We have a confession to make: last night, we tried to watch the season premiere of American Idol, after basically ignoring the show for the past five years. And you know what? It was so bad that we had to give up less than halfway through. Without Simon Cowell, the show is a sad shell of its former self, with new judges Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez sending everyone who used some vibrato to Hollywood. Scary but true: we are now looking at era in which the toughest judge is Randy Jackson.
Uninspiring as they were, Tyler and Lopez got us thinking about the worst judges in the history of the short-lived reality TV genre. After conducting an informal poll of Flavorpill staff and friends, we came up with the following list of ten judges we’d like to vote off the island.
Padma Lakshmi, Top Chef
Listen, we don’t dislike Padma. She’s beautiful, she’s elegant, she’s a fine host, and if you got her drunk, she could probably tell you some stories about Salman Rushdie that could make your head spin. But she’s basically dead weight at the judging table, nodding along and repeating whatever the more experienced members of the panel have to say.
Donald Trump, The Apprentice
For one of the world’s most famous business moguls, Trump doesn’t seem like a great judge of character. His decisions are just as often inexplicably whimsical as fair. (Remember, for instance, how far Omarosa made it before getting cut?) And how about the way he slowly replaced the qualified judges on his panel with his own zombie children? Unforgivable.
Nina Garcia, Project Runway
The judges on Project Runway have been making ghastly choices since Season 2, when they crowned Chloe Dao and her garish, oversize ’80s prom dresses champion. But Garcia and her fellow panelist Michael Kors really blew it in the show’s most recent season, when they picked Gretchen’s dowdy designs over Mondo’s vibrant patterns, steamrolling Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn, and the entire American public’s superior taste in the process. We’re giving Kors a pass because he, at least occasionally, redeems himself by being funny. Garcia, not so much.
Flavor Flav, The Flavor of Love
It kind of goes without saying that Flavor Flav — who is, at the best of times, entirely incoherent — wouldn’t make a great judge of anything. And yet, he even exceeded our low expectations on The Flavor of Love, the VH1 show that found our hero searching for the perfect mate. In three seasons, he inevitably chose the girls who got into the most hair-pulling fights, barely bothered to date them afterward, and finally ended up with the mother of his seventh child. Worst of all, we can blame Flavor Flav for the fact that New York City was briefly represented in popular culture by one of the most heinous women of all time.
Ellen DeGeneres, American Idol
We love you, Ellen. We really do. But judging a singing competition just wasn’t your thing — as you freely admitted when you announced your resignation from the show over the summer. You’ve got to be brutally critical, and crush a lot of dreams, as an American Idol judge, and you’re just way too nice to do that.
David Hasselhoff, America’s Got Talent
America may have talent, but, um, what’s David Hasselhoff’s again? Throughout his four-season run on the show, The Hoff was constantly plagued by rumors that his absurd commentary and bizarre behavior were due to his constant drunkenness on-set. When it’s a relief to hear that you’ve been replaced by Howie Mandel, that’s really saying something.
Lil Mama, America’s Best Dance Crew
For heaven’s sake, Lil Mama. We’re sure you can dance. “Lip Gloss” was our jam. But would it kill you to say anything besides “That was hot” and “I’m feelin’ you” on ABDC? Also, would it kill you to release another catchy single about, like, eyeshadow or mascara or something?
Mary Murphy, So You Think You Can Dance?
One Flavorpill friend said it best when she wrote to complain about Murphy’s “incessant screaming and God-awful laugh,” not to mention her “terrible cry. ” Conclusion: “My goodness, she is the WORST!” Perhaps that’s why she was replaced by Mia Michaels for the show’s seventh season.
Michael Bivens, Making the Band 4
Better known to children of the ’80s as Biv, of New Edition and Bell Biv DeVoe, Bivens may well have had some important wisdom to impart on the Diddy-as-svengali reality show. But it didn’t really matter because he never spoke above a whisper. Did anyone else catch what he was saying?
Twiggy, America’s Next Top Model
If we were making a list of the meanest reality TV judges of all time (and we may well do it, so we call dibs on the idea), Janice Dickinson would surely be near the top. In her defense, though, the catty ex-model and current Celebrity Rehab inmate did offer some valid criticisms — and more than her share of funnies. We had high hopes when she left the show and was replaced with Twiggy, the most iconic model of the ’60s. Unfortunately, Twiggy pretty much thought that everyone was wonderful, which made for a pretty boring judging experience. It’s no wonder she’s since been replaced.