A Comprehensive Study of Reality TV Hosts

Reality TV hosts can serve a variety of important functions, from reading the rules of challenges off of cue cards, to critiquing puff pastry, to mediating rowdy reunions full of half-drunk degenerates. Without these entertainment heroes and their high school theater training, all of our content would be facilitated by robots, like Lana the traffic cone on Too Hot To Handle, or Julie Chen Moonves on Big Brother

In some cases, the host can be inextricable from the show. What would Kitchen Nightmares be without Gordon Ramsay bursting a capillary because your Duck à l’Orange tastes like “a dog’s dinner”? Or how would any of the infamous catfish on Catfish get caught without Nev deploying his trusty reverse image search? 

Other times, they’re merely expensive set dressing, like one of those La Fleur bouquets that the Kardashians like. Does CBS need to pay Phil Keoghan a million dollars per season to spend a total of 90 seconds in each Amazing Race episode, with thought-provoking questions like, “Did you have fun?” Probably, yeah, because we’d miss him if he were gone. 

In this chapter of our Reality TV Textbook, we’ll dive into reality TV’s most famous faces, exploring their strengths, weaknesses, and the iconic moments that have kept networks from replacing them with Josh Richards and Dixie D’Amelio (for now). 

Section 1: Attention Whores 

Attention Whores hosts tend to care more about their own stardom than the talent they’re supposed to foster on their shows. 

Tyra Banks, America’s Next Top Model, America’s Got Talent, Dancing with the Stars  


Hosting Archetype: Floor Manager Who Hates You 

Mannerisms or Catchphrase: “Two beautiful girls stand before me, but I only have one photo in my hands” 

Strengths: Obliterating her future competition by giving all the girls terrible haircuts

Shortcomings: Smizing too hard

Contributions to History: Losing her shit on Tiffany, whom she just eliminated, for having a bad attitude after getting eliminated. What was she supposed to do, start belting out “Oh What A Beautiful Morning” from Oklahoma

Andy Cohen, Watch What Happens Live, The Real Housewives Reunions, CNN New Years’ Eve  


Hosting Archetype: Gay Geppetto on Steroids  

Mannerisms or Catchphrase: Name-dropping John Mayer.

Strengths: Shamelessly spicy questions. 

Shortcomings: Blatant favoritism. 

Contributions to History: Shitfaced rant about Bill de Blasio on a family program. 

Gordon Ramsay, Hell’s Kitchen, MasterChef, MasterChef Junior, Kitchen Nightmares, Next Level Chef, Gordon Ramsay’s Food Stars, Hotel Hell  


Hosting Archetype: Reluctant Mentor 

Mannerisms or Catchphrase: In an ASMR whisper: “Damn. Damn, damn, damn.” 

Strengths: Beef Wellington. 

Shortcomings: In constant need of a beta blocker. 

Contributions to History: His “idiot sandwich” sketch with Julie Chen Moonves, which birthed a meme that supplanted itself into people’s memories as a real incident. 

Section 2: Consummate Professionals 

Consummate professionals make hosting look easy. We never see them break a sweat! Seriously, do they get Botox in their armpits or something? 

RuPaul Charles, RuPaul’s Drag Race  


Hosting Archetype: Almighty Drag Mother 

Mannerisms or Catchphrase: “Shantay, you stay // Sashay away.” 

Strengths: Sublime use of puns. 

Shortcomings: Robotic delivery. 

Contributions to History: “Drag is not a contact sport.” 

Jeff Probst, Survivor  


Hosting Archetype: Family Therapist Who Doesn’t See His Own Kids. 

Mannerisms or Catchphrase: “You gotta dig deep!” 

Strengths: Facilitating conversations between 18 hungry people who hate each other. 

Shortcomings: Forcing “emotional” TV moments that’ll have your eyes rolling into the back of your skull. 

Contributions to History: Dressing down Jeff Varner after he outed Zeke during tribal council in a pathetic attempt to further his game. 

Jesse Palmer 


Hosting Archetype: Dad That Would Play Catch With You 

Mannerisms or Catchphrase: “This is the final rose tonight.” Just in case anyone couldn’t see! 

Strengths: Dropping off a date card once every four days and spending the rest of the time vacationing with his hot wife. 

Shortcomings: Pitching softballs at AFTR. We want blood! 

Contributions to History: Seamlessly replacing legacy host Chris Harrison. (All white guys in suits look the same.) 

Ryan Seacrest, American Idol, Dick Clark’s Rockin’ NYE, Live With Kelly & Ryan 


Hosting Archetype: Human AI 

Mannerisms or Catchphrase: “Seacrest out!” 

Strengths: Cutting to commercial. 

Shortcomings: Offensively inoffensive. 

Contributions to History: Only missing one American Idol taping over the course of 17 seasons. What’s his secret? The TB12 Method? Gooptology? Lemme Matcha? Drop the immune system routine. 

Section 3: Gives Them a Break From Their Kids

Gives Them a Break From Their Kids hosts aren’t necessarily bad, but they act as nothing more than really, really expensive wallpaper. 

Nick and Vanessa Lachey, Love Is Blind, The Ultimatum  


Hosting Archetype: Helicopter Parents 

Mannerisms or Catchphrase: Giving more PDA than the actual contestants. 

Strengths: Consistently giving us something hilarious to make fun of. 

Shortcomings: Pressuring contestants to give updates on their plans to have kids. 

Contributions to History: Telling Shake that he’s a veterinarian who only knows how to treat animals, not humans. 

TJ Lavin, The Challenge


Hosting Archetype: High School Football Coach Hired Off Craigslist 

Mannerisms or Catchphrase: Insisting on calling the grueling final competition “My Final,” when he’s never attended a single development or production meeting in his life. 

Strengths: Maniacal trivia laughter. 

Shortcomings: Basically resorting to “That’s crazy” any time a contestant interacts with him beyond what’s in his script. 

Contributions to History: Hating quitters. 

Julie Chen Moonves, Big Brother, The Talk  


Hosting Archetype: NPC

Mannerisms or Catchphrase: Awkward glitches when she’s overdue for a software update. 

Strengths: Getting called stunning by every Houseguest during the eviction vote even though she’s just wearing a floral blouse from Talbots. 

Shortcomings: Unfamiliar with the word banter. (That’s coming in iOS 23.)

Contributions to History: Having an affair with the president of CBS (20 years her senior) and marrying him, but only using his last name professionally after he got #MeToo’d. Weird flex!

Emma Sharpe
Emma Sharpe
Emma Sharpe is a New York based writer and marketer. She's a Kardashian apologist and finds a Survivor metaphor for every life situation. You can find more of her pop culture ramblings at