Reality TV Worth Watching

I need some fluffy goodness to combat the forthcoming "Reality TV is the DEVIL!" arguments about to start any day thanks to VH1/51 Minds' low-casting standards*.

Here are the shows actually worth watching, in no particular order.

Chefs vs. City: It's The Amazing Race for the foodie crowd. Chefs Aaron Sanchez and Chris Cosentino travel across the country competing against "local foodies" in a series of food-related challenges. One task, for example, involved hauling six bushels of apples to an old-fashioned hand press, crushing the apples with a hammer, then pressing a half gallon of juice by hand. It's easily one of the more interesting shows on the Food Network in years, and far greater than The Great American Road Trip.

P. Diddy's Starmaker: Look everyone! Rockstar is back! It's not. But Diddy sure does know how to squeeze out drama so he has no problem lifting and slightly altering the format (everyone performs, then just girls, then just guys) down to a song picking board (now with framed records) and snarky commentary from the music director. He also manages to capture better red-room drama than Idol ever did by having the contestants' "manager" ask them leading questions for reactions. Judging by the eye rolling, teeth sucking, and verbal outbursts, methinks they might not realize the cameras are on them when the other contestants are performing. Whatever. There's some marginally talented singers and nasty commentary and BoomKat! doing her best Paula/Lil' Mama hybrid judge spot.

Project Runway: As soon as that All Star special started, I realized that I am a Project Runway junkie. All my off-season negativity, anger, and that horrible case of the shakes disappeared while former contestants were put through the ringer to make a three look collection...make that a three look collection with a red carpet outfit for the premiere of Nine...make that a four look collection with an outfit designed from materials pulled out of a restaurant for a $100,000 cash prize. The bitchiness, the talent (Chris March slept for more of the episode than he sewed because he's that quick and talented, medical issues aside), the much needed dose of Santino ("Sweet P, you don't look a day over 52."). And then the actual season started, and I may have cried. So...beautiful. How poorly do you need to do to be eliminated over someone who sent a model in a see-through sheet down the runway? Pretty crazy. I'll miss you Ari. Lifetime TV means more Tim Gunn, which is always a good thing.

America's Best Dance Crew: If for nothing else than Lil Mama's constantly changing hair (Vulcan-esque one week, bedazzled another, rocking a pony tail through the top of baseball hat another), the show does occassionaly feature really interesting dance routines. When will Shane Sparks break down and say something so offensive websites are aghast about it for weeks (like last season's barely edited "no homo")? Will JC pull the stick out of his ass just once? Will should-be host Layla Kayleigh give birth during the show? Will Mario Lopez get a new processor to better deliver his lines? And will Lil Mama fully transform into a drag queen thanks the the glorious power of Vogue Evolution?

Top Chef: How do you make a great show greater? Add the drama of Las Vegas via quickfire challenges that can now win you a big hunk of change instead of immunity. It's looking like another interesting season.

Flipping Out: I didn't get it at first. Why am I watching a show about an OCD house flipper and his unrealistic standards. Then Jeff Lewis and his crew began to infiltrate my brain. Slowly but surely, I began to really care about what happened to Valley Oak and if Zoila would ever start to dish it back to Jeff for his nasty sense of humor. It's candid reality that comes off like scripted comedy because of how insane Jeff Lewis is. He's a genius, but he's out there. It's like a real-life Mr. Burns mixed with Anna Wintour by way of Devil Wears Prada. It's the closest I want to come to trash reality TV without any sense of guilt.

*Not to trivialize the horrific murder that occurred, but the coverage will shift real quick now that the primary suspect is dead.

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