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See the villains and wild personalities that make reality TV worth watching

Shaun Harrison
1 of 16 Spike TV


As Spike premieres a great TV hoax on The Joe Schmo Show (Tuesday, Jan. 8 at 10/9c) featuring Chase Rogan, let's look back at some of reality TV's most memorable characters.
2 of 16 Monty Brinton/CBS/Landov

Jonny Fairplay, Survivor

Host Jeff Probst has called Fairplay "despicable," but you have to give him credit for his brains. In a pre-planned lie, Fairplay had a visiting friend tell him his (alive-and-well) grandmother had died. Jonny played it up, earning sympathy and weasling his way to the final three. We're sure he and grandma were planning to split the cash.
3 of 16 MTV/Everett Collection

Puck, The Real World: San Francisco

This tattooed bad boy's roommates should've known they'd have their hands full when he arrived late on the first day because of a run-in with the police. Though his fights with an HIV-positive roommate took up most of his screen time, he had a beef with just about everyone in the house, which ultimately led to his eviction.
4 of 16 Ian Derry/FOX

Simon Cowell, American Idol/The X Factor

The British mogul made meanness fashionable by exporting his two singing competitions — first Idol and then X Factor — to America and verbally eviscerating singers' "dreadful" performances. While he made Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood and others household names, Cowell set the standard for all future reality show judges, proving that it's better to be tough than nice if you want to be taken seriously. And though he's softened a bit, viewers can still count on Cowell for gems like, "You taking on that song is like asking a cat to eat a tiger."
5 of 16 Smallz and Raskin/FOX

Gordon Ramsay, Hell's Kitchen

Loud, violent, and curse-word-infused insults are best served warm, and the flames are always high in Ramsay's kitchen. This is one cooking show that is most definitely not about the #&@^%*!$ food.
6 of 16 Cliff Lipson/CBS

Evel Dick, Big Brother

Finally, a villain who won something. Sure, everybody hated this chain-smoking, foul-mouthed L.A. bar owner's style of gameplay, but he rocked and rolled his opponents out the door, securing the top prize for himself and the runner-up's check for his daughter. Just don't let this guy near any pots and pans.
7 of 16 Charley Gallay/Getty Images

Marcel, Top Chef

Marcel's sky-high pompadour was only matched by his massive ego. As the reality mantra goes, he wasn't there to make friends (he was there to make foam, though — lots of it) and unapologetically burned bridges on both Season 2 and All-Stars. We were Team Marcel, however, when Cliff, Ilan, et al, attacked him on Season 2 and tried to shave his head. Leave the cutting in the kitchen, guys.
8 of 16 Landov/CBS

"Boston Rob" Mariano, Survivor and The Amazing Race

Yeah, it took him four tries to win Survivor, and he and wife Amber lost Race twice, but Rob remains one of the best reality TV contestants to play the game — because he always played the game. He exceled at making chess-like moves on Survivor — so much so that Jeff Probst dubbed Survivor: All-Stars "Rob's season" — and he brought that same strategy to Race. During a meat-eating Roadblock on Season 7, he convinced other teams quit the task and take the four-hour penalty with him to ensure that he and Amber wouldn't be the only ones behind. Well played, Rob, well played.
9 of 16 Justin Stephens/NBC

Omarosa, The Apprentice

She butted heads with everyone in the boardroom, becoming the most reviled person in reality-TV history. She knows what makes good TV, whether it's arguing with Janice Dickinson on The Surreal Life or attacking Piers Morgan's parenting skills on Celebrity Apprentice. (Fun fact! She's the only person The Donald has fired twice.)
10 of 16 Quantrell Colbert/Bravo

Kim Zolciak, The Real Housewives of Atlanta

Throughout her five seasons on Real Houswives, Kim's antics were as big as her wig. From endless talk of her faceless sugar daddy Big Papa to her (somewhat successful) singing career — don't be tardy for the party! — to the notorious wig snatch of '09, Kim always did things her own way, haters be damned. And don't think that just because she's married with two more kids, that she's got any tamer! Her spin-off Don't Be Tardy... has been picked up for Season 2.
11 of 16 Landov/CBS

Jonathan, The Amazing Race

The Amazing Race is never at a shortage for bickering couples, but Jonathan and Victoria, Playboy's Playmate of the Month for January 1996, took it to a whole new level on Season 6 with their explosive and, in Jonathan's case, abusive arguments. On the fifth leg, they lost a footrace for first place after Victoria picked up Jonathan's bag, which he purposely dropped, out of fear that it would be stolen. Enraged, he forcefully shoved his wife and blamed their second-place finish on her. The normally even-keeled Phil Keoghan reprimanded Jonathan at the Pit Stop and creator Bertram van Munster later revealed that he gave Jonathan a talking-to off-camera to "tone it down" — before the infamous shove. (The couple had a daughter after the show and divorced six years later.)
12 of 16 Lifetime

Tim Gunn, Project Runway

Gunn has "made it work" as a star of Project Runway for 11 seasons now, and even spawned a catchphrase along the way. His popularity on the designing competition led to the offshoot Tim Gunn's Guide to Style, and has made Gunn a household name and go-to consultant on all things sartorial. In addition to being a frequent fixture on the red-carpet for awards shows, Gunn has also appeared as himself on such shows as Ugly Betty, How I Met Your Mother and Gossip Girl.
13 of 16 MTV

Snooki, Jersey Shore

Snooki is refreshingly candid about exposing all aspects of her life (and ladybits) on TV. So while her style and shenanigans might be over-the-top, Snooki's no-holds-barred attitude has made her surprisingly endearing. Plus, no one can eat a pickle quite like Snickers!
14 of 16 Anders Overgaard/E!

Kim Kardashian, Keeping Up with the Kardashians

Love 'em or hate 'em, the Kardashian clan are the reigning kings and queens of reality television — and they're not going away any time soon, judging by Kim's recent announcement that she's pregnant with boyfriend Kanye West's baby. With cameras following the mom-to-be's every move, including her lavish wedding and subsequent 72-day marriage to Kris Humphries (not to mention that sex tape from a few years ago), it's safe to say that the newest Kardashian will quickly become the smallest star on the small screen.
15 of 16 Kobal Collection

Jon and Kate Gosselin, Jon and Kate Plus 8

What began as a look at what it takes to raise young sextuplets and twins quickly turned ugly when, at the height of the show's popularity, the Gosselins' marriage began to crumble. In a nasty public split that played out in the tabloids as well as on the show (the episode that announced the couple's intention to separate was among its highest-rated ever), Jon was portrayed as possibly being unfaithful while Kate was made out to be the nagging wife. The series continued briefly as Kate Plus 8 after the divorce and Kate also competed on Dancing with the Stars.
16 of 16 Kobal Collection

Spencer and Heidi, The Hills

The Hills might have been fake, but the villainy of Speidi was undoubtedly real. The couple treated LC and her friends like an opposing tribe on Survivor and helped prove that Schadenfreude is alive and well.