Whenever we find ourselves invested in a reality competition show, we run the risk of being disappointed. I’m not just talking about the disappointment that the show will turn out to be a huge waste of time (we sort of sign up for that when it comes to any reality TV show) but more that the winner won’t be the person (or team) we were hoping would make it to the end.

Fellow Blend Television writer Steve West and I were discussing some of our favorite reality competition shows and we came to realize that 2008 offered a number of truly satisfying seasons, thanks to the right man, woman or team actually winning.

Here are our top five choices for best reality show winners of 2008 in no particular order:

Dan Gheesling - Big Brother Season 10 Winner -
Dan Gheesling is what Big Brother is all about. The Catholic school teacher went into the BB house last summer ready to play. He avoided drama whenever possible, manipulated houseguests and even when the America’s Player challenge succeeded in throwing a huge target on his back, he found a way around it all while managing to uphold the kind of character one might hope to see from a (parochial school) teacher. They knew they probably shouldn’t trust him, yet each week he managed to squeak by. In the end, even the people who blamed him for their eviction couldn’t not vote for him to win. Dan got it done. Best BB winner since Will Kirby.

Honorable Mention: Memphis Garrett. The Boogie to Dan’s Will, Memphis didn’t exactly ride Dan’s coattails to the final two. He played his part and definitely deserved second place. Viva La Renegades!

Stephanie Izard - Top Chef Chicago Winner –
Forget that she’s the first female winner of Top Chef. That didn’t matter when she battled the equally talented and accomplished Richard Blais in the season 4 finale. Stephanie Izard, fan favorite and damn great chef, won Top Chef by consistently rising to the challenges set forth. She took top honors in 4 of the 14 Elimination Challenges, and throughout the season always kept her cool. Oh of course she wasn’t as scandalous as Lisa, who probably got more of a bad rap than was deserved. But in a genre where sensationalism sells I am whole heartedly behind Stephanie, who proved that it takes talent to win Top Chef.

Joshua Allen - So You Think You Can Dance? Season 4 Winner –
Between the affable smile, aw shucks attitude, and amazing ability to pick up new choreography it was no wonder America chose Josh as their favorite dancer in 2008. In a season where untrained talent shined Josh stepped up and made every moment on stage joyful. Not only was he stepping up his own natural talent, but he was consistently a great partner. It wasn’t just about getting his own steps down, but how to make any partner look the best they could alongside him. Twitch only loses out by a hair because it was just as often his partner that made him great as it was him. Josh was always the consummate leader and partner when on the stage.

Honorable Mention: - Katee – In a lame almost-twist by the judges, Katee almost didn’t make it to the finals but they inevitably let her through and she proved that she belonged there each week.

Nick and Starr Spangler - The Amazing Race Season 11 Winners-
Sure, Ken and Tina gave everyone a run for their money earlier in the season but Nick and Starr pulled up into the lead later on and plowed through the competition each week, often arriving at the pit-stop first. While their inevitable win was a bit on the predictable side, the two siblings were decidedly likable. They managed to not be cocky while at the same time, rarely let the other strong competitors intimidate them.

Honorable Mention: Dan and Andrew (the frat guys) for somehow managing to stumble to third place, despite struggling through a lot of the challenges. These two were good for a laugh, especially when they had to go to the airport wearing hotel slippers after losing their shoes.

David Cook - American Idol Season 7 Winner -
For me, David Cook winning American Idol almost made up for Chris Daughtry’s early departure in his season. The David vs. David battle that closed out the season made this year’s Idol stand out among some of the other seasons. And for the first time since the series’ debut, the rocker actually made it to the end and thanks to Cook’s amazing vocals, not to mention good looks and great presence on camera, America came through and voted him the winner.

Honorable Mention: David Archuleta has to get credit too. The kid really held his own, proving that even if you’re a gawky teenager, you can still get up on stage and blow away more seasoned performers if you’ve got a good voice and that dopey-shy –adorable thing going on.

Click here to check out more of Cinema Blend’s Best of 2008 features.

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