This week: Two shows on Oprah’s new network, plus Teen Mom, Gold Rush return

It’s 2011 and a bunch of new reality shows kicked off this week, and even more new and returning series come our way during the next few weeks, ranging from American Idol and its big changes and new judges to Mike Tyson’s surprising pigeon racing series.

So far this year, we’ve learned the identities of Biggest Loser’s mystery trainers, even though the show won’t reveal them yet, and were introduced to Paula Abdul’s new show, which was a disaster–as was my interview with Survivor executive producer Mark Burnett, who told me I ask stupid questions.

Here’s a look at what was popular in the reality world last week, and what reality TV to look out for next week.

The Past: last week’s most-read stories

  1. Brett Hoebel and Cara Castronova: Biggest Loser’s still-a-mystery trainers?
  2. Leif Garrett says Celebrity Rehab producers asked him to use when he was sober
  3. Chris Lambton explains why he rejected The Bachelor
  4. Winter 2011 reality TV debut schedule
  5. Camille Grammer out of Real Housewives
  6. Insulting copycat Live to Dance needs to die

The Forward: what to watch this week

  • Friday, Jan. 7
    Tonight, Oprah Winfrey’s new network OWN, which took over Discovery Health, debuts two new reality series. First, Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes [OWN, 8 p.m.] is exactly what it sounds like, as cameras followed Oprah and her staff during her final season. Next comes a competition produced by Mark Burnett (who recently ruined Design Star) that will give its winner their own OWN show; it’s called Your OWN Show: Oprah’s Search for the Next TV Star [OWN, 9 p.m.].

    Also tonight, Gold Rush [Discovery, 10 p.m.] returns after a brief break; it’s Discovery’s most-popular show since Deadliest Catch, and follows a group of men and their families who go to Alaska to mine for gold. And Confessions: Animal Hoarding [Animal Planet, 9 p.m.] airs two episodes that follow up on previous featured hoarders, while two other cable series return: Say Yes to the Dress [TLC, 9 p.m.] and Four Weddings [TLC, 10 p.m.].

  • Sunday, Jan. 9
    Sunday brings the end of Sarah Palin’s Alaska, which airs two back-to-back episodes [TLC, 8 p.m.], and the start of Alaska State Troopers, which profiles law enforcement officers [National Geographic Channel, 9 p.m.]. If Alaska isn’t for you, try infestations of bed bugs, rats, scorpions, mice, roaches, spiders, raccoons, and more: Infested [Animal Planet, 8 to 11 p.m.] is a three-hour mini-series about “real-life horror stories of ordinary people plagued by frighteningly extraordinary infestations,” according to the network.
  • Monday, Jan. 10
    While Hoarders ends its third and outstanding season [A&E, 10 p.m.], a few shows return tonight: Bad Girls Club [Oxygen, 9 p.m.] and You’re Cut Off! [VH1, 9 p.m.] Later, The X Life [VH1, 10 p.m.] is a sort of Real Housewives, but it follows extreme athletes and their significant others. Also tonight, new CNN talk show host Piers Morgan interviews Susan Boyle as a different network airs an episode of his British series Piers Morgan’s Life Stories [TV Guide Channel, 8 p.m.].
  • Tuesday, Jan. 11
    Teen Mom returns for a third season [MTV, 10 p.m.], and follows those who were pregnant on 16 and Pregnant‘s second season: Chelsea, Jenelle, Kailyn, and Leah. And in Pipe Dream [Golf Channel, 9:30 p.m.], cameras follow pro golfer Mark Burk as he works to restart his career after being homeless. Earlier, Millionaire Matchmaker ends its fourth season [Bravo, 9 p.m.] while on Dirty Jobs, Mike Rowe works as a rum distiller [Discovery, 9 p.m.], which sounds more fun than dirty.
  • Wednesday, Jan. 12
    Live to Dance airs its first live episode [CBS, 8 p.m.] and gets its final chance to redeem itself, and the Top Chef judges get another chance to redeem themselves in the eyes of fans who are mad they didn’t eliminate Jamie, a decision the Top Chef judges defend. This week, the chefs will go to the beach to catch and then cook fish.
  • Thursday, Jan. 13
    Producer Arnold Shapiro brings his Oscar- and Emmy-winning documentary back to TV with Beyond Scared Straight [A&E, 10 p.m.], a series that follows “inmate-run intervention programs in men’s and women’s prisons across the country” that were inspired by the original documentary. On a lighter note, Wipeout [ABC, 8 p.m.] continues its new winter-themed winter season with lots of icy and holiday-themed wipeouts.

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.