See Ya, Sucker!
Weekly bye-byes give reality TV its kick. So, in time for this season's big finales, we count down our five favorite elimination rituals from the least to the most ridiculous by Annie Barrett
SETUP Guided by torches that symbolize being ''alive in this game'' the contestants trek ''a long way'' (although we don't exactly know how long is ''long'') from camp to Tribal Council. Then they get to do basically the same thing they do at camp: sit on uncomfortable logs and shoot each other evil looks. Host Jeff Probst asks questions designed to make the tribe members hate each other even more before the voting begins.
FETISH OBJECT Flaming tiki torches
CATCH PHRASE ''The tribe has spoken.''
DON'T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT Probst repeats on every episode, ''Once the votes are read, the decision is final. That person will be asked to leave the Tribal Council area immediately.'' (Someday, someone's gotta ask, ''C'mon, Jeff. Please can I stay if I really, really beg for it?'')
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL Probst deserves some respect: Anyone can go around saying, ''You're fired,'' but it takes a certain type of TV nerd to be able to utter, ''The tribe has spoken,'' for the hundredth time and keep a straight face.
BONUS Near the end of each season, it's fun to see recently voted-off contestants return to Tribal Council from the Survivor Hotel and Spa looking all fat and happy from their few days in jury-duty-with-benefit-of-pancakes land.
4 America's Next Top Model
SETUP Contestants gather in a staggered-by-height cluster and feign excitement as supermodel Tyra ''Tyrant'' Banks lists for the tenth time the competition's prizes. Then she reintroduces the judges, whose credentials (''renowned fashion stylist,'' ''the world's first supermodel'') sound more dubious with each repetition.
FETISH OBJECT Glossy glamour shot, which Tyrant reveals to each surviving contestant
CATCH PHRASE ''You are no longer in the running towards becoming America's Next Top Model.''
DON'T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT Each episode, Tyrant says, ''The person whose name I call must immediately return to the suite, pack her belongings, and go home.'' For some reason, it's always hilarious to hear Tyra Banks say the word ''belongings.''
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL Tyrant works dramatic variations on the same boring lines. (''I have four photos in my hands.'' ''I now am holding three photos in my hands.'' ''There are now two photos in my fantastic supermodel magic hands.'' ''I have only one photo in my hand, and I'm really sick of saying this.''). And the judges, including the relic supermodel Janice Dickinson, keep things alive by doing crazy things like (gasp!) not wearing underpants.
BONUS You can compare and contrast Top Model's elimination process with the cheesier version in Bravo's thinly veiled rip-off, Manhunt: The Search for America's Most Gorgeous Male Model, on which contestants have to pull their own framed photos off an easel and then (of course) leave immediately.
3 The Apprentice
SETUP The losing team gathers in the Boardroom to yell accusations at each other until Donald Trump gets sick of them.
FETISH OBJECT Rolling luggage
CATCH PHRASE ''You're fired'' (thump).
DON'T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT Sometimes Trump salts and peppers the wound by further demanding that contestants get out of his sight, as if they weren't crushed enough already.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL This season, Trump has sometimes replaced his signature ''Cobra'' hand gesture with new moves, like the simple point (for Andy) and the authoritative smack-the-table, cock-the-gun combo (for Ivana). It's always interesting to see how the losers react: Some cry, some actively snub Trump. Last week's firee, Andy, looked like he would never leave. (Maybe he should have offered Trump cash to let him stay.) After the firing, Trump congratulates himself on his wisdom and eminency, and his loyal pawns Carolyn and George back him up (even if they disagreed with him earlier). All three say something like ''That was tough'' or ''It's too bad,'' and then immediately retract it with something catty about the person fired.
BONUS Everyone stays tuned for the Taxicab Confessional, in which the person voted off gets one last chance to bitch-slap the competition. Chances are, they're just driving around the block before going back to get the rest of their things — there's no way anyone could pack all his or her ''belongings'' into just one of those identical prop suitcases.
2 The Bachelor
SETUP Contestants glam it up in evening gowns — they seem to be under orders not to move more than two inches while the mighty Bachelor makes his decision. Relatively useless host Chris Harrison (right, with Bachelor Byron Velvick) suddenly enters the scene for his big line: ''Ladies, this is the final rose.'' Thanks, Chris. It's hard to see how many roses are left while standing 10 feet away.
FETISH OBJECT Long-stemmed red rose
CATCH PHRASE ''Will you accept this rose?'' Everyone but the loser gets to hear this one.
DON'T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT Harrison seems to think he's doing the roseless woman a favor by allowing her ''a moment to say goodbye'' when all she really wants to do is punch everyone on the set. Instead she must endure a cringe-inducing round of beauty-pageant hugs and air kisses.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL The unbearably long, seemingly still-framed pauses in between rose offerings are enough to make anyone ashamed to be female (but don't worry, we'll keep watching). The rehearsed, rehashed commentary from the Bachelors, however, has gotten old fast. It seems that every week, the choice is ''The hardest decision I've ever had to make.'' The myriad Bachelor knockoffs have introduced their own twists on the formula, with Joe Millionaire's Various Pieces of Jewelry Ceremony perhaps better representing what these shows are all about.
BONUS Sometimes the women admit in the Limo Confessional that they never really had feelings for the Bachelor — either that or they're just lying to save face.
1 The Biggest Loser
SETUP After a long day of elliptical training and being locked in rooms full of puff pastry, the losing team solemnly trudges down a winding staircase to a strange room that's supposed to be a pantry but looks and feels more like a dungeon, possibly because host Caroline Rhea (pictured) is there to greet them. Contestants carry what look like fancy covered meals but these are actually their votes for who gets eliminated.
FETISH OBJECT Gleaming silver serving plate
CATCH PHRASE First: ''It's time to cut the fat.'' Then: ''You are not the Biggest Loser'' (cue tears, even though not being a big loser is a plus in every situation except this show).
DON'T LET THE DOOR HIT YOU ON THE WAY OUT Rhea reminds contestants they must ''pack their bags and say goodbye.'' Then Melissa Joan Hart snaps her fingers, and Rhea flies away on her broom.
WHAT MAKES IT SPECIAL Before revealing his or her choice, each contestant has a mini-breakdown that includes shortness of breath, burying one's face in one's hands, and references to teamwork, love, spirit, sisterhood, or the phrase ''you can do anything!'' As they lift the covers, we hear flashy metallic sound effects hinting that someone is sharpening his knife collection off-camera (Locke from Lost, is that you?), as if in preparation to literally carve off all remaining fat.
BONUS As soon as someone is voted off, a giant glass-doored refrigerator filled with his or her favorite comfort foods goes dark. Seriously, someone better get to eat those pot pies. What a waste. http://www.ew.com/ew/article/commentary/0,6115,982119_3