The Pop 10: Best Reality TV Judges
By PopEater Staff Posted Aug 11th 2009 03:00PM
Paula Abdul's will-she-or-won't she departure from 'American Idol,' we've come to really embrace the qualities that made her such a great judge to have around. She was sweet, spunky, and reliably hilarious (intentional or otherwise). We've discussed how Abdul might fare on other reality competition programs, but the truth is, there are plenty of judges with equally wonderful, if not as bizarre, qualities. Here are some of our favorite judges to ever grace the long side of a panel.
He acts. He sings. He critiques. As a judge on 'America's Got Talent,' David Hasselhoff's exuberant attitude and facial expressions make the show worth watching time after time. He's often one of the first to give a standing ovation and proclaim someone to be a true contender. There's no doubt that The Hoff knows talent when he sees it, even if he is kind of cheesy about it.
If you can think back far enough to remember the early history of 'American Idol,' you might remember a quirky little guy named Brian Dunkleman. Dunkleman served as co-host of 'AI' with Ryan Seacrest, but left due to moral issues with the show that he admitted to on 'Celebrity Fit Club.' Though he wasn't a judge per se, we give Dunkleman a nod in the best judges' department for acting on his values and for just generally existing -- even if Seacrest's $45 million contract is a little hard to swallow in retrospect.
The big, bald chef with nothing to hide gives 'Top Chef' contestants someone to fear when it comes time to judge their dishes. Tom Colicchio gives a stern critique, and doesn't hesitate to intimidate the contestants when he thinks they're performance is sub-par. But that kind of attitude bodes well for any contestant who receives praise (no matter how infrequent).
Let's be honest. No reality competition show is complete without a judge with an accent. Maybe the success of 'Dancing with the Stars' stems from its coupled use of that rule? The wacky yet lovable Bruno Tonioli is an accomplished choreographer who is prone to rant and rave over a job well done. He also fulfills the role as the judge most likely to jump over the desk in elation.
Food critic Jay Rayner brings expertise and allure to 'Top Chef Masters.' The spin-off Bravo series features professional, world-renowned chefs competing against one another, but Rayner certainly leaves their reputations at the door. Giving expert analysis, Rayner doles out the honesty like any good judge, but never get's snarky for snark's sake.
As she remains one of the most popular supermodels, on 'America's Next Top Model' host Tyra Banks is as honest as she is self-obsessed. Always quick to mention one of her past experiences or show off a pose, Banks flirts and floats in front of the judging panel as if she's still pining from her days in front of the camera. But the contestants almost always idolize Banks, embracing and crying with her like sisters when times get hard, leaving us to believe she must be doing something right.
On 'America's Next Top Model,' Nigel Barker fulfills a very important panel position -- that of the voice of reason. Balancing out wacky and unpredictable judges like J.Alexander and Janice Dickenson, Barker always appears at the top of his game and never lets his predispositions about a model interfere with his analysis of her performance. He's also one of the few reality competition judges to get hands-on experience with the contestants -- Barker, a photographer, typically gets in a shoot with the models each cycle.
Whether you love him or love to hate him, Simon Cowell defined what it is to judge talent on a reality television show. Ruthless from the start, Cowell consistently gives 'American Idol' contestants a piece of his mind. His razorsharp comments burst any talentless bubble, especially during the show's audition phase. Cowell set the stage for mean British judges to come, but he proves there ain't nothing like real thing.
All-star choreographer Mia Michaels is a judge and choreographer for 'So You Think You Can Dance,' and she certainly sets the bar high for contestants to earn praise. She even earned an Emmy for her choreography, proving that her expertise puts the show heads and shoulders above other dance-based reality programming. Michaels' no-nonsense, give-it-to-them straight attitude adds spark to the judging panel, and keeps the contestants at the top of their game.
Though Michael Kors is an accomplished fashion designer, it's safe to say 'Project Runway' helped make Kors a household name. Quick to judge a design as flawed or fabulous, Kors is equally quick with a hilarious metaphor that makes a contestant's dreams burst before your eyes. His comments range from sweet to scathing, but getting a compliment from Kors certainly carries weight with the final judging. Get Kors, and you'll get the rest.
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