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Reality TV’s turkeys of the year

Martha Stewart, Rob and Amber among honorees
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There's never a shortage of turkeys in reality TV. Last year, in our , Donald Trump and "American Idol" reject William Hung topped our lists.

This year, Trump passed his crown on to fellow "Apprentice" host Martha Stewart, who's just one of the deserving dishonorees this year. We've also gathered some of your feedback and will share your nominees. (We'll get back to answering your questions after the holiday.)

Gael says: Martha, Martha, Martha. , you thought your version of "The Apprentice" might result in you firing The Donald. Instead, both shows dropped in the ratings this year, and yours won't be back again. It's almost a shame: As a fan of the late, great I had hopes that Martha could recapture that vibe. "Perfect" candidates were less businessy and more artsy-crafty — ribbon rosemakers, not realtors — and they took on more artsy challenges, which were fun to watch. There's no question Stewart has business acumen, but that's not why she has such a fanatic following. If her contestants had to make a croquembouche rather than sell coffeemakers, Stewart's "Apprentice" could have distinguished itself from Trump's, and her army of fans might have tuned in. It's like our parents always told us: Be an original, the world doesn't need more copies.

As if "American Idol" didn't get enough publicity, last spring, former contestant Corey Clark claimed that "Idol" judge Paula Abdul coached him, helped buy him clothes, and started a sexual relationship with him. The resounding reaction from viewers: Corey WHO? ABC devoted an entire "Primetime Live" special to Clark's charges. While it did seem that Abdul and Clark had some kind of relationship, Clark's proof, if any, was vague and unclear, he later , and — surprise, surprise! — he turned out to be hawking a CD and a proposed book. The best part of the "scandal" was an almost-funny skit mocking the ABC special that appeared on the "Idol" finale.

Every year, there are a couple of reality-show contestants who don't seem to realize what they've gotten themselves into. Often those folks are on "Survivor," and after a week or two or low rations, they up and quit. This year, my turkey nominee is Cassandra, from "America's Next Top Model."

Cassandra was a beauty-pageant veteran who was appalled at the thought that her pageant looks might need some improving. When the girls got makeovers and Cassandra's hair was chopped almost to Mia Farrow-in-"Rosemary's Baby"-length. She wept as though each stroke of the scissors was going through her skin instead of her hair, and when she learned that host Tyra Banks didn't consider her hair short enough, she beat a hasty retreat back to the world of sashes, tiaras, and royal waves. Girl, thousands of other wannabe competitors were rejected for this show so they could let you on, and for quitting and crying about it, you're a true turkey.

Andy says: It was another great year for reality TV turkeys, and thus it's hard to name just one turkey. For me, the turkeys came in pairs this year.

Although Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie aren't speaking to one another (as if we care), production continued on a fourth season of "The Simple Life." The show was exceptionally entertaining its first season and completely moronic in its fakeness in seasons three and four. Sensing troubled waters, FOX declined to pick up the series. If FOX rejects you, you're definitely over. Rumor has it that other networks may be interested, but no one has bitten yet, perhaps because they'll get a mouthful of yesterday's quasi-celebrities.

Another pair met for the first time on "The Surreal Life 5": obnoxious "Apprentice" Omarosa and obnoxious former "Top Model" judge Janice Dickinson. Both have developed reality TV personas that require them to be "on" all the time and get as much camera time as possible. Predictably, they clashed on the show, with Janice pretending to stab Omarosa, and with Omarosa calling Janice a "crack whore" repeatedly. This is what happens when people stop getting polite and start getting phony to increase their celebrity.

But "Survivor" stars and "Amazing Race 7" villains Rob and Amber are my main reality TV turkeys of the year, because even though they lost "The Amazing Race 7," they didn't lose in such a way as to forever prove Rob's lameness.

You'll recall that Rob lost "Survivor," then was the runner-up in "Survivor All-Stars," essentially losing yet again. He came into "The Amazing Race" with something to prove, and he as a result. His scheming and nastiness were at once inventive and horrifying, and he helped make team-to-team conflict (and cooperation) and almost necessary part of the race.

Props to him. But he and his teammate also came in second place. However, that was because of an : a plane reopened its doors to pick up another team, the team that eventually , Romber cried "producer intervention!", others cried "shut up, spoiled sports!" Either way, we'll never have resolution, and for that, they're full of stuffing.

We asked readers to send in their nominees for Reality TV Turkeys. While Donald Trump and Martha Stewart came in for their share of nominations, the overwhelming winner was "The Amazing Race: Family Edition." Are you hearing this, CBS? Here are some of your thoughts.

NOT SO AMAZING RACE“Biggest turkey has to be Amazing Race, Family Edition.  ...The show has had the least likeable overall cast to date, the challenges (drive 5 miles down this straight road) have been way too easy, the definition of “family” so diverse that challenges favor certain teams over others and it took way too long to get out of the U.S.  But, worse yet, it didn’t take the opportunity to really show us some amazing things inside the US.  When I heard that they’d be in the US, I thought it would be a great opportunity to see some parts of the U.S. that I’d never seen.  And while the giant chair, Delaware crossing and huge shoe-house were neat, the mobile home park, suspense-free race through space camp and camping in Chicago were really not the stuff travelogues are made of. So each week I think to myself ‘I can’t wait for Amazing Race to be back on the air’ and then remember there’s one on the air right now that’s really not worth watching.”    —James

‘APPRENTICE’ FRANCHISE“Who’s the turkey of turkeys?  Simple: the Apprentice franchise. Trump is bad enough, but he’s the only one who doesn’t know it.  Why on earth there’s a fifth edition is way beyond me.  His Trump Lessons are pointless: someone either violates them and gets fired or adheres religiously to them and gets a monolithic payoff. Now to Martha Stewart.  Ratings for this dud have been so bad (especially since it was thrown into the line of fire against Lost) that instead of her firing the Donald, she’ll be suffering that fate.  If anyone seriously believes the producers’ face-saving yarn that they hadn’t been planning sequel after sequel since Trump 3, they’re up a stick.    —Robert

BRITNEY AND KEVIN“The biggest turkeys of 2005 reality TV were easily Britney Spears and Kevin Federline. TMI to the hilt. What ever made them think we wanted to know all the gross details?”    —Jennifer

JULIE CHEN“Please give the award to Julie Chen, the host of Big Brother. Please. She is so obvious about her total disinterest for the show.”    —John

TY PENNINGTON“Ty Pennington from the “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” show. I love the show and the concept, but I have to watch it with my TV set muted. Ty’s constant yelling into the bullhorn and running around like a maniac is just too much.”    —Julie

JONATHAN“The biggest turkey is hands down Jonathan from the Amazing Race.”    —John

JONNY FAIRPLAY“Biggest Turkey of reality TV in 2005:  Johnny Fairplay His time on “Kill Reality” showed him to be an even worse human being than he displayed when he was on Survivor.  I’m not even sure he is human.  Yes, he obviously has some mental health issues, but I had to wonder if even drugs/therapy could fix this guy.  If anyone even thinks of liking or sticking up for him, he’ll repay their generosity by doing something to alienate them.  (Then display remorse later...maybe)  He takes immaturity to a new level, with “upper deckers” and defecating on someone’s bed.  He has no respect for people, their property, or himself.  Sometimes it can be fun to watch stupid, immature people, but it just got painful to watch him make such a complete ass of himself every week.  I found myself wishing that he would disppear not only from the show, but from the human race.  God help us if he ever procreates.”    —Elaine

BIG BROTHER CAST“My biggest turkey of reality TV this year was the entire cast of BB6 because while I loved Kaysar and Janelle, Kaysar made the now biggest mistake in BB history by trusting Jennifer (formerly held by Marcellas by not using a golden veto on himself) and Janelle teamed up with the stupid people, thus ensuring she wouldn’t win.”      —Peter

TOMMY HILFIGER“My vote for Reality Turkey of the Year goes to Tommy Hillfiger for his show “The Cut”.  Luckily, CBS gave his show “the cut” and we won’t be subjected to this poor, sad, and tired “Apprentice” knockoff, which was a clear attempt by Mr. Hillfiger to save his clothing franchise from bankruptcy.  The whiny cast was irritating and grating, but they were at least more entertaining than was the apathetic Mr. Hillfiger.  He was bland, lacked pizzazz, and appeared, overall, to be bored out of his mind.  But, absolutely nothing could top what was possibly the worst “catch phrase” (using this term loosely, of course) of all time in the history of reality television ~ “You’re out of style”.  No, Mr. Hillfiger, you are “out of style” and for that, you deserve to be named “Reality TV Turkey of 2005”.      —Christina

CAROLINE RHEA“Caroline Rhea gets my vote for turkey.  She looks like a fool at the vote off as she keeps track of the votes, like the two people up for elimination can not keep track of how they are doing.”        —Anonymous

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is's Television Editor. is a writer and teacher who publishes , a daily summary of reality TV news.