Reality TV to watch in August

August brings us a lot of reality television, including tonight’s return of Paradise Hotel–I mean, Bachelor Pad, er, Bachelor in Paradise–which has the potential to be an improved version of the Fox series.

Of course, there are other shows that just started, among them ABC’s The Quest, which I’ll implore you to watch Thursday at 8, in no small part because episode two is better than episode one, and cliffhangs into a great third episode. Broadcast TV needs more shows like this, and the dismal ratings and ABC’s treatment of it make me sad.

Anyway, among the returning shows (see the schedule for all reality TV debuts, now easily accessed from any page using the must-reads menu above) are several I’ll be checking out, either because they’re terrific returning series or because they seem like they have a lot of potential.

7 Deadly Sins, Showtime, Aug. 7, Thursdays at 11. I always root for a Morgan Spurlock show, because he’s an incredibly charismatic host who’s at his best when he’s participating. His CNN series Inside Man is hit-or-miss for me, especially when he’s participating but not really challenging the status quo. Anyway, in this preview for his new Showtime series, which looks like it will take advantage of its premium TV home, he says, “I always wanted to make a show that was very Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but all nonfiction, all true. … so much stranger than fiction.”

Hard Knocks, HBO, Aug. 5, Tuesdays at 10. I’ve previously written that this series is summer’s best real-time reality television, artfully produced and cinematic even though episodes are turned around immediately. Although the NFL can now force teams to appear, the Atlanta Falcons volunteered, and we’ll see what NFL Films’ behind-the-scenes access reveals starting tomorrow night.

4th and Loud, AMC, Aug. 12, Tuesdays at 9. KISS has a new arena football team, and the accompanying reality series could go the way of AMC’s fantastic The Pitch, documenting the team’s debut, or it could be DOA with too much of Gene Simmons in look-at-me mode. The trailer doesn’t say much, alas.

The Director’s Chair, El Rey Network, Wednesdays at 9. This series, on the new El Rey Network (which launched last year; Comcast agreed to create several minority-owned networks when it bought NBCUNiversal), is essentially just two episodes right now, though the second is divided into two parts. The first, which debuted last week, features director Robert Rodriguez talking with Guillermo del Toro; the second, airing Aug. 13 and Aug. 27, is Rodriguez talking to Quentin Tarantino. Smart and talented people talking about their craft: excellent.

Top Chef Duels, Bravo, Aug. 6, Wednesdays at 10. Part of me is happy that this show exists just because it’s not another Real Housewives clone, which is all the network seems interested in churning out lately; I’m nostalgic for the days when it just churned out Top Chef clones. It is hosted by Curtis Stone (why, oh why?) and seems to basically be “Last Chance Kitchen” turned into a series, but I like the idea of bringing back past favorites for a one-off duel.

Wizard Wars, Syfy, Aug. 19, Tuesdays at 10. This is basically Chopped for magicians, with teams of two having to create a new performance using random things (such as Spam and Super Soakers). The winning team then competes against a “home team” to try to win $10,000. Penn and Teller judge along with Jason Latimer and Christen Gerhart.

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.