Top Hooker reels in non-anglers, Food Network Star deflates

Two competitions kicked off last night, a brand-new competition and a reboot of an old favorite. Here are my quick responses to both episodes:

Animal Planet’s competition Top Hooker started strong: it was a great first episode. While I’m sure fishing purists–including the ones on the show–were frustrated by the lack of actual fishing until the final challenge, the challenges the producers created were strong and interesting. It’s also well-cast, with a pretty diverse array of characters. I was distracted that the editors used music previously used by SyFy’s Face Off, and literally starting the episode with someone saying “I’m not here to make to make friends” almost lost me, but I’m in to see where this goes.

Meanwhile, Food Network Star debuted its new format, and alas, it made the show a lot less interesting than last season. The mentors worked with the contestants, but as a group, and also joined in judging decisions with Bob and Susie. There was a good amount of Bob and Susie, but without teams, there seemed to be a lack of investment in the pretty weak cast members. I did like the addition of the live focus group, whose laughter or blank stares were a good stand-in for viewers’ responses. It’s hard to imagine any of the cast members having their own show at this point. I hope it picks up, but I’m not hopeful.

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.