Reality Check: Player-Hating on 'Top Chef' and 'Big Brother'
It's a fact: there's no more effective a technique for engendering the bad will of your castmates than by performing well on a show.
If you can do that while also taking obnoxiousness to previously unforeseen levels, you're well on your way toward becoming a reality television villain.
On this week's "Top Chef," Hung did a solid job of enraging his fellow competitors during the quickfire challenge, which consisted of making a glorious-looking-even-in-the-early-morning Padma breakfast primarily using a product-placed Breville blender.
During the inevitable mad dash for ingredients, Hung knocked over a bottle of truffle oil and then denied it unconvincingly ("I didn't do it but if I did, I'm sorry" in the least apologetic-sounding tone fathomable).
Combining this turn of events with the fact that he won the challenge by landing on the best way to put a judge in a generous mood (toss a dash of Grand Marnier in a papaya banana honey shake), Hung was racking up some solid "hate me" points. (The fact that his reward was an early copy of Padma's next cookbook didn't matter; it's winning, after all, and not what you win, that garners enemies.)
Then, when the group made its way to the Newark Continental Airlines kitchen in order to whip up meals for first-class customers, and C.J. seemed in danger of not packing up his boxes of food in time, Casey and Dale jumped in to help him as Hung calmly (read: selfishly) cleaned his knives.
While you don’t want to assist your rivals too much when you're all competing for the top spot, there's a fine line you need to walk if you want to not be reviled on your way to the finish line, and it's safe to say that Hung jumped right over it.
But really, no discussion of people worth disliking on reality TV would be complete without some words spent on "Big Brother," a show that's arguably better than any other at motivating people to act out their most glaring character defects.
In my opinion, by constantly staging competitions where the participants are rewarded for slavishly memorizing every move made throughout the game, the producers are actively encouraging possibly the most self-obsessed segment of the population (reality TV stars) to become all the more convinced that what they're doing on the show really matters.
There's also, of course, the fact that "Big Brother" actively encourages scheming, backstabbing, lying and taunting. And this week, we got a dose and a half of the latter by watching Daniele and Dick Donato battle it out with Zach while flinging none-too-clever insults at each other.
I, for one, would have been perfectly content to watch the show come to an end without having to see every other word Dick uttered at Zach bleeped out.
As the winner, Dick's going to have more than enough people hating him already. Did he really need to give anyone more incentive than they already had?
Anna David is a freelance writer. Her novel, "Party Girl," is in stores now.