Drag Race, Cosmos win TV critics’ awards

Logo’s RuPaul’s Drag Race and Fox/NatGeo’s COSMOS: A SpaceTime Odyssey won the Television Critics Association’s nonfiction television awards, which will be presented tonight.

Drag Race became the fourth winner of the Outstanding Achievement in Reality Programming award, following Shark Tank last year. As it turned out, all five nominees were competition series, two of which had previously won.

COSMOS won the Outstanding Achievement in News and Information, and was up against CBS Sunday Morning, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Frontline, and
60 Minutes.

The awards will be presented tonight at The Beverly Hilton at the TCA’s 30th annual awards presentation, which will be hosted by Brooklyn Nine-Nine star Terry Crews, who previously appeared on NBC’s short-lived reality show Stars Earn Stripes. Here are all the other winners.

Big Brother’s producers on Amber and “stalkerish,” “lovestruck” Caleb

With Devin’s back-door eviction essentially guaranteed and eventually delivered after Sunday’s great veto competition, it was a slow week in the Big Brother house. That was a significant letdown from the entertaining symphony of delusional strategy that started the season, but this week’s episodes gave us more character development than strategy that wasn’t just filler.

In particular, the episodes highlighted Caleb Reynolds’ obsession with Amber Borzotra. To summarize the summaries: Caleb’s non-reciprocated attraction to do everything from stare at her to throw a competition to protect her. Her interaction with Cody led Caleb to confront Cody about that, which led to Cody saying “this kid” way more than any adult speaking about another adult ever should.

The crush quickly went from “cute at first” to “creepy and misogynistic levels,” as others have written about in detail. As a result, it could affect her game. There’s also been discussion and argument among feed watchers about whether she’s “stringing Caleb along” by not being as direct with him as she has with others about her lack of attraction.

Late Thursday, I asked Big Brother’s executive producers, Allison Grodner and Rich Meehan, about both the interaction between them, if they had any concerns about Amber’s safety, and how this has been presented on television, and here’s what they said.

Allison Grodner:

“I think the Big Brother house is one of the safest places to be, with all the cameras and 24-hour surveillance. I think that’s the story: She’s feeling that way and he’s being—there’s the love triangle or whatever you want to call it with Cody and him, the jealousy triangle. He’s possibly getting a little creepy, a little stalkerish. We’ll see. We’re just playing the story that’s evolving right now. … We don’t see it as anything dangerous.”

Rich Meehan:

“I think he’s just really into her and he’s just kind of lovestruck. When we’re watching—obivously, we’re watching all the time. I don’t think there’s any worry. I think he’s lovestruck. He thinks she’s beautiful. Possibly in his real life he doesn’t get a lot of ‘no’s.

… I don’t think we ever played it as a showmance. We kind of played it as it is. He likes her, she’s not really into him, and we’ll see what happens, and now Cody’s come into the mix, so that’s an interesting element. We’ll see what happens.”

Queen of Versailles is becoming a reality show

The thrilling documentary Queen of Versailles is becoming a reality series, as NBCUniversal has signed Jackie Siegel for a six-episode series that will film a presentation reel over Labor Day weekend, The Orlando Sentinel reports.

At the same time, David Siegel, the owner of Westgate resorts, just announced his purchase of the Orlando Predators. It’s not clear if the team will end up on the series, but in August, AMC 4th and Loud, which is about Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons new arena football team, the LA KISS.

I previously argued that a Siegel reality series is a bad idea—or at least, it won’t be anywhere near as wonderful as the film. That was primarily because Jackie said she wanted editorial control, and the film was wonderful (watch it!) because the filmmaker just hung around for years and captured great moments.

Jackie does offer some hope, however, telling the Orlando Sentinel that she doesn’t want the show to be scripted but will instead “follow me around on my crazy secret life”:

“I hope they will just let me be me and let me do my own thing. I think that’s what people that saw the movie really liked, because it was real, whereas reality can be somewhat scripted.”

For his part, David Siegel is, well, grumpy: “I don’t like reality shows,” he said, adding that he’d be in front of cameras “Only if it’s good for business. I don’t need any more pain.”

Funny people try to parody Real Housewives on Hotwives of Orlando

Today, Hulu debuts its own parody reality series: The Hotwives of Orlando. A take on The Real Housewives franchise, it stars a group of hilarious people: Casey Wilson, Angela Kinsey, Kristen Schaal, Tymberlee Hill, Andrea Savage, plus others, including Joey McIntyre and Stephen Toblowsky.

The actual housewives are so ridiculous, so self-unaware, so absurd that it’s a challenge to parody the series because it basically is an unknowing parody. The Hotwives cast and producers basically made that point to TV critics Saturday. “I think the Housewives franchises don’t consider themselves a parody. I think they take themselves seriously. Fortunately,” Kristen Schaal said.

Executive producer Paul Scheer, who plays an Andy Cohen-like character, said “one of the things that we did on the show that came true is there is a funeral for a dog in this show that we did. And then, it’s edited, locked away, and now there was actually a funeral for a dog on the Housewives show.”

Casey Wilson said that “the writers, Danielle [Schneider] and Dannah [Phirman], did amazing heightenings,” and Schneider said, ‘You can always go bigger. I feel like, yeah, it starts at an absurd level, but that absurd becomes the normal.”

