Shows I am excited to watch this summer: The Hero, Top Shot, Hunger Games, more

There are an absurd number of reality shows airing this summer, both new and returning. Many are the new cable standard: cheap and overly produced/faked, which is disappointing. But there are signs of hope, and by that I mean reality and entertainment combined.

That starts with Brooklyn DA, which airs tonight on CBS but is notably produced by CBS News and the 48 Hours team. In other words, it’s a reality series not produced by CBS’ entertainment division. Meanwhile, I’m interested to see what CBS does with the hit The Great British Bake-Off, retitled as The American Baking Competition.

But tomorrow night, I’ll be most excited for Top Shot. Although it’s going with an all-star format–very early in its young life, and thus it’s a little worrisome–the show has been off the air for a year, so I’m just anxious to see it again. Its production company, Pilgrim Studios, is also behind Top Hooker, the Animal Planet fishing competition (no prostitutes, alas) that I’ll definitely be watching. I care less about fishing than I care about guns, but as the result of Top Shot, I trust them to make it interesting to non-fish people like me, just like they’ve made engineering interesting on The Big Brain Theory.

I’m somewhat concerned about Food Network Star (because of changes made to last-season’s winning format) and and HGTV Star (formerly Design Star, because they’ve “retooled” the show but kept Vern and Genevieve, who I like on other shows but are consistently awful here). I also hope Face Off can come out of its somewhat predictable rut. Different types of makeup, please!

Besides The Pitch, an imperfect but compelling and well-produced series, there are several documentary-style shows that I hope can bring more reality to reality TV. Discovery will drop two naked strangers off with nothing and ask them to survive for 21 days on Naked and Afraid, while Cooking Channel will follow students at the Louisiana Culinary Institute for Freshmen Class. I’m still intrigued by Catfish, even though it lied to its viewers and is just weird.

My obsession with makeover shows will have me watching Bar Rescue in July and Hotel Impossible in August; the latter has grown on me and is less gratingly edited and contrived than other similar shows, while I hope Jon Taffer and company pull back a little because the most recent episodes were on the verge of becoming too Kitchen Nightmares.

On The CW–yes, it still exists–we’ll get a revival of Whose Line is it Anyway, which is not exactly reality TV by my definition but is super fun, and it features the original cast except for Drew Carey. They’ll also give us Capture, a show that’s basically The Hunger Games: set in a wilderness arena, 12 teams of two people will compete for $250,000 by looking for resources and killing–I mean, capturing–each other. This will all come down to execution, and since it’s on the typically low-rent CW I’m not overly optimistic.

I won’t say anything about Big Brother because I don’t need to start with the self-loathing until it actually debuts, but its producers have created another show, USA’s Summer Camp, a competition series set at summer camp featuring people who long ago went to actual camps.

There are a string of new competitions that’ll at least get an episode or two from me, starting with TNT’s 72 Hours, which strands three teams of three strangers to search for cash (unlike Discovery’s show, they have clothes and water), and The Hero, hosted by The Rock, I mean Dwayne Johnson, which has an amazing trailer (below). There’s also ABC’s Whodunnit?, which I’m hoping will be like the original Mole but could turn out to be more like the flat revived version of The Mole.

Review: Married at First Sight

Marriage At First Sight

In an era of Tinder and Grindr, instant acceptance or dismissal of a potential partner, or instant sex with another body, Married at First Sight offers the thrill of watching strangers deal with the very basics of relationships.

Beyond the headline-grabbing premise, the series has turned out to be a stripped-down, authentic exploration of something very interesting. Read the full review.

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.