Certainly, there are a lot of shows that have come to mimic the AI format, but I profess that the original is still more about the music (or just the voice) than the others. The contestants seem to be genuinely happy for one another, perhaps because it’s a solitary competition. While hating the other contestants could conceivably allow you to “get inside their head,” there just isn’t any room for interaction beyond the cursory, “Congratulations. That was great! You did so well!”
I suppose you could supplant that with, “You are a horrible person and your music makes me wish I was born without ears,” but these are mostly young kids who have been given a great opportunity and are too happy to mar it with petty infighting.
Exception: The William Hung types. They don’t emerge with dignity, but it’s pretty clear that people like that didn’t have much to begin with, so they don’t count.
One common thread running through the shows on this list is the fact that these conpetitions/shows serve as a legitimate springboard to career advancement. Whether or not this is a cause of the dignity-preservation aspect or an effect is irrelevant. The contestants see a career opportunity and conduct themselves in a professional manner. Or they conduct themselves in a professional manner so it becomes a career opportunity.
Either way, dignity intact.
Stand-up comedy isn’t really a profession one would associate with “dignity.” More often than not, it’s a fool’s errand in capturing the attention of a drunk, distracted audience so that you may, in all likelihood, have their full attention when you bomb in front of them.
The humbling nature of the industry makes it all the more impressive that the contestants can not only salvage some self-respect out of the affair, but can actually entertain. When four hundred-pound men telling jokes can garner respect, it’s a testament to the format of the show as much as it is to the people who are on it.
I really wanted to include The Amazing Race on this list, as it has perhaps the coolest concept of any reality show out there, but the stress and uncertainty of it all provides too many opportunities for bickering and infighting. Imagine enduring a really long, complicated worldwide vacation with your significant other or best friend. Then imagine that nothing goes right. You wouldn’t appear to be your best under those circumstances, either.
For this reason, I pick Top Shot as the final entry. Sure, there’s not a lot of career advancement in this one, unless you get hired out of the back of Soldier of Fortune magazine, but it’s certainly a contest of skill, rather than personality, which is good, because many of the contestants are lacking in that department.
Finally, and most importantly, I pick Top Shot because the contestants are really, really good with guns, and I am afraid they will shoot me as I swing between two dinner plates if I don’t put them on the list.
So, uh, don’t shoot me, Top Shot contestants. You guys are the tops.