Survivor Panama debuts tonight

Survivor returns to some very familiar islands tonight when Survivor Panama debuts on CBS at 8 p.m. ET.

Although we’ve seen the exact same locations in two previous editions of the show, the game has changed for this season. Besides the initial tribal split, which for the first time divides the castaways into four groups of four, there’s also Exile Island, where one person will be banished each week. But on that island, they’ll be able to hunt for an immunity idol, which will give the idol holder crazy amounts of power. Together, those two twists have the potential to really change the game for the first time in its 12-season history.

Although the show has aired 11 seasons in less than six years, its still the most popular reality show besides American Idol. The Chicago Tribune’s Maureen Ryan asks a bunch of people, “Why do we still watch ‘Survivor’?” Executive producer Tom Shelly says its because producers “are really letting people tell their own stories. They’re in charge of their own fate. … Watching real people under pressure, I believe, is fascinating to us. We can all identify with that.”

Survivor Panama: Exile Island [CBS]

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.

A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.