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Top 10 Worst reality series ever (broadcast division)

CBS' upcoming Kid Nation is taking a lot of overblown heat lately, but it can't and won't compare to the worst of the worst under the reality show Big Top. This list includes only broadcast network eyesores. It also leaves out contestant-less, celebrity-in-the-title dung such as Chasing Farrah, Breaking Bonaduce and I'm With Busey. Still, it's a very fertile field, as you'll see.

10. The Benefactor (ABC, 2004) -- Sorry Cubes, but your $1 million giveaway (of ABC's money) pretty much played like a nickel-and-dime amateur hour. Gotta do more than play Jenga and cackle maniacally to keep viewers from switching to reruns of Benson. Still, ABC must have liked some of what they saw in Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. He'll be keeping his feet busy this fall on the network's fifth edition of Dancing with the Stars.

9. Joe Millionaire 2 (Fox, 2003) -- Fox struck it rich in the ratings with the first Joe Millionaire, in which a bevy of golddiggers got deceived into thinking that well-chiseled construction worker Evan Marriott was loaded. But the second version, set in Italy and starring Texas rodeo cowpoke David Smith, quickly turned into high-priced bull manure. European women supposedly unaware of the show's sucker play watched Smith ride toward their villa on an even handsomer stallion. Mama mia, that's a spicy hick with a lotta dough. But Smith's portrayal of an oil tycoon played flatter than Lubbock. And his conniving suitors proved to be too vacuous even for American audiences.

8. My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance (Fox, 2004) -- Imagine a fake groom who's coarser than John Belushi's "Bluto" Blutarsky in Animal House. Inflict him upon a mother and father of the bride who think their daughter is actually going to marry this lout. Then throw a bunch of money at everybody in the end after the fake groom reveals it was all a ruse that even the would-be bride didn't entirely understand. NBC tried much the same gambit last season with The Real Wedding Crashers, which was a colossal flop. Big Fat fared better in the ratings, prompting Fox to try an ill-fated sequel called My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss. Boil the titles down to Noxious and at least you have truth in advertising.

7. I Want to Be a Hilton (NBC, 2005) -- But why? Pre-dating Paris Hilton's more serious problems, this self-indulgent piffle starred matriarch Kathy Hilton as a dreamweaver intent on turning crude commoners into upper crust snobs. Fourteen way too awed supplicants were divided into Park and Madison teams before Kathy and her hoity toity minions instructed them in the fine arts of eating, dressing and behaving as though your excrement didn't stink. Rejects were dismissed with a wave of Kathy's hand and the tagline, "You're not on the list."

6. I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Outta Here! (ABC, 2003) -- The word "celebrity" has seldom been used more loosely than in this jungle-set hoot starring the likes of "Downtown" Julie Brown, Alana Stewart, "Stuttering" John Melendez, Nikki Schieler-Ziering, Robin Leach (who battled leaches along with the others), Bruce Jenner and eventual champ Cris Judd. The whole lot of 'em roughed it an Australian rain forest while competing for extra food and other creature comforts in the weekly "Bush Tucker Trial." Viewers decided whom to eliminate, with Leach the first to be sent packing. Before this career low point, he famously softened viewers with "champagne wishes and caviar dreams" on Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous.

5. The Littlest Groom (Fox, 2004) -- Sub-diminutive Glen Foster starred in this exploitive and demeaning search for true love amid a field of leggy beauties and women his own size. It mercifully lasted just two episodes, but the embarrassment stuck around a lot longer.

4. Chains of Love (UPN, 2001) -- NBC originally bought this knuckle-dragger but later punted it to a receptive UPN. Adapted from a Dutch dating show, Chains locked four women to a lord-and-master man, who eliminated them one by one, day by day. The series lasted just a month, and the "winner" received a measly 10,000 bucks. Maybe she used the money as a down payment on a brain transplant.

3. The Swan (Fox, 2004) -- "Winner" Rachel Love Fraser, pictured above, submitted to nipping, tucking, sucking and a "life coach" to be transformed from an alleged dumpy plain Jane to a stunning beauty. Each episode put two women through extreme makeovers before judges deemed one of them pretty enough to be a finalist in the show's climactic, sub-sickening beauty pageant. Two editions aired before Fox finally backed off. Fraser, the first Miss Swan, won $50 grand, a new car and a modeling contract. Few shows have had bigger ick factors.

2. Are You Hot? The Search for America's Sexiest People (ABC, 2003) -- That's judge Lorenzo Lamas above, dissecting a contestant's abs with his accusatory laser pointer. Rachel Hunter and a dude named Randolph Duke also were judges in this full-blown affront to human dignity. Howard Stern felt robbed, though, suing ABC and the producers for allegedly stealing one of his radio show's recurring features. The suit was dismissed, as was the show after a two-month run. Lamas went on to make classic movies such as 18 Fingers of Death! and Succubus: Hell Bent. CBS also allowed him to play a recurring character for two years on The Bold and the Beautiful. But only after he holstered his laser pistol.

1. Fear Factor (NBC, 2001-06) -- OK, maybe this seems a bit harsh, given the long-running popularity of the Peacock's skin-crawling gross-fest. But I'll rest my case on the show where contestants had to eat pig rectums to advance toward the show's weekly $50,000 grand prize. Further visual evidence is provided by Kelly Preston, John Travolta's wife, who participated in one of Fear Factor's celebrity editions . She's pictured above amid worms and a big scorpion or something perched on her forehead. Now maybe if that were Lorenzo Lamas . . .

