We heard you liked brackets, so we’re bringing you another: The Best Reality TV Character Bracket includes 64 of the personalities from reality television who weren’t eligible to compete in our previous tournament. And every tournament, of course, has competitors on the bubble. Here are the reality television characters who ended up on the outside looking in; a kind of Last Six Out.
Pauly D, Jersey Shore
Matt Dollinger: It’s impossible to look more Jersey Shore than Pauly D. Upon meeting his future roommate, Vinny Guadagnino remarked: “I see Pauly and his spiky hair and his whole guido look. Great, they found the most stereotypical kid.” He wasn’t wrong. Pauly D was so perfect for Jersey Shore that he said he never even had to audition—the producers just knew. But if you judged this book by its cover—an obnoxiously loud, tan, and happy disc jockey from Rhode Island—you missed out on the show’s most lovable character. If Jersey Shore was trash TV, then Pauly D was the one thing worth recycling. His charisma was why he’s been able to carve out a (relatively?) successful career as a DJ, even being signed to G-Unit Records by 50 Cent back during JS’s heyday. It’s why when I bring up his name, you don’t audibly groan. And it’s why he’s been on a handful of reality shows since Jersey Shore got boarded up.
When you live with people named Snooki, JWoww, and the Situation, it’s pretty easy to seem relatable—but Pauly D was always my favorite Seaside Heights character because of his sunny disposition (which also may have affected his skin). The only time Pauly D wasn’t smiling was when he was beaming. He was always pulling pranks or scheming around the house. And when chaos would inevitably break out, he was the most likely housemate to be sitting on a couch off to the side, laughing it up from a safe distance. Sure, he got into his share of drunken debauchery like everyone else, but he was usually the life of the party in a good way. Always trying to take things—or the night—to another level. Whether he was Beating the Beat Up or just generally being upbeat—Pauly D was always the quickest to a smile. And we can’t forget the trademark phrase he provided to overeager party-goers everywhere looking to get the fuck out the door already:
Captain Sandy, Below Deck
John Gonzalez: It’s hard to get something right while simultaneously getting it so very wrong, but here we are. I’d like to commend the Ringer selection committee for putting someone from Below Deck in our bracket, but picking Captain Lee over Captain Sandy is a gross violation of maritime law. Don’t get me wrong; Captain Lee is fine. But Captain Sandy is a legend. How are you at parallel parking? Because Captain Sandy backed a 154-foot luxury yacht into a space so tight I’m not sure I could fit our Jeep Wrangler in there (provided our Jeep Wrangler could float, which I am fairly certain it cannot). I mean, look at this. Even more remarkable: A couple of years ago she was in a SoulCycle class when she started feeling “odd.” She couldn’t swallow, her heart rate was elevated, and she had numbness in her left arm—all signs of a heart attack because she was having a heart attack. But being Captain Sandy, she did not want to disturb the class, so she called an Uber to take her to the hospital. The only surprising thing here is that she didn’t perform open-heart surgery on herself and then hop back on the bike and beat everyone. Whoever picked Captain Lee should be keelhauled.
JWoww, Jersey Shore
Michael Baumann: Jersey Shore was famously an enormous, unrelenting mess, and watching it filled me with sympathy for the person who kept it from being even messier: JWoww. On an average Thirsty Thursday, she’d have to keep the Situation from fighting a stranger, then tie Snooki and Deena up in the kitchen so they wouldn’t get drunk and walk into the ocean. All the while Sammi and Ronnie would be breaking up and getting back together four times over the course of the night, and after each breakup Sammi would collapse, sobbing uncontrollably, into JWoww’s arms. Vinny was the only other cast member who could take care of himself, but he couldn’t take care of anyone else, leaving JWoww as the house’s de facto mom. JWoww wasn’t an agent of chaos like most other great reality TV personalities, but that allowed her to keep Jersey Shore’s bumper crop of knuckleheads safe and sound. More or less.
