Bristol Palin on Dancing With the Stars, Season 11
Bristol Palin may have made a valiant effort, smiled a lot, filmed an awkward yet amusing abstinence PSA with Jersey Shore's The Situation, and even earned a triple-9 one night. But the judgment is near unanimous: She's nowhere near as good as Brandy, the girl she beat out last week. In fact, one guy in Wisconsin thought she was so bad he shot his television while she was performing with her partner, Mark Ballas. DWTS judges routinely give her the lowest scores on the show, but somehow Palin keeps breaking through. Her baffling success sparked theories that GOP voters were voting for her hundreds of times to boost her scores. Bristol faces Disney channel star Kyle Massey and Dirty Dancing actress Jennifer Grey on the Monday finale.
Vienna on The Bachelor, Season 14
The final two contestants for bachelor Jake Pavelka's affection couldn't have been more different: Tenley, a pretty college-admissions adviser who said she had traditional ideas about love and marriage, and Vienna, a former Hooters girl who posed topless for calendars. With Jake's well-behaved Texas background, it seemed like he and Tenley were the perfect match. Bachelor fans erupted when he picked the sexy Vienna instead, calling her "spoiled" and "immature," and predicting Jake was in for a life of drama. Sure enough, the two had soon called it quits, trading accusations of cheating and fighting during live TV interviews.
Kate Gosselin on Dancing With the Stars, Season 10
Even on the premiere of Dancing With the Stars' 10th season, it was obvious that times were bad for Kate Gosselin. She was a tabloid fixture after a nasty split with her husband, Jon, interrupted the filming her other reality show, Jon and Kate Plus 8. Though she insisted she was in it to win, Gosselin barely cooperated with her partner, Tony Dovolani. "Nothing about dancing comes natural to Kate," Dovolani complained before walking out on rehearsals and leaving Kate in tears. Despite her two left feet and helpless attitude, she survived four rounds before being eliminated.
Sanjaya Malakar, American Idol, Season 6
With his flowing mane and sensitive charm, Sanjaya quickly became one of American Idol's most polarizing contestants ever. The 18-year-old's vocal abilities were barely passable, but his charismatic performances inspired what the Village Voice called "one of the weirdest and dumbest pop-cult hysteria-rampages in recent memory." Anti-Sanjaya Facebook groups multiplied. Idol judge Simon Cowell called his singing "hideous," and Sanjaya himself admitted he didn't think he was the best singer on the show. But his crazed fans kept voting him deeper into the competition. He wasn't eliminated until the final rounds, after which the show's ratings plummeted.
Natalie on Big Brother 11
Entertainment Weekly columnist Ken Tucker called Natalie "the most irritating contestant on Big Brother ever" and launched into a long list of her faults: "She's got no—zero—sense of humor. And in a game where back-stabbing and -dooring is part of strategy, she's taken a ridiculous, even absurdist moral high ground, justifying her survival and (few) victories as salutes to fallen allies." Reality-TV blogger Andy Dehnart called her a "pathological liar." Among other things, Natalie lied about her age and her engagement. Despite the murderous hatred fans felt toward her, she managed to take second place and go home with $50,000.
Jenna Morasca on Survivor: The Amazon
The winner of Survivor: The Amazon didn't exactly cheat, but she definitely did her best to avoid any heavy lifting. A former swimsuit model who went on to pose for Playboy with her Survivor BFF Heidi Strobel for $1 million, Jenna deployed her sexuality to her advantage whenever she could. During one famous immunity challenge, Jenna and Heidi stripped in exchange for peanut butter and Oreos. Views slammed her for being lazy, spoiled, and crying her way to favors. She exaggerated an illness to garner sympathy and survive elimination. But when the final vote came, her fellow Survivors almost unanimously voted her the winner.
Ann on America's Next Top Model, Cycle 3
Ann was fairly popular during her run, but her co-dependency and drama led to several intense moments. She paired up with her frenemy, Eva, and carved "CLEAN YOUR SHIT" into a pan of brownies that Cassie, the messy roommate, had made. The partnership didn't last: Ann came unglued when Eva said she didn't want the two to share a room. She cried and told Eva she would come to her wedding anyway, sparking rumors that she was in love with Eva. Ann struggled through several photo shoots but held on for most of the cycle. On her elimination episode, she hugged all of the other contestants goodbye except Eva, shocking viewers and tarnishing her reputation. The two made up later, and Ann moved to New York to pursue modeling.
Dan and Jordan on The Amazing Race, Season 16
Brother-team Dan and Jordan Pious were trailing heading into the final legs of The Amazing Race 16. But they managed to pull a series of fast moves at the last minute, cutting in front of other contestants in an airport line and talking their way into first-class seats so they would be the first ones off the final plane back to the U.S. Race fans were incensed that their favorite pair—cowboy brothers Jet and Cord—came in second after what some said was cheating. (Dan and Jordan's seat switch proved to be in accordance with the rules.) The cowboys said the move was " pivotal" but acknowledged they were sleeping during the flight and didn't see it happen.
Omarosa on The Apprentice, Season 1
Omarosa became "the woman America loves to hate" on the opening season of Donald Trump's business-management hit, The Apprentice. When a fellow contestants would call her a bitch, she'd come back with accusations of racism. "You're very intimidated by black women, right?" she asked one. "Try to contain your prejudice." Omarosa's antics started a debate among several female journalists about whether she could legitimately be labeled a bitch. When she left the show, Omarosa claimed the footage was intentionally edited to portray her as a racist caricature: "Historically, African Americans have been portrayed negatively on reality television… They are trying to say that this is representative of our people."
Mark Lambrecht on The Mole, Season 5
Paul knew Craig was the mole from the beginning of the season, but Mark was never sure. He split his quiz answers with his close ally Clay just to stay on the show and clinged obsessively to the game journal where he'd written messages to his wife. When the other players played a trick and burned the journals, where players keep clues about the mole, Mark flipped out. He eventually guessed the mole and won despite most viewers feeling Paul, who regularly aced the challenges, was the better player.
Robin on Top Chef: Las Vegas, Season 6
Seattle chef Robin Leventhal trailed the pack for her entire run on Top Chef: Las Vegas and was so desperate to turn things around that the other contestants and viewers ended up hating her. When crowd favorite Mattin Noblia was narrowly eliminated instead, the other chefs wore his trademark red scarf to express their disdain for Leventhal. After she was finally booted, Leventhal vacillated between self-pity and introspection. She said she "sabotaged herself" because she was competing against much better chefs, but also blamed the group for making her a " scapegoat."
Wendy Pepper on Project Runway, Season 1
Forty-one-year-old Wendy Pepper was the first Project Runway contestant viewers loved to hate. They were as turned off by Pepper's manipulative tendencies as her fellow contestants. (One of the other designers defaced a drawing her daughter made, and Jay McCarroll, the eventual winner, called her a "ruthless bitch.") Though one of her initial designs, a dress for Banana Republic, was successful, Pepper settled into a rut of cranking out " matronly outfits" and shoes that made Tim Gunn shake his head. No one was quite sure how Pepper made it to the bitter end, except that the show's producers loved the drama she provoked.