Two brand-new reality series debut tonight, while another enters its ninth season.
The most anticipated debut of the evening–and of the season, really–is CBS’ Kid Nation, which kicks off at 8 p.m. ET. The show follows 40 kids who work to form their own society without any adults. It’s been controversial: Parents complained, labor investigators investigated, the contract was dissected, unions objected, and critics were kept away. The last time CBS had this kind of controversy and discussion for a series, after announcing Survivor Cook Islands‘ race-war twist, the discussion in the media did not lead to higher ratings. Executive producer Tom Forman told USA TODAY, “It’s not the kind of publicity you wanted. Horrible things were written about the show, about the parents, about me personally that are just untrue. My hope is people watch and see that it was a pretty amazing experience and a very good show.”
Also at 8, 13 girls will become Tyra’s temporary wards on America’s Next Top Model 9. During this season, which has a futuristic theme, Tyra will teach them about the modeling industry before moving on to the next group next season. The series starts tonight with the girls going on a cruise for their first photo shoot.
At 9, FOX brings its summer star Gordon Ramsay back for another reality show, Kitchen Nightmares, which is modeled after a show in the UK that can be seen on BBC America. For the show, Gordon visit American restaurants that are in trouble, and works to turn things around, often by screaming at them but also by buying them new things and helping to rework their menus. I’ve watched the first episode, and it’s tragically different from the UK version; the US version dumps Ramsay’s intimate narration for a generic male voice, and also focuses so much on dramatic moments that the real arc of the restaurant’s transformation is left to the narrator to explain. One minute everything sucks; the next it’s better.