We here at saratoga living are big fans of reality TV. In fact, we watch so much of it that we wanted to see how many times Saratoga Springs and the Capital Region made appearances on all our favorite shows: American Idol, Survivor, The Real Housewives of New York City and more.
When ratings juggernaut American Idol was recently revived, fans across the country wondered if it would live up to the original. A few episodes into Season 2 of the relaunch, fans got their answer: an unequivocal “yes!” That’s when they were introduced to 17-year-old Madison VanDenburg, a Cohoes native, who consistently knocked it out of the park every time she hit the stage. Her mind-blowing range even gained her comparisons to Idol queen, superstar Kelly Clarkson. VanDenburg made it to the finals, finishing in third place.
At the tender age of 16, Sawyer Fredericks won Season 8 of The Voice, making him the youngest male winner in the show’s history. Growing up in Fultonville, NY, Fredericks found his sound while playing at Saratoga Springs venues such as Caffè Lena before hitting the national stage.
After a video of Steven Brundage getting out of a speeding ticket with a Rubik’s Cube magic trick went viral, the young magician, who started out performing on the streets of Saratoga, appeared on America’s Got Talent in 2016. After a magical run, Brundage was eliminated in the semifinals.
Over the course of Survivor’s nearly two decades(!) on CBS, countless contestants have fought for the title of “Sole Survivor” and its $1 million prize purse. One of them was Voorheesville native Jessica Blain-Lewis, the Street Crimes Unit Bureau Chief at the Albany County District Attorney’s Office, who appeared on Season 33. Blain-Lewis made it to Day 30, only to be eliminated, not by being voted off the island—but for choosing the one black rock in a bag full of white ones.
Celebrity chef Bobby Flay loves Saratoga—especially our racetrack. So it’s no surprise that he brought his Food Network show, Beat Bobby Flay, to the Spa City in its first season. At Saratoga Race Course itself, Flay took on Hattie’s Chef Jasper Alexander in a fried chicken throwdown, only to be bested by the Saratoga Springs restaurateur.
One of MTV’s more creative reality dating series, Are You The One?, incentivizes its 22 cast members (11 men, 11 women) with a major cash prize—that has an even bigger catch. If all 22 lovers can find their predetermined match, they all get to split a $1 million prize. Burnt Hills native Brett Ferri appeared on Season 7, and while Ferri did find “the one” on the show, their relationship fizzled IRL.
These housewives are the very definition of Manhattan socialites: wealthy, well-connected and glamorous…but not without a slew of issues and ongoing drama. One such example is the irreverent Sonja Morgan, an Albany native, who’s certainly made her mark on NYC’s high society since her Season 3 debut in 2010.
Bravo’s Summer House is one of the network’s newer shows, featuring a group of young professional Manhattanites escaping the city and heading out to Montauk for the summer and all the implied debauchery. Paige DeSorbo, who works in the fashion industry in Gotham and joined the sexy cast in its third season, is a proud Albany native.