Can ‘Top Chef’ cook up another win for Best Reality-Competition Series?

For the first seven years of its existence, it became easier and easier to predict what would win Best Reality-Competition Series as “The Amazing Race” racked up win after win. Though the top-rating “American Idol” and “Dancing With the Stars” were nominated, it was always this race around the world for a million dollars that prevailed. That is, until last year when “Top Chef” stunned Emmywatchers by claiming this award.


The reigning champ comes back strong with “Give Me Your Huddled Masses,”  an episode from the all-star season. First, the chefs must create a dish using only ingredients found in the snack bar on an ferry trip from Manhattan to Ellis Island. Then, standing beneath the Statue of Liberty, the contestants are surprised by family members. Bonding with their loved ones, they view scrapbooks that reveal their genealogy. The tone shifts from warm and fuzzy to hilarious when rivals Antonia and Mike discover they are related. Judges might be put off by the ending, as no contestant is sent home because all of the ancestry-inspired dishes are deemed to be too good to lead to elimination.

Project Runway” expanded last year from an hour to 90 minutes. The longer running time rejuvinated the series, making season eight the most entertaining in years. Fans were certain the drama-filled “There Is an ‘I’ in Team,” which included an angry, confrontational rant from mentor Tim Gunn, would be their Emmy episode; it is nominated for its picture editing. Surprisingly, the producers chose “There’s a Pattern Here.”  

Like “Top Chef,” the episode features visits from the contestants’ family members. The challenge is a repeat of one from season seven with designers creating a garment out of custom-designed fabric. The submission is a shrewd move that could make “Project Runway” the frontrunner. Mondo Guerra creates a fabric out using purple and yellow plus signs, waiting until he’s before the judges on the runway to reveal these signify his HIV-positive status. Having hidden the fact from his family and fellow contestants, it’s a powerful and poignant moment that makes the other nominees look lightweight in comparison

The Amazing Race” entered “You Don’t Give Paid Unless You Win.” Teams wander around Varanasi, India searching for clues on the street and later making fuel patties out of water buffalo manure and delivering bales of hay around the city. It’s a busy, noisy, often exhausting episode. The sentimentality of “Top Chef” and “Project Runway” should outweigh “The Amazing Race”‘s frivolous excitement. However, this submission is also nominated for direction, cinematography, picture editing, sound editing, and sound mixing.

The celebrities enjoy varying degrees of success during classical week on season 12 of “Dancing with the Stars.” Host Tom Bergeron boasts about the 46-piece orchestra. The highlight is Mark Ballas and Chelsea Kane‘s Viennese waltz to the theme from “Harry Potter.” This lovely performance was one of three cited in Ballas’ bid for Best Choreography. A charming moment also has Kirstie Alley losing a shoe and stuffing her foot back in before her number’s over.


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Producer Nigel Lythgoe, nominated for both “American Idol” and “So You Think You Can Dance,” shot himself in the foot twice. Despite initial reports that “American Idol” had submitted the episode that earned Gregg Gelfand a directing nomination — the one where Casey Abrams melts down after the judges save him from elimination — it entered the finale instead. Though the episode reveals Scotty McCreery as the tenth season’s champion, that’s the only element of competition in the episode and who didn’t see that one coming from a mile away? Eliminated contestants duet with the likes of Judas Priest, Gladys Knight, Tony Bennett, and Tim McGraw. Lady Gaga, who belts “The Edge of Glory,” showed more star power than all the Idols combined. While “Idol” racked up a record 10 Emmy bids this year, it is unlikely to win this race. 

First-time nominee “So You Think You Can Dance” also entered their results finale. Full of showy, exhilirating routines and goofy, joyful looks back at the season, it’s a much stronger submission than “Idol.” This finale has higher stakes, constantly reminding viewers it’s a competition almost any dancer could win. There were also reprises of the judges’ favorite routines from the season. With choreography so much more athletic and intricate than “Dancing with the Stars,” it’d take the prize if it came down between the two dance programs. It’s no surprise that “So You Think You Can Dance” has five of the choreography nominees competing for various routines. And with that suprise bid by host Cat Deeley, “Dance” has their best year yet with the Emmys.

A plurality of Gold Derby experts, editors, and users (45%) tip “The Amazing Race” for the win with “Top Chef” next in line (30%). The rest of the nominees are down in the single digits: “American Idol” (8%), “Dancing with the Stars” (7%), “Project Runway” (7%), and “So You Think You Can Dance” (2%).

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