Emmy Circuit: Will the Emmy Nominations for Reality Competition Continue To Be Predictable?

CBS's "The Amazing Race"

Welcome to the 2019 Emmy Circuit series, where we analyze and predict all your favorite TV series and their chances with the Television Academy (at least at this time of publishing).  The series examines the shows and performances about their awards potential, most notably the Emmy Awards. Emmy nomination voting opens June 10 and closes on June 24.  The official Emmy nominations will be announced on Tuesday, July 16 while the ceremony airs on FOX Sunday, Sept. 22. All Emmy pieces run with the following schedule: Mondays (Dramas), Tuesdays (Network Spotlight), Wednesdays (Comedies), Thursdays (Network Spotlight), Fridays (Limited Series, Variety Series, Below-the Lines).


Dramatic and comedic serials have been a staple of the television landscape since its inception. But it was not until the late 1990s that the reality series was introduced and rose to popularity. Reality Competition Programing represented an untapped market. Audiences were craving a weekly look into the hopes and dreams of “real” people. These competitive showcases give the audience a chance to live vicariously through the competitors on screen. Contestants inspire viewers not only because of their talent, but because they represent possibility. Since the Reality Competition category was added in 2000, the Primetime Emmy Awards have been looking to nominate the best of these programs. This year is no exception.


For the past nineteen years, the nominees for Outstanding Reality Competition Program have been mainstays. CBS’sThe Amazing Race” has received a nomination every year since the category originated and has won the award a record ten times. The series follows various pairs as they complete tasks and race around the world. After thirty-one seasons, “The Amazing Race” has managed to stay on top as the series is rich with cultural discovery and human resilience. This race is ultimately rooted in true sportsmanship which sets the show apart from others. “The Amazing Race” is all but guaranteed its thirty-second nomination this year.

Bravo’s “Project Runway”

Two other reliable nominees are set in the worlds of fashion and food. Bravo’s (and Lifetimes’) “Project Runway” has wannabe designers complete a weekly challenge. These fabric artists are to design and construct a “themed” outfit that will be worn down a runway and critiqued by the best in the business. In 2018, supermodel Heidi Klum and fashion consultant James Gunn announced they were leaving the hit series after sixteen years to start their own show. In the wake of their exit and the Harvey Weinstein scandal (The Weinstein Company was one of the show’s producers before they filed for bankruptcy), the show moved from Lifetime back to Bravo with Karlie Kloss hosting.

Like “Project Runway,” Bravo’sTop Chef” features a similar theme, but instead of designers follows chefs. These chefs compete week to week with professional chefs and culinary experts judging their cooking skills. “Top Chef” won the Emmy for Outstanding Reality-Competition Award in 2010 and has scored eleven more nominations. “Project Runway” and “Top Chef” are two Bravo shows that seem destined to add to their nomination count again this year.


THE VOICE — “Live Finale” Episode: 1118A — Pictured: (l-r) Adam Levine, Miley Cyrus, Alicia Keys, Blake Shelton — (Photo by: Trae Patton/NBC)

Music and dance have become a huge part of the reality competition platform. NBC’sThe Voice” (a four-time Emmy winner) and Fox’sAmerican Idol” (a nine-time Emmy nominee) have young men and women sing to garner votes and judges’ praise. Singing sensations Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood are walking endorsements for the talent these shows foster.

ABC’sDancing with the Stars” (an eleven-time Emmy nominee) and Fox’sSo You Think You Can Dance” (a five-time Emmy nominee) move the audience through the network of competition by way of dance. Whether watching someone famous or an unknown dancer, the journey is often inspiring. In past years, the Emmys have recognized these musically rooted shows in abundance. Look for at least a couple of these series to score nominations this year.


For the last three years, the Primetime Emmys have honored NBC’sAmerican Ninja Warrior” with nominations for Outstanding Reality Competition. In “Warrior,” which is an American adaptation of a Japanese series called “Sasuke,” obstacle courses take center stage. Competitors compete on courses in various cities before moving on to the finals. The finals, which are usually held in Las Vegas, are bursting with excitement and cannot help but rouse an audience.

RuPaul of VH1’s “RuPaul’s Drag Race”

Last year’s winner for Outstanding Reality Competition was VH1’sRuPaul’s Drag Race.” This show follows two-time Emmy winner RuPaul’s search for America’s next drag queen. Mini and maxi contests, runway walks and lip sync battles are all part of the fun. At the end of each season the winner is crowned “Miss Congeniality.” Although “Drag Race” is a competition, this series finds heart through inclusion and self-acceptance. RuPaul may be crowned again. This is an award worthy program, and deserves the high praise.

Current Outstanding Reality Competition Predictions

  1. “The Amazing Race” (CBS)
  2. “Project Runway” (Bravo)
  3. “RuPaul’s Drag Race” (VH1)
  4. “The Voice” (NBC)
  5. “Top Chef” (Bravo)
  6. “American Ninja Warrior” (NBC)