Last year’s Best Reality Series winner, “Deadliest Catch,” was surprisingly snubbed this year, but there is nevertheless a defending champion in this category: “Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution,” which won in 2010 but didn’t finish airing its second season until after the 2011 eligibility cutoff, thus forcing it to wait a year before returning.
Our predictors give “Food Revolution” field-leading 6 to 5 odds to win its second Emmy, followed by first-time nominee “Who Do You Think You Are?” (9 to 2), the long-running PBS series “Antiques Roadshow” (11 to 2), and Discovery’s “MythBusters” (13 to 2).
Below we consider the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate:
“Antiques Roadshow” (“El Paso”)
PBS’s traveling appraisal series is nominated in this category for the eighth time, but it has yet to win.
Pro: The longest running show nominated, “Antiques” has been on the air since 1997, longer than this category has existed, and is arguably the most respected of the six contenders. (The original British version is still airing after 33 years.)
Con: The tone of the series is dry, lacking the dramatic intensity and spirited personalities of its fellow nominees, which is a disadvantage when voters evaluate individual episodes. That may be why the show has never won.
“Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution” (“Maybe L.A. Was a Big Mistake”)
“Food Revolution,” in which British chef Jamie Oliver tries to reform American eating habits, won this category for its first season in 2010, and this year competes for its second season, set in Los Angeles.
Pro: A proven winner in this category, Oliver’s David-and-Goliath attempt to reform the nation’s second largest school district has the benefits of underdog appeal and important subject matter (improving the health of America’s kids). Voters can simultaneously pick a winner and support a worthy cause.
Con: The second season of “Food Revolution” was a ratings flop, which is the reason half of its episodes were burned off by ABC in June 2011. While Hollywood likes worthy causes, they may be put off by the show’s struggle to connect with an audience.
“MythBusters” (“Duct Tape Island”)
Discovery’s science series has been disproving urban legends and Hollywood fakery since 2003. This is the series’s fourth nomination in this category.
Pro: “MythBusters” probably has the most “cool factor” in this category, and its “Duct Tape Island” episode, instead of broken up into several smaller myths, is focused on the charm and ingenuity of hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage as they concoct survival tools out of the titular adhesive.
“Shark Tank” (“Episode 307”)
The first-time nominee from ABC brings inventors and entrepreneurs in front of a panel of wealthy investors (“sharks”) with the hope of launching their businesses.
Pro: Voters may enjoy the triumph of inventors who get their first chances at business success.
Con: Voters may be equally turned off by the ruthless sharks, who are unsentimental in their assessment of the fledgling businesspeople pitching their ideas. Emmy judges may prefer to honor the more heartwarming “Undercover Boss,” where a wealthy employer shows solidarity with low-level workers.
“Undercover Boss” (“Checkers & Rally’s”)
This is the third nomination for CBS’s reality series about high-level executives who go undercover to work alongside low-level employees.
Pro: In “Checkers & Rally’s,” fast-food CEO Ricky Silva goes undercover to learn the stories of his employees, improve conditions for his workers, and shut down a failing branch. His sympathy with his employees may make voters sympathetic to him.
Con: “Food Revolution” also has a food-service theme with a more socially conscious message, and the last time these two shows went head-to-head, “Food Revolution” came out on top.
“Who Do You Think You Are?” (“Rob Lowe”)
The American version of this celebrity genealogy series has aired for three seasons and is nominated for the first time.
Pro: In the episode submitted to Emmy judges, actor Rob Lowe experiences a range of emotions as he traces his family’s history back to the American Revolution. The show’s tone of soul-searching and historical detective work may be a strong emotional hook for Emmy judges.
Con: Might genealogy be too dry a subject for some voters?