For the unacquainted, it might seem silly to follow a description of a show about prince charming with a blurb about a dating competition that focused on a washed-up rapper who wears a large clock around his neck. But "Flavor of Love," VH1's 2006-2008 three-season attempt to find Flava Flav a woman who might set him right (contestant Tiffany Polland, better known as New York, almost won his heart but instead won her own "Bachelorette"-esque spin-off, "I Love New York") represents how ridiculous reality dating competitions became in the '00s, and how in the end, no matter who's competing over whom, everyone's worst sides are bound to steal the spotlight.
Want more proof of "Flavor of Love's" pop culture relevance? According to Variety, the 2006 finale of "Flavor of Love 2" was the most popular cable show ever among viewers age 18 to 49. A total of 4.9 million viewers from that demographic tuned in, which at the time, made the show outrank "episodes of original cable series among adults 18-49 on FX, MTV, TBS, TNT, USA and all other" cable networks.
As with contests for a heart, contests for a job can get ugly. Enter NBC's "The Apprentice," the "Ultimate Job Interview" in which budding business people vie for $250,000 and a chance to work with captain of industry and Monopoly man personification Donald Trump. Like "Survivor," "The Apprentice" was the brainchild of Mark Burnett, who emerged as a genius of reality TV during the decade. When season one debuted in 2004, Trump's star immediately skyrocketed, as did his signature line, "You're fired!" and the profiles of several of "The Apprentice's" fiery first contenders. (Who can forget foul-mouthed Omarosa?)
The show also bred a bevy of like-minded series -- household icon Martha Stewart started her own version on NBC; rap mogul Diddy took to VH1 with "I Want to Work for Diddy." "The Apprentice" ran in its original form for six seasons; the seventh and eighth iterations featured celebrities competing for charity. A ninth go around is scheduled for the coming spring.
"You wanna be on top?" The CW's "America's Next Top Model," better known as "ANTM," pioneered that phrase while launching host Tyra Banks' career off the runway. Dumping a group of wannabe fashion icons onto one stage and into one house is a recipe for entertainment. From posing for the camera to crying over makeovers to tugging at each other's hair extensions, the women competing on "ANTM" have what it takes to make it on reality TV, if not in the modeling industry at large. Since the series' 2003 debut, none of "ANTM's" 13 winners have risen to household name status, but Banks parlayed her hosting gig into her own daytime talk show. Guess she's really the one on top.