Friday List: Wisconsin’s top forays into reality TV


    The Friday List is a recurring feature in which we jog memories, spark thoughts and perhaps generate debate in one of the grandest formats devised by man … the almighty list. Are we missing something? Are we dead wrong? Offer your thoughts on the list du jour by heading to the Valley Review’s Twitter or Facebook pages.

    Danny Gokey, a favorite son of Milwaukee, will make a homecoming on Saturday as he takes the stage at Lifest in Oshkosh. A decade ago, he had the Dairyland rooting in front of their television screens as he kept on keeping on during the eighth season of American Idol. In honor of Danny’s visit, Valley Review decided to take a look at top Wisconsin moments and personalities in the annals of reality television.

    Today, Sean Duffy is a conservative firebrand as a member of the House of Representatives. He serves Wisconsin’s seventh district. In 1997, he was part of a different house … one where he first learned what happens when people stop being polite … and start getting real. Duffy was on the Bostonian sixth season of MTV’s The Real World. He went on to participate in MTV’s Road Rules All-Stars and Real World/Road Rules Challenge.

    He may not be a Wisconsinite by birth, but we adopted him He’s ours. And in 2012, Donald Driver’s road to victory on Dancing With the Stars was just as much appointment television as his Sunday performances on the gridiron.

    Dave and Rachel Brown of Madison had an armchair cheering section as part of their reality television adventure that spanned 36,000 miles and five continents. The couple won the 20th season of The Amazing Race.

    The first season of Survivor was a game-changer as it came to reality television. It was the first show of the genre to become appointment viewing and fodder for water cooler conversation. Waukesha’s Susan Hawk was a major character of the competition and finished in fourth place. 

    Chris Kroeze took what Gokey did on Idol and went one step further on The Voice. The Barron singer and guitarist had Wisconsin with him as he rode to a second-place finish on the star-studded singing show.

    The Fox Valley’s biggest reality TV moment came in 2010 as Ty Pennington and crew rolled in.  They made dreams come true for the Arboleda family for an episode of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Fox Valley residents pitched in — or at least dropped by for a little in-person preview. Our region has never again said “move that bus” with such vigor.

    Wisconsin may not have a cool pawn shop. We may not have pickers or chopper builders. But damnit, we have … a blacksmith? Milwaukee Blacksmith, which follows the exploits of a business called Milwaukee Blacksmith, is a part of the History Channel’s reality lineup. The business, should you want to know, does blacksmithing and is located in Milwaukee.

    Wisconsin residents brought their weight loss journeys into our living rooms via television competitions. We watched on as Ryan Sawlsville of Appleton lost 217 pounds as part of Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition. We rooted for Greenville’s Kristin Steede as she competed on The Biggest Loser.