Many years ago, the grandaddy of competitive reality TV, Survivor, had the brilliant idea to have an all star season. It seemed like a no-fail idea...the best competitors from previous years duking it out in a battle of the greats to see who really could outwit, outplay and outlast them all. What followed though, was a serious dud of a season. The players quickly voted out every person who had ever won the game before, and several others proved their heart wasn't into doing this a second time if they didn't get to be the grand puba of the game. In the end, the final two were a couple who got engaged right before the winner was read, making the final verdict a moot point. It was terrible. And it made me hope I would never have to see an all star season of anything ever again.
But I did. And you know what? I was totally wrong.
Reality TV has learned a lot about how to bring back all your old favorites successfully, and I'm totally digging it. First rule? You can never bring back winners. People will go after them out of jealousy and spite in addition to the fact that they are difficult to root for because they will never be considered the underdog. Rule #2: Bring back people who really want to do it again. Sure there are contestants who the audience would rather see, but those people often end up being incredibly dull to watch if they are over it before they even get there. I have changed my mind about certain people on all star seasons...just because they didn't come in with a fan base doesn't mean that they aren't coming out with one. And finally, Rule #3: It has to be different. It's important to acknowledge that these people have already played the game, know each other and that the public knows them. The challenges, and sometimes the general concept of the game need to be rethought. Survivor learned from its mistakes and when they brought back all stars, for a more aptly named "Heroes and Villains" season, it completely worked.
America's Next Top Model has been rocking the all star thing. At first I wasn't into the whole branding, entertainment based version of the show, but they are right to recognize that these girls are there for their personalities, not to become the next great supermodel. When they first announced the list of models returning to the competition, there were a ton I was totally bummed not to see. (No Jade?!) But this season has really worked. I find myself rooting for my all time favorite (GO LAURA!!!) and am enjoying seeing a slightly more grounded Lisa and a still in need of a smack down Angelea. And now Allison, who was once only known for her big eyes and love of blood will forever be the singer-songwriter of the best/worst song to ever come out of reality TV. Pot Ledom.....
I'm going to miss Top Model when it is over. I really feel that this season on Top Chef, the first after its own All Star season. I loved last year, when I knew who was good, who wasn't and who needed to be cut down to size. I feel a little confused now. I'm not seeing a front runner, which is kind of odd by Top Chef standards and I have a little bit of trouble telling one tatted up cheftestant from the next. I'm sure I'll grow to love these people, but it somehow seems like a step back in quality after watching the All Stars kick some major culinary ass. Oh well. If it sucks, there is always that All Star version of Project Runway to look forward to. (GO MONDO!)