I basically hate the stuff that passes for "Reality TV" and further deny the genre's claim to its name. I will make an exception, though, and say that a few of the shows--here I'm thinking of "The Voice", "American Idol", "America's Got Talent", "So You Think You Can Dance"--serve a useful purpose. They give a chance to those many wannabees out there who have some talent and want to make their bid for fame, fortune, and celebrity. You can criticize the shows' entertainment value, or the sanity of the contestants' ambition, but you cannot deny the emotion is out there, among the wannabes, or among the public to see these amateurs put it all out there for us to see.
I call it the "Democratization of the Big Break", as it channels the ambition of those who, once upon a time, would hang around in drug stores in Hollywood waiting to be discovered. Now, they are funneled into tryouts, into review by professionals (I would suggest Nicki Minaj is a pro, even if she never would have made it through this sort of gauntlet), and then into the public judgment by the masses: do they get the break, or does some other worthy aspirant?
The only one of them that I've really given any time to watching, just because my wife and daughter follow it, is "The Voice". I hate a lot of things about the format, and in particular the overweighting of people's willingness to choose by buying iTunes (free plug for Apple), but I have to admit that the "coaches" do a good job of selecting talented contestants. As for the contestants themselves, though, the form of the competition is a cruel tease: one winner, lots of high-quality losers, and uncertain rewards even for the winner. Finally, though, I have to agree with Adam Levine's awkward aside: "I hate this country". The voters--taken as a whole--are an ass, with a pronounced preference for corny hick music. Take his comment any way you want--and he, of course, had to walk it back--he was right.