Creepy host Joe Rogan enjoyed all of this way too much. So did ample portions of America, frankly. Fear Factor lowered the reality TV bar as no show has before or since. For that it gets the top spot. Take a deep bow and have a handful of chocolate-covered land slugs while doing so. Consider it just desserts.

Top 10 nationally known graduates of D-FW television

This is a tough list to shrink-wrap. So tough that D-FW television alumni such as Ashleigh Banfield, Craig James, Rene Syler, Bob Brown, Curt Menefee, Bill Macatee and Russ Mitchell didn't quite make the Top 10 cut despite gainful careers at the network level. Here's the bottom-to-top list of those who've made the biggest names for themselves at the national level after prepping in North Texas.

10. Paula Zahn (1978-79 at WFAA) -- Left Dallas more than a generation ago and sequentially has taken prominent jobs with ABC, CBS, Fox News Channel and CNN, where she hit the ground running on 9/11. But Zahn called it quits at CNN on Aug. 2 after the network hired Campbell Brown from NBC to take her early prime-time slot. At age 51, her high-profile, high-paying days may be over.

9. Verne Lundquist (1967-83 at WFAA) -- Became a household name in D-FW as Belo8's featured sports anchor, radio voice of the Dallas Cowboys and host of the legendary Bowling For Dollars. He's since been an all-purpose CBS Sports mainstay, equally adept at doing football, basketball and golf, where he manned a hole during Tiger Woods' fourth PGA championship.

8. Leeza Gibbons (1980-83 at WFAA) -- Co-hosted Belo8's version of the syndicated PM Magazine before vaulting to Entertainment Tonight as an anchor/correspondent. She's also hosted her own syndicated talk show, acted in a handful of feature films and was a contestant on the most recent edition of ABC's Dancing with the Stars.

7. Scott Pelley (1982-89 at WFAA) -- Seemingly born to be on camera, the telegenic former Belo8 street reporter quickly rose to prominence at CBS News and previously was a candidate to replace Dan Rather. He's now a 60 Minutes correspondent who may yet have his day in the CBS Evening News anchor chair if Katie Couric's ratings continue to flat-line.

6. Charlie Rose (1979-81 at KXAS) -- Hosted his own local talk show in the Phil Donahue mode at KXAS before taking a series of jobs at the national level. He's been a player at PBS since 1991, interviewing a succession of big-name movers, shakers and personalities. Questions sometimes tend to be verbose. But unlike Larry King, he's a stickler for preparation and research.

5. Karen Hughes (1977-84 at KXAS) -- Was Karen Parfitt during her reporting days at KXAS. Left the station to become a major player in Texas Republican politics in the mid-1980s before allying with George W. Bush during his successful run for the governorship. She followed Bush to the White House as a key advisor second in power only to Karl Rove. In 2004, Hughes' memoir, Ten Minutes From Normal, recounted her years as a high-level political operative.

4. Bill O'Reilly (1977 at WFAA) -- Had a brief stay at Belo8, where he admittedly clashed with both news executives and prominent anchor Tracy Rowlett. A long, winding career ensued before O'Reilly found his niche on the ground floor of Fox News Channel. The O'Reilly Factor long has been the network's most-watched program, with its host also authoring several bestselling books. Frequently lashes back at critics, most notably Al Franken and Keith Olbermann.

3. Sam Donaldson (1959 at KDFW, then KRLD) -- El Paso native worked briefly as mostly an off-camera announcer before moving onward and upward to become an ABC fixture and the most famous White House correspondent in the land during Ronald Reagan's presidency. Donaldson also had a long tenure on ABC's This Week Sunday morning program, where he still appears monthly. In 1987 he wrote the bestseller Hold On, Mr. President. And from 1999 to 2001, he hosted network TV's first regularly scheduled Web program during the relative infancy of the Internet.

2. Jim Lehrer (1970-73 at KERA) -- Helmed breakthrough Newsroom program at KERA after prepping in print with both The Dallas Morning News and The Dallas Times-Herald, where he became city editor. He moved to Washington, D.C. in 1973, teaming with Robert MacNeil to cover the Watergate hearings for public television. In 1975, the two started PBS' famed The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, with Lehrer flying solo after MacNeil left the program in 1995. Also has written a number of well-received books and moderated nine presidential debates.

1. Bob Schieffer (1967-69 at KXAS, then WBAP) -- Durable, affable and still a key CBS News contributor, Schieffer's long, high-profile career at the network peaked when he replaced Dan Rather in March 2005 as interim anchor of the CBS Evening News. He held that post until Aug. 31, 2006, leading the Evening News on a ratings comeback that eventually petered out when Katie Couric stepped in.

Schieffer continues to anchor Sunday morning's Face the Nation from Washington, D.C. An Austin native, he broke into journalism as a reporter for the The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, where he covered the Kennedy assassination and famously gave Lee Harvey Oswald's mother a ride to the Dallas police department. Has a journalism department named after him at Texas Christian University and in recent years wrote an autobiography titled This Just In: What I Couldn't Tell You On TV.