Lifetime trolls the Internet with its new reality shows

Lifetime announced four new reality series on Wednesday, programs that its general manager Rob Sharenow said have “larger-than-life characters and never-before-seen worlds” and “will push our boundaries and strengthen our position as a leader in the unscripted space.”

They also appear to be perfectly designed to troll the Internet, baiting people into responding before they ever see a single frame (success!). Sharenow’s press release quote somewhat acknowledged this, saying “unscripted is playing an important role in placing Lifetime in the cultural zeitgeist.” He also said they “continue to raise the bar.”

The shows cover race, religion, and childbirth, all of which get the Internet in a frothy tizzy. In addition, there are shows about people with ugly teeth, ugly models, and people who mangle other people’s hair and make them ugly, because creating a false sense of superiority is one thing the Internet and reality TV do well.

In fairness to Lifetime, they’ve also announced one show that sounds totally normal, Threads, which is Chopped for fashion with Christian Siriano as a judge.

Here are the other shows the network announced, with some analysis/premature overreaction, because that’s what I think they want from us:

Born in the Wild, a show from Matador that I thought should have been titled “Naked and Afraid of My Parents’ Decision-Making,” because it’s about expectant mothers squeezing out their kids in nature without any medical attention. This is not a home birth with a midwife; this is squatting in nature, and that’s why Lifetime is already defending it by basically saying that, although these babies will be born in nature, there will be medical staff there and hospitals nearby. Lifetime’s version:

“For expecting mothers and fathers in their third trimester of pregnancy, things couldn’t get much wilder. From the mood swings and false alarms to the crazy food cravings, learning to expect the unexpected becomes a way of life in the final days leading up to birth. But what happens when the craziest experience of a woman’s life becomes truly wild, and soon-to-be parents decide to take on an unassisted birth in the outdoors? Born in the Wild will document the journeys of young, expectant parents who have chosen to give birth ‘in the wild.’”

Girlfriend Intervention, which is from World of Wonder and could also be called “African American Eye for the White Girl,” because it’s Queer Eye for the Straight Guy except with black women helping white women. Lifetime’s version, which actually uses the phrase “white sister” but otherwise avoids race except in probably coded language:

“Girlfriend Intervention stars four wise, poised and stylish African American women, who, in each episode, help a white sister seeking a complete makeover to restore her confidence and inner glow. Making over their wardrobes, beauty routines, homes and minds, they teach these women how to embrace and celebrate their lives, speak their mind, lighten up and love themselves again. Our four experts carry themselves with a great deal of pride, style and, most importantly, self-confidence. Where does it come from and how can it be obtained? Who better to teach a woman how to get that sparkle in her eye and spring back in her step? Each week, Girlfriend Intervention follows a woman whose personal space and self-esteem are in desperate need of a major makeover and a life-giving dose of diva inspiration. Our hosts, beauty pro Tracy Balan, home and sanctuary guru Nikki Chu, style and fashion maven Tiffiny Dixon and soul coach Tanisha Thomas, help these women break it down and tell it like it is.”

Kosher Soul, which is from Ish Entertainment and should have been titled “Differences Are So Funny LOLZ,” because it’s about a black stylist/comedian from the south who marries a Jewish celebrity stylist from New York City. Lifetime’s version:

“This is the swirl like you’ve never seen it before. Celebrity stylist, comedian, sometime performer and reformed man about town O’Neal McKnight is getting married to fellow celebrity fashion stylist Miriam Sternoff, who plays grown-up to his arrested adolescent. O’Neal is African American, from a very rural part of the south; Miriam is Jewish, from the northwest by way of upper-middle-class New York City; and her mom, who strikes terror into O’Neal’s heart, is insistent that their children be raised Jewish. So O’Neal, who had not always been the best boyfriend to Miriam back in the day, is converting in an effort to show he’s serious about marriage and his wife’s belief system. O’Neal and Miriam, and their cosmopolitan circle of Los Angeles friends, spare no sacred cow as they explore and poke fun at the differences in their cultures. We’ll watch emotions run high as Miriam’s family wonders how authentic O’Neal’s conversion is, and these two completely different people try to form a union and live as one. Will their love be able to survive?”

Smile, from 11th Street Productions, which is one of those shows where producers trade free services (here, cosmetic surgery) for public humiliation, and where people watch to freely gawk and/or feel better about themselves. Lifetime’s description:

“Imagine having teeth so damaged that you can’t smile. Imagine not dating, working or even leaving the house because of the horrid state of your teeth. For some Americans, this is their shocking reality, and this series explores what happens when they are offered the chance of a lifetime — the chance to smile. Smile is a bold, new hour-long series that documents the emotional and psychological journeys of people attempting to fix their lives by fixing their teeth.”

Ugly Models, another show about ugly people from Bunim-Murray, though unlike Bad Girls Club and Real World, these people aren’t just ugly on the inside. Actually, it’s about a modeling agency in the UK that’s coming to the US that is called “Ugly Models.” The title of the agency and show seems to be mostly about shock value, since their mission–to be “the leaders in character modelling” with models who “have true character”–seems pretty decent. Lifetime’s description:

“From executive producers rock icon Gene Simmons, Jon Murray, Jeff Jenkins and Gil Goldschein, the workplace docu-series Ugly Models will chronicle the American expansion of the U.K.-based modeling outfit, which prides itself on being the most successful and one-of-a-kind agency in the world representing character models with unique and unusual looks. Having conquered England, now the company is ready to make a go of it on the other side of the pond, and this project will be there to document the process.”

Worst Stylist Ever, a Chopped-style competition between four terrible hair stylists. The real question is whether or not they’ll work on real people, and why people would volunteer to have their hair done by terrible stylists. But, incompetent people make for terrific television. Lifetime’s version:Worst Stylist Ever is a competition-reality show that will redefine the term ‘bad hair day.’ Each self-contained episode of this series will feature four of the world’s most inadequate hair stylists as they are put through a series of challenges to determine the best of the worst. At stake each week is a scholarship to a prestigious beauty school and perhaps the opportunity to finally learn how to stop savaging women’s hair and have a chance at a career.”

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.