When it comes to TV talent competitions, the judges are the real stars. Whether it's Steven Tyler and J.Lo on "Idol"; Simon Cowell's search for "X Factor USA" cohorts: "The Voice's" new allstar panel of Christina Aguilera, Cee Lo Green, Adam Levine, and Blake Shelton; or the return of Mary Murphy to "So You Think You Can Dance," it's always the judges who make the headlines and are remembered long after the shows' respective winners collect their prize money and move on.
But not all judges are created equal. Some judges, when judged by the viewing public and opinionated bloggers, receive low marks themselves. There are various reasons for this. Some judges just don't have enough personality to fill up the small screen. Others are too wishy-washy, too afraid of hurting some poor kid's feelings or looking like the bad guy. And others are just plain wrong.
So, which judges face the harshest judgment? I give you, in ascending order of awfulness, the worst judges in reality TV:
Her castmate Ben Folds is one of the greatest judges reality television has ever known, but Nicole pretty much coasts on sex appeal on what is otherwise the squeakiest-cleanest show on TV. She purrs out double-entendres about "candy stores in heaven" and "tasting the music" and "musical orgasms" when she does speak; otherwise, she just sits there silently, looking gorgeous, while her fellow judges Shawn Stockman and Ben do all the work. It's a good thing Nicole is rumored to be only the HOSTESS for "The X Factor USA," not a judge. Simon Cowell would walk all over this Pussycat.
8) Diddy - "Making The Band," "Starmaker," "I Wanna Work For Diddy"
Sean Combs may be a music-biz genius, but honestly, he fares better behind the scenes. When he does manage to show up on the set of one of his many reality shows, he monotonically reads lines off a teleprompter, refuses to make eye contact with the camera from behind his sunglasses, and shoves gratuitous Sean John product placement into every shot. He really could learn a thing or two about TV judging from his ex-girlfriend, Jennifer Lopez. And whatever did happen to "Starmaker" winner Liz Davis, who was supposed to be Bad Boy Records' first country artist, huh?
This R&B star replaced veteran choreographer Shane Sparks for "ABDC's" fifth season, and despite his own dancing talent, he brought absolutely nothing to the panel. Part of the problem was that the other two existing judges were also performers--and while Lil' Mama could always be counted on to bring the comedy (in the form of increasingly ridiculous wigs and bedazzled visors) and J.C. Chasez was always the indisputable voice of reason, Omarion had no defined role. Therefore, his lack of behind-the-scenes expertise was glaring. It's no surprise that, after just one season, he's already been replaced by "SYTYCD" and "ABDC" alum Dominic Sandoval, who hopefully will do a much better job filling Shane's dancing shoes.
6) Danny Bonaduce - "I Know My Kid's A Star"
Danny's antics made for AWESOME television on VH1's compulsively watchable "Breaking Bonaduce," on which he assaulted cameramen, jealously bumrushed his soon-to-be-ex-wife's birthday party, failed miserably at anger management, and bared his soul in therapy sessions with the long-suffering Dr. Garry. Danny truly was the Charlie Sheen of VH1. Which is why it was so odd when VH1 greenlit a show on which Danny was put in charge of MENTORING CHILDREN. If anything, the mercurial emotional state (and long criminal record) of this former "Partridge Family" moppet was evidence that being a child star isn't all it's cracked up to be.
This bumbling Len Goodman/Willard Scott wannabe certainly possessed the eccentricity to fill the presumably requisite "crazy judge" center seat on the ill-fated "SWTS." But for a guy with a solid skating background (he's a two-time Olympic champion, five-time World champion, and longtime skating sportscaster), he sure didn't sound like he knew what he was talking about most of the time. Whatever did he mean by "Ice is nice, but liquor can be quicker," "Bend zee knees if you please," and his weird analogies involving TSA airport X-ray machines? This guy may have declared himself the "Betty White of the ice world," but he was never as awesome as Betty. His rinky-dink antics left me ice-cold.
The First Lady of Rock was a hoot on "The Osbournes," "Celebrity Apprentice," and even "Rock Of Love Charm School," but she loses all her rock 'n' roll edge on "AGT," mainly because she will vote pretty much anyone through. She seriously never met an animal act or cute kiddie singer she didn't like. She put mediocre dog act Tony Hoard & Rory through over stellar R&B singer Charles DeWayne Dorsey (a horrified Piers Morgan called this the biggest scandal in "AGT" history), and she kept giving 4-year-old Kaitlyn Maher a free pass because she was just too much of a softie to say no to an adorable toddler's face. Sharon should just stay on "The Talk," because she cannot walk the walk as a judge.
3) Louie Spence - "Celebrity Circus"
On this thankfully little-seen 2008 competition starring such "celebrities" as Wee Man, Christopher Knight, Rachel Hunter, and Antonio Sabato Jr., dancer/choreographer Louie really tried to bring the crazy, as if he was channeling Bruno Tonioli, Steven Tyler, Miss J, Janice Dickinson, Mary Murphy, and Dick Button all at once. But the shtick just didn't work. Louie came across as desperate, trying way too hard, and like an "SNL" parody of every wacky reality judge out there. And, like many "SNL" skits these days, he just wasn't funny.
"ANTM" may be a reality television smash and staple Wednesday-night viewing, but Tyra just may be THE most annoying woman on the reality circuit. She smizes like an insane woman; she demands that the "Top Model" contestants scream on cue like Publisher's Clearing House winners every time she enters the room or even when her name is mentioned; she plasters the walls with 10-foot sniping posters of her face; and she can make ANY situation or storyline all about her (seriously, a contestant could confess to Tyra that her entire family perished in a fire, and Tyra would start talking about a time when her weave was singed by an overheated flat-iron). And Tyra even made her model minions work for free in her horrible music video, and that is nothing to smize about.
There, I said it. Look, I love me some Ellen. When it was announced that she'd be the new "Idol" judge last season, many balked, but I gave her a chance. And I do think she tried her best, but Ellen is not a music expert, so most of the time she was just way out of her depth. Her critiques added nothing valuable to the show and offered no real help to the contestants themselves. And most of the time, she was just way too nice. (Ellen later admitted this herself in her resignation statement, saying: "I realized this season that while I love discovering, supporting, and nurturing young talent, it was hard for me to judge people and sometimes hurt their feelings.") You can hate on Kara DioGuardi all you want, people, but it's Ellen who nearly ruined "Idol."
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