Bravo continues to use docusoap reality series to explore different industries tonight when it debuts Tabloid Wars at 9 p.m. ET. The series follows journalists at The New York Daily News, the slightly less sensational of New York’s two major tabloid newspapers, as they do their jobs. More correctly, it followed them one year ago, so the news is kind of old news, including the fact that the editor, Michael Cooke, left the paper after filming ended.
The cast members include gossip columnists Joanna Molloy and George Rush and reporter Kerry Burke, who most reviewers agree is the star of the show. In yesterday’s paper, Burke wrote about the experience of being filmed, and writes that “the crew and I worked out an unspoken relationship. They knew when to move in and when to back off. They got their shots and I got my stories.” He adds that it was “grueling” and promises that “[n]othing was scripted or set up.”
As one of the few reality shows about the media, which generally treats reality series with disdain until they’re too huge to ignore, one would imagine that reviews would either be seething with jealousy or ecstatic. Instead, most critics seem to be upset that the show isn’t more sensational.
The New York Times’ Alessandra Stanley says the show “lingers on the human decency hidden behind gruff exteriors and thick New York and Fleet Street accents.” The Los Angeles Times’ Paul Brownfield notes that “it’s thin on self-dramatization. You know this is an actual newspaper because everybody’s slightly dead-eyed.”
Variety’s Brian Lowry says “hair salons and fitness gurus tend to be a little more camera-friendly than newspaper grunts,” because “the show itself proves strangely lifeless, with no trace of internal politics or squabbling.” As a result, according to the Boston Herald’s Mark A. Perigard, the show probably won’t “appeal to a mainstream audience.”
That may not be the case, however, particularly since the farther away a newspaper is located from LA and New York, the more likely it seems that the TV critic liked the show. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Joanne Weintraub calls it an “ingeniously directed, thoroughly winning series.” The Toledo Blade’s Mike Kelly says it’s “a lively documentary,” and Carey Darling of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram says the series “provides an engaging look into how a major newspaper … goes about its work.”