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Reality TV Judges

Jul 25, 2008
The surge of reality tv shows has brought about a new species - the reality tv judge. Reality judges can vary from the very nice and helpful to the brutally harsh and cutting. No show highlights the range of reality judges' personalities any better than "American Idol." Some may even say that it was the "American Idol" judges that set the tone for all other reality shows.

When "American Idol" began in 2002, Americans were shocked by judge Simon Cowell's bluntness that was to the point of being unkind at times. However, Cowell was coming into the show with previous judging experience. He had already served one year on the British series "Pop Idol." Having spent many years in the recording industry may have also given him the ability to quickly judge between the good and the bad singers. As seasons of "American Idol" progressed however, fans went from booing Cowell's frank comments to respecting and even admiring him as a reality tv judge.

"American Idol" also set the bar for the nice judge in singer Paula Abdul. Abdul herself has been a recording artist for over 20 years, so she may be more sensitive to what it takes to be a successful artist and how much encouragement one needs to make his or her dreams come true. However, Paula is often criticized for being too nice and not offering contestants constructive comments for fear of hurting their feelings.

Somewhere in the middle lies musician/record producer Randy Jackson. He seems to meld the executive world of Simon Cowell with the artist world of Paula Abdul, having personally experienced both of them. Sometimes he can seem overly critical of contestants, but he often offers them encouragement as well.

The judge standards of "American Idol" set the tone for many other reality shows. On "America's Got Talent," you can find the often critical Piers Morgan, the sometimes overly sympathetic Sharon Osbourne, and the middle of the road David Hasselhoff. The same is true of "So You Think You Can Dance" to a certain extent with British judge Nigel Lythgoe often being booed by the crowd for his candid opinions about the dancers. On "Dancing with the Stars," British judge Len Goodman often plays the heavy. Although Carrie Ann Inaba is the lone female judge on "Dancing with the Stars," she too can be critical of the celebrities. Bruno Tonioli can be tough at times, but is usually known for his enthusiastic shouting of "Ten!" with a punch in the air when giving a celebrity and their professional partner a perfect score.

Of course, not all shows have the good judge/bad judge quality. "Project Runway," like "So You Think You Can Dance" has regular judges in designer Michael Kors, Elle fashion director Nina Garcia, and model Heidi Klum as well as a guest judge each week. While Michael, Nina, and Heidi can at time all be critical, it seems that Nina is often seen as being the harshest judge. The "Top Chef" judging is helmed by chef Tom Colicchio, who walks a fine line of being fair and judgmental of the contestants. Also serving as "Top Chef" judges are food author Padma Lakshmi, food critic Gail Simmons, and food author Ted Allen.

One reality show that truly rotates it judges each week is "Iron Chef America." While former Queer Eye for the Straight Guy Ted Allen and Vogue food columnist Jeffrey Steingarten often appear on the show, there are times where neither of them is on the judging panel. The panel is usually made up of food professionals, such as personal chef Art Smith, food author Akiko Katayama, or restaurateur Donatella Arpaia. However, sometimes "Iron Chef America" goes with a judge who is not a professional in the food industry, including pop singer Jewel and actress Julie White.

While a reality tv judge may seem hard on your favorites, in the end, most all are fair and usually offer the contestants some encouragement to stick with their craft as well as constructive criticism to help them improve.
About the Author
Libbles is a writer for Reality-TV-Online.com. You can read recaps of your favorite reality tv shows including American Idol and Project Runway.
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