There are definitely absurds here. The two episodes I’ve seen of this new show makes it seem more like an SNL sketch: there are hilarious moments, great dialogue, and some fun bits. It doesn’t quite manage to reach the greatness of the 2012 The Bachelor parody Burning Love, which mocked but felt very real.

Also, to nitpick as a defensive resident of Central Florida for a moment, the setting doesn’t add much, even though it was intended as homage. It’s obviously filmed in L.A.—any Florida resident can easily identify when a show, such as Dexter, pretends to be in Florida but is actually in L.A., with its crazy tall palm trees and lack of visible humidity—and worse, it gets things wrong. One character pronounces a city’s name wrong (Kissimmee) while the writers miss opportunities to reference real places (like the street reputed to host more prostitutes than other streets). If you’re going to use a place as a target for jokes, at least make them good jokes.


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Mike Rowe’s awesome challenge to TV critics, TV industry

Mike Rowe’s new CNN series Somebody’s Gotta Do It may seem a lot like Dirty Jobs, since he travels the country to meet interesting people and participate in their lives, but Rowe told TV critics recently that it’s not as much about actual jobs. But what the series will retain—besides production company Pilgrim Studios—is its fourth wall-breaking commitment to actual reality television.

During a press conference, Mike Rowe lamented the state of reality television, telling TV critics:

“I don’t know what nonfiction means anymore. I don’t understand what reality means anymore. I don’t know how you guys can review a show or write about a show using those terms in a way that it’s like that line from The Princess Bride. My dad said this to me the other day reading about reality shows. He’s like, ‘Michael, I don’t think that word means what you think it means.’

He talked about his own series’ attention to reality, saying, “It’s that it’s not so much about breaking the fourth wall, which everybody loves to talk about. It’s ignoring the fourth wall. It’s just not there, right? That’s the important thing to do. That’s what I want to do in this show really more than anything. I just don’t want to bullshit the viewer anymore into thinking that a thing is bigger than it is or smaller than it is or more dangerous than it is.”

While he gently mocked TV critics—“Some jobs are just simply too hideous to contemplate … I mean, I love you guys. I don’t really understand, to be candid, how your brains work”—he also issued a significant challenge to the room:

“I think the coolest thing about your job, if I were sitting out there, would be to challenge some of the terms that get thrown around today and challenge people to bring more what you call verisimilitude back to the proceedings.”

Yes, reality television needs more reality. And I’m glad Mike Rowe and CNN are contributing, just as many other shows are, even though they might get lost in the parade of scripted crap. And I hope critics and journalists take up the challenge, and that networks and producers contribute to the conversation by ignoring the fourth wall, too, and being honest with viewers.

Mike also talked about how the show will be different from his cancelled Discovery Channel series:

“It’s not so much about vocation, although we’ll see that. There’s a big shot of avocation. As far as the somebody who’s gotta do it, in my head anyway, it’s not just the person we’re meeting. In a self absorbed way, it’s me. This is the show that I want to do. I’ve always wanted to do it. Somebody had to give me an hour of primetime. That turned out to be CNN, God bless ‘em. Somebody’s gotta produce it. That turned out to be the same production company I worked with on Dirty Jobs. Somebody’s got to program it. That’s the country.

So all that stuff comes together in a way that I hope will lead to a really transparent, organic, and I’m just going to say nonfiction show, but I’m going to put it in quotes because I don’t even know what nonfiction means anymore, in this world. But on Somebody’s Gotta Do It, at least I understand the term.”

Bachelor in Paradise’s “shocking twist”: it’s Paradise Hotel

The ABC spin-off Bachelor in Paradise today revealed its “shocking twist,” and it’s essentially that it is borrowing the format from Fox’s Paradise Hotel, the ridiculously fun show that aired 11 years ago. Here’s ABC’s announcement:

“At the first rose ceremony, the six men are given a rose to hand out to a woman they’d like to spend more time getting to know in paradise. With an uneven number of men and women in the group, the two women left without roses are immediately sent home heartbroken.┬áJust as potential couples start to pair up, everything changes drastically in the next episode when two new men arrive to paradise with love on their mind. For seven weeks, each episode will alternate between two new men or women joining the cast. New relationships may form and current ones may end. Every week, the two people who don’t receive a rose will be forced to leave paradise.”

Here’s how the Fox Reality Channel and MyNetworkTV’s press release when they brought the show back in 2008:

“Paradise Hotel 2 features a cast of eleven sexy singles who check-in to a secluded resort for an adventure-filled experience and the chance to win a cash prize. To stay in paradise, guests must find a roommate of the opposite sex and the individual left without a roommate will have to leave the hotel. Things take a dramatic turn when new guests check-in and have to quickly make and break alliances to stay in the competition. There are no rules in this game of strategy and manipulation where sex and seduction are among the tools players use in their battle to avoid eviction.”

The not insignificant difference, of course, is that those who are coming into the show are probably not strangers, since many of The Bachelor contestants are part of one big (incestuous) family. That will undoubtedly lead to additional drama and also prevent the existing people from just shunning the new people.

Why NBC renewed Last Comic Standing and why I’m surprised

NBC brought back