Scott Disick, Keeping Up With the Kardashians
Katie Baker: I hate how much I love Scott Disick on Keeping Up With the Kardashians, because he’s exactly the type of person I can’t stand in real life. A cut-rate Patrick Bateman; a dude who is always searching over a shoulder for a better conversation; that freaking guy to whom I have to introduce myself again and again, knowing full well that each wary “yeah, we’ve met before” only replenishes his rude life force. This brand of person is always objectively awful, and yet! I’ve always had a soft spot for Scott Disick’s dickishness. And when it comes to reality TV, that’s about as high a compliment as it gets.
Disick is someone who purchased knighthood online and made his Instagram name @letthelordbewithyou. To be Scott Disick is to sit in an expensive Sprinter van parked in your mansion’s driveway and refer to the rig as your mobile office—even as your future ex-wife looks at you with amusement and maybe a little contempt.
What did Kourtney, who has always seemed chill yet discerning, ever see in this total weirdo? The Disick dichotomy all comes down to this: Is he painfully insecure, or is he powerfully shameless?! To answer these questions is to achieve total enlightenment, and it’s why I will continue to study the Lord, hoping that someday I can understand his truth.
Patti Stanger, The Millionaire Matchmaker
Ben Lindbergh: Not long after Million Dollar Listing debuted, Bravo invested in another reality series with a seven-figure-bank-account qualification, The Millionaire Matchmaker, which aired from 2008 to 2015 and continued (as Million Dollar Matchmaker) on WE TV for two additional years. Both incarnations of Matchmaker revolved around the wit and purported wisdom of “third-generation matchmaker” Patti Stanger, the founder and proprietor of the Millionaire’s Club dating service—which, Stanger somewhat dubiously and nebulously boasted, had a 99 percent success rate. On each episode, Stanger met two millionaires, immediately diagnosed their desires and inadequacies, and screened dozens of potential partners to present to her well-heeled clients at a cocktail party. The millionaires then picked two people from the cattle call to take on 10-minute “mini-dates.” Whichever one clicked got to go on a full-length “master date,” which was followed by separate one-on-one debriefings with Stanger.
I can’t recall an episode ever leading to lasting love. But the appeal of Millionaire Matchmaker wasn’t really rooting for the often-obnoxious millionaires’ lives to be better; it was watching Stanger expose their social ineptitude via snap judgments and even snappier put-downs. Stanger’s advice was often regressive, reinforcing traditional gender roles and beauty ideals, but she dispensed her opinions and laid out her laws with complete conviction and an arsenal of catchphrases, neologisms, and malapropisms. (I once heard her say someone thought he was “the greatest thing since chopped liver.”) In Stanger’s matchmaking philosophy, “The penis does the picking,” so if a “hottie pattotie” didn’t “raise the flagpole” or get a girl “juicy goosey,” even Cupid couldn’t prevail. By her own admission, though, Patti’s “picker was off,” which prevented her from finding the love she claimed to secure for others. That was the tragedy of The Millionaire Matchmaker: Stanger’s clients may have been millionaires, but when it came to her supposed success rate, she was the 1 percent.
Diddy, Making the Band
Jonathan Tjarks: It has been so long since Making the Band was on that I don’t really remember that much about it. But I had to get Diddy on this list just to mention one of the most iconic scenes in the history of reality TV, if not TV as a whole.
Making the group of aspiring rappers and singers walk all the way from Manhattan to Brooklyn in the middle of the night to pick up cheesecake was simultaneously hilarious, absurd, and insightful. I guess you could say Diddy made the group into the original Uber Eats. Diddy knew what the viewers wanted—watching someone get humiliated to be famous is one of the core draws of reality TV. But he was also making a (kind of?) valid point. If the members of the group weren’t willing to humble themselves to get some cheesecake, there’s no way they would be willing to do what it takes to make it in the music world. But then just when you start to go down a rabbit hole about power dynamics and the troubling amount of control that Diddy has over his employees, you remember all he was asking them to do was get him some cheesecake.
Making the Band is remembered mostly these days for being satirized on Chappelle’s Show. For a second I thought that Dylan had actually said his five favorite rappers were Dylan, Dylan, Dylan, Dylan, and Dylan. But the real show featured a legitimately great performance from Diddy, who carried a show full of people who, in retrospect, weren’t actually that talented or interesting.