Top Chef spin-off gets new name, host; hit reality shows with black audiences ignored; NatGeo shake-up

Our semi-regular round-up of stories you may have missed:

  • The top executives at National Geographic’s U.S. channels, Howard T. Owens and David Lyle, are unexpectedly leaving. The channels’ marketing executive, Courteney Monroe, takes over as CEO, and 21st Century Fox’s David Hill becomes chair of the U.S. channels. The Hollywood Reporter’s analysis says last year “ratings surged to 12-year highs” but “growth stalled, and no truly viable unscripted hit has been produced.” (Uh, Brain Games?) But Deadline notes that the channels’ high ratings following the executives’ “makes the executive housecleaning puzzling” but “follows speculation about a discord between Hill and NGC’s leadership team of Lyle and Owens who turned the network around in the past three years.” Variety confirms that by reporting “Lyle and Owens at times clashed with execs on the Nat Geo Society side.”
  • Last weekend’s edition of The Hollywood Reporter magazine explores Race and Reality: The Quiet Success of the Black Unscripted Boom, says that it’s “one of the biggest trends in television” that reality series with mostly black cast members–such as The Real Housewives of Atlanta and Basketball Wives–are hits but their networks don’t mention that they have largely black audiences, perhaps because “there long has been a disparity between advertising revenue for white viewers — black audiences still command smaller rates for networks.”
  • Bravo announced last week that its summer series Top Chef Extreme will be retitled Top Chef Duels and hosted and judged by Curtis Stone. Of course it will. And that significantly reduces my interest in the show. I do not understand the obsession with him at Bravo; he was perfectly likable on Celebrity Apprentice but is grating as a host/judge, inserting himself way too often on Top Chef Masters. The other judges are better: Gail Simmons appears to be the other permanent judge, with appearances by Wolfgang Puck, Hugh Acheson, and others.
  • If you want to make yourself sad, read all the other reality series Bravo is working on, such as Friends to Lovers?, Manzo’d with Children, and Euros of Hollywood.
  • Bravo’s Princesses: Long Island was quietly cancelled.
  • Piers Morgan’s cancelled show will be replaced by reality series and documentaries, including what essentially is the revival of Mike Rowe’s Dirty Jobs and what is essentially the revival of Lisa Ling’s cancelled OWN series Our America (the new show is “a gritty, breathtaking journey to far corners of America, immersing herself in sub-cultures that are unusual, bizarre and sometimes dangerous,” kind of like her old show). Other series include The Hunt with John Walsh, which “will tell stories of ongoing international criminal investigations in which the suspect is a fugitive at large.”
  • Jersey Shore production company 495 Productions, which was recently acquired by Fremantle, is the target of a class-action lawsuit filed by a former editor who claims 495 had “unfair business practices and saying they failed to pay for overtime work, violated minimum wage laws and acted improperly in other ways.”
  • The GLAAD Media Award for Outstanding Reality Program went to Fuse’s Big Freedia: Queen of Bounce.
  • So You Think You Can Dance host Cat Deely is starring in Hulu’s series Deadbeat; she told Emmy magazine, “I get to play a real baddie” but the switch to this kind of role “terrified me.”
  • The “surprising laid-back process” of auditioning for The Bachelor.
  • Bachelorette couple Trista and Ryan Sutter are among the reality star couples who will appear on WEtv’s Marriage Boot Camp: Reality Stars.
  • The trailer for Lifetime’s upcoming True Tori “looks uncomfortably real,” which is a surprise after all the scripted crap that Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott produced for Oxygen.
  • Middletown, New Jersey, is “discussing requiring TV and movie crews to obtain film permits because of the explosion of reality TV home-rebuilding shows since superstorm Sandy,” The Asbury Park Press reports. Jersey Shore The Situation’s new show The Sorrentinos will film in the town soon, though officials said this new ordinance is unrelated.
  • Why Neil deGrasse Tyson was selected to host Fox and National Geographic’s COSMOS: A Spacetime Odyssey.
  • Time suggests Five Pop Culture Documentaries That Hollywood Should Make
  • The Film Society of Lincoln Center’s Art of the Real is an annual “nonfiction showcase” that this year “features new work from around the world alongside retrospective selections by both known and unjustly forgotten filmmakers. It is a platform for filmmakers and artists who have given us a wider view of nonfiction cinema and at the same time brought the form full circle, back to its early, boundary-pushing days.” The New Yorker describes it as “extraordinary” and discusses its evidence that “documentaries have always been fake.”
  • Lindsay Lohan told David Letterman that her OWN show Lindsay was “a really interesting experience” and but said things were “taken out of context,” and said “I don’t have control of the editing.”
  • There’s a new The X Factor knock-off coming (HA) called The Sex Factor, which calls itself “a reality competition where eight guys and eight girls will compete for porn stardom and a ONE MILLION DOLLAR PRIZE. None of the sixteen contestants have been filmed before and America will vote to decide the winners.” It’ll be hosted by Duke University porn star Belle Knox.
  • An injury suffered by the person behind a “reality pub” in Buffalo, NY, means that it won’t open for now. The bar, Fat Augie’s, is a “bar and live music venue that had planned to film willing employees, patrons and performers for a Y
    ouTube reality show,” The Buffalo News reports.
  • Pawn Stars Chumlee, aka Austin Russell, who did not die last month, but has lost 75 pounds.
  • This short film, “An & Ria’s First flight,” follows two 70-something women who take their first flight. (You may have seen Ria on a roller coaster.) It’s sponsored by Vodafone–hence all the product integration, never mind the private jet–but it’s incredibly moving for an advertisement.
  • Frankie leads Big Brother's parade of delusion

    Frankie on Big Brother

    Heading into the finale, the delusion continues, with a re-appearance by evicted Frankie.

    Related: The unwatchable cast of Fox's Utopia keeps yelling and screaming.


    Shark Tank is getting a spin-off

    Shark Tank

    Companies that get deals on the show will be followed for this new spin-off.

    Also: Before the show began, Shark Barbara Corcoran was cast and then replaced--but then she sent this amazing e-mail and won the job.

    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.