Bravo Aims to Make Emmy a Real Race

'Top Chef,' 'Project Runway' Go Up Against Four-Time Winner in Reality Competition

"The Amazing Race" has crossed the finish line first every year it has been nominated for the reality-competition program Emmy. That makes four statuettes in a row for series co-creator Bertram Van Munster, with the possibility of a fifth this year. But Bravo is double-teaming the CBS series with challenges from "Top Chef" and "Project Runway."

Mr. Van Munster sees each Emmy nod as a validation of all the hard work that goes into "Amazing Race." "It means we're still on the map as a serious contender, and to me and all of us in the business, it's very important," he said. "I think the academy and our colleagues recognize how complicated it is to do something like this. It takes a lot of experience and a lot of knowledge, and I think they also recognize that this is done with a lot of taste.

"It's extremely complex, but it's also very simple because Elise [Doganieri], co-creator of the series] and I go out and we lay out the entire route and every competition. We do everything except the things we can't predict.

"The appeal is that it's extremely relatable. We can all recognize ourselves, whether we're young or old. We can all relate traveling with our loved ones. I want to go left and my partner wants to go right. We all know what a nightmare it can be. It brings everything out in people and it's just hysterical," he added. "Editing is a very important part of it, but not in the sense that we say 'OK, let's make this look better.' The show is cut basically chronologically as it happens. There are no sound bites in there that don't belong in that moment. Exactly what you see is exactly what happens."

Bravo President Lauren Zalaznick isn't ready to concede the prize to "Amazing Race." She says, "The fact of the matter is we are the first cable network ever to be nominated in that category. First with 'Project Runway' and then this year with 'Top Chef,' we are the second and only cable network that has been nominated in that category."

Ms. Zalaznick said these two shows represent Bravo's broader mission. "Basically this year we came to a very crystal realization that our content, rather than being genre-based, is really organized around five content affinity groups: fashion, food, Design, beauty and pop culture. And within those content buckets, that's where we developed each kind of and every kind of content to support the content mission.

"If you think about it, the explosive growth of the new generation of Bravo was with the explosive growth of the show 'Queer Eye.' What did the fab five specialize in? Design, food, fashion, beauty and pop culture."

Ms. Zalaznick said "Project Runway" "came out of the gate slowly." But now, she says, it has grown to "unprecedented pop cultural success."

She continued, "'Top Chef' was a triumph because I knew the essence of Bravo is in what we captured in the spirit of competition and spirit of creative excellence around an everyday art -- the art of fashion, the art of food. And the biggest barrier to 'Top Chef's' success is, how can you judge it, you can't taste. Well, do you taste the food whenever you read a restaurant review? I don't think so. I think you want to go to the restaurant and order that food."

The other nominees in the reality competition category are Fox's "American Idol" and ABC's "Dancing With the Stars."

With more than a billion votes received throughout the contest, "American Idol" is the No. 1 show in America, but it's never a top vote-getter with Academy members.

"Dancing," hosted by Tom Bergeron and Samantha Harris, pairs celebrities with professional dancers in executing dance sequences for judges and viewers.

In the reality program category, Ms. Zalaznick is enthusiastic about "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List's" second nomination.

"Kathy Griffin is someone who deserves more than this moment in the sun," she said. "I like the fact that she's now having to challenge herself. How are you on the D-list with two A-list Emmy nominations? I like the fact that we've seen go from, 'Hey, this is what I do for a living, and I'll let you peek in for a second' to really seeing the flipside of a performer's life. And the most essential thing about the success of the series is that it's all grist for the mill. What you see is her life put through her professional sieve and turned out on the other side as this thing called comedy -- this thing called standup."

Ms. Griffin's show is up against:

  • "Antiques Roadshow" on PBS, hosted by Mark L. Walberg, which completed its 11th season touring the country appraising antiques and family treasures.

  • "Dog Whisperer With Cesar Millan," the National Geographic show featuring canine psychology expert Cesar Millan helping dog owners cope with their pets.

  • "Penn & Teller: Bullshit!" on Showtime, with the magicians using principles of magic and trickery, as well as hidden-camera sting operations, to smoke out nonsense peddlers and reveal how they operate.

  • "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" on ABC, with each self-contained episode featuring a race against time on a project involving a team of designers, contractors and several hundred workers who have just seven days to totally rebuild a house.

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