Pop Culture

Who’s the most famousreality TV alum?

Q: Who has made the best [career as a result] of appearing on reality TV shows? Elisabeth Filarski Hasselbeck?    —Renee, Missouri

A: Andy says: Last week, Mike “The Miz” Mizanin (from "Real World: Back to New York") almost became the most financially successful former reality TV cast member in history. He was one of the final two contenders in the WWE’s fourth “Tough Enough” contest, which came with a $1 million, four-year contract this time. But Mike lost.

Besides Mike, many have attempted to take their reality TV fame and use it for their own good. And some have succeeded. But as “The Real World” and “Road Rules” have shown us, appearing on a reality show does not guarantee success. Just tune in to the latest “Challenge” show for examples (we’re looking at you, Eric Nies).

But then, why should it? The best reality television stars real people who have real lives; it’s not a launching pad for a career in Hollywood nor a way to give meaning to life. Certainly, some, like “Survivor”’s Jerri Manthey, were on a celebrity trajectory before going on their series. Heather B. from the first “Real World” was a hip-hop artist before going on the show, and she continued that career afterwards. That’s great. But a college student with no discernible talents shouldn’t expect to become the next Julia Roberts or Jude Law just because they were on “The Real World.”

Because of that, I think the most successful cast members are those who participate in a series, do the customary post-exit interviews and reunion episode, and then disappear quietly back into their pre-show life. We might not remember who they are, but that makes them even more of a success.

Gael says: I have to say, I'm less impressed with the "Playboy" posers and "Surreal Life" cast members as I am people like Kevin Powell and Judd Winick, former Real Worlders who did the show, and then moved on to success with career paths they'd already been working on for years. But of course, reality TV has changed so much that neither of them would be cast on "The Real World" today — nor would they probably audition.

Here's a rundown of just a few of the reality contestants who've stayed in the public eye in some format (this list only scratches the surface, and doesn't include the "American Idol" winners, whose fame is more derived from the actual show itself):

  • Richard Hatch, winner, first "Survivor": Wrote a book, appeared on "Survivor: All-Stars," was naked a lot.
  • Jerri Manthey, participant, "Survivor Australia": Posed in "Playboy," did "Surreal Life," minor movie/TV roles
  • Eric Nies, participant, first "Real World": Hosted MTV's "The Grind," minor TV/movie roles (including "The Brady Bunch Movie")
  • Kevin Powell, participant, first "Real World": Author of five books, including "Who’s Gonna Take the Weight?: Manhood, Race, and Power in America"
  • Judd Winick, participant, "Real World San Francisco": Wrore "Pedro & Me" about life with "Real World" housemate Pedro Zamora, married "Real World" housemate Pam Ling, has written numerous superhero comics, is currently writing the "Batman" series, among others.
  • Kyle Brandt, participant, "Real World Chicago." Now plays Philip Kiriakis on "Days of Our Lives"
  • Jacinda Barrett, participant, "Real World London." A model on "Real World," she went on to act in various movies, including "Ladder 49" and "Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason."
  • Colleen Haskell, participant, original "Survivor": Had role in Rob Schneider's "The Animal"
  • Elisabeth Filarski Hasselbeck, participant, "Survivor Australia": Married NFL quarterback Tim Hasselbeck, co-hosts "The View" talk show, for which she beat out fellow reality TV alum Rachel Campos Duffy ("Real World San Francisco").
  • Bob Guiney, "Bachelor": Broke up with Estella, the woman he chose on the show. Married "All My Children" star Rebecca Budig, appeared on VH-1's "I Love the 90s"
  • Trista Rehn Sutter and Ryan Sutter: Perhaps the reality show contestants most famed for nothing but being on reality shows. She was a "Bachelor" contestant and later "The Bachelorette," selecting fireman Ryan and marrying him in a . Expect to see the conception and birth of their first child on a channel near you sometime soon.

Q: I was wondering what happened to the boxing reality show with Oscar de la Hoya?  We started watching it and wondered what happened.    —Mary

A: “The Next Great Champ” has a history worthy of a pro wrestler, not a boxer. Similar in concept to NBC’s Mark Burnett-produced “The Contender,” which FOX rejected, the boxing reality series’ existence was challenged even before it began airing. Mark Burnett took FOX to court, saying the show was a copycat and it shouldn’t be aired. While FOX prevailed in court and was able to broadcast the series, the California State Athletic Commission began investigating whether the bouts were sponsored by a licensed promoter.

Later, the LA Times filed a suit to disclose the results of the matches, which had been sealed to protect the series and its conclusion. “The Next Great Champ” received a special waiver to allow that secrecy, which normally isn’t legally permitted for licensed boxing matches.

Despite all of this wrangling, it turned out that no one really wanted to watch. Just over five million people watched the first episode, roughly half of the audience that was watching CBS’ “Big Brother” at the same time.

Because of those ratings, in early October, FOX pulled the series off the network after airing just four episodes. It was moved to FOX Sports Net, where it aired Sundays, concluding a few weeks ago. TV Tome has if you want to know what happened; the final fight was between Otis Griffin and David Pareja, and Griffin prevailed.    —A.D.

Q:I want to see the first year of "Survivor" as we did not watch it — is it available? Donna, Fort Worth

A: Yes, the first season is now on DVD. I haven't seen it (once was enough), but the promotional materials says the five-disc set includes all 12 episodes, the finale and post-show "town hall meeting" as well as some extras. You could also rent the DVDs from a video store or services like .

Most interesting thing to me about the DVDs: Some episodes have commentary by host Jeff Probst and/or contestants Richard Hatch, Rudy Boesch and Gervase Peterson. However, I've heard that only the first and last episodes have commentary, as opposed to "Survivor: All-Stars," which is also now out on DVD, with commentary on 10 episodes.

The viewer comments on Amazon.com about the DVDs are fairly hilarious. Says one viewer: "Survivor's first season was classic TV. An original, unexpected trendsetter. Mark Burnett is a fantastic storyteller and the cast he selected is fantastic."

But several others use the chance to comment on the DVDs to vent their anger with reality TV as a genre, as with the person who writes "Unless you need something kinda heavy to smack someone with, or something to fire at with a powerful gun, you should stay the hell away from these."    —G.F.C.

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