Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard:Ray Mickshaw
Ken Tucker
August 21, 2003 AT 04:00 AM EDT

What was last season’s best reality-TV moment?

If a gun were pressed to your head — excuse the violent cliché, but this is the sort of subject that inspires such images — what would you say is the best reality-TV moment in recent memory? (I almost wrote ”history,” as though we were dealing with something weighty and/or consequential. Tee-hee.)

Would it have been the heart-stopping moment Trista chose Ryan over Charlie on ”The Bachlorette”? Nah: Charlie’s heart may have stopped, but I knew the hard-as-her-nails girl was soft on Ryan.

Was it — to stay ”Bachelor”-ish for a sec — the moment when that emotionally distraught young woman (you won’t catch me using the word ”psycho”) Christi wept over Aaron’s rejection on ”The Bachelor 2”? Oh, please.

How ’bout that literally dark moment when Evan and Sarah were caught making rude grunting noises on ”Joe Millionaire”? Anyone remember Evan and ”Joe Millionaire”? Anyone?

Ooh, ooh — I know: How about when Jenna and Heidi stripped down to their nothings for a lump of peanut butter on ”Survivor: The Amazon”? Again, naw: Those Playboy-posin’ gals were just doin’ what comes naturally.

No, I think, as much as I dislike the kind of treacle-ballad music favored on ”American Idol,” the best reality-show moment of the past year had to have been when Ruben bested Clay for the right to American idolotry. Right up to the end, I thought the pencil-neck geek with the red-eraser hair was going to tally more votes than the Big Love Teddy Bear, so it was gratifying to see Ruben take the prize. Remind me again, though: What is the prize? The chance to compete on the pop charts with Kelly Clarkson? Let’s hope Ruben can parlay his ”moment” into something longer lasting.

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