating streak, foodie-friendly descriptive powers and plenty of humor. As a tour guide through America’s comfort-food meccas, Richman’s enthusiasm for all things salty, gooey and artery-clogging is infectious, even if the visual of him after a particularly gnarly throwdown — so many pancakes or fiery hot wings within an insanely short time frame — isn’t exactly what most food-based shows would consider appealing. Next up for Richman is “Adam Richman’s Best Sandwich in America.”
Dating dilemmas bring out advice from ‘Matchmaker’ who thrives on taking charge
For viewers looking for the kind of hot-blooded personality with an accessible but confrontational style, Patti Stanger’s arrival with “The Millionaire Matchmaker” was for Bravo watchers a case of love at first sight. Though the show is ostensibly built around the New Jersey native’s dating service for wealthy, unattached men, Stanger’s unbridled passion for telling off clients who don’t follow her exacting standards for proper courting has made her a take-no-prisoners star. Although occasionally taken to task for being single herself — which, one could argue, paradoxically reaffirms the rigors of her dating rules — the brashly confident Stanger remains a popular figure in the advice-for-the-lovelorn world with an unpredictable verbal panache (don’t ask what “juicy goosey” means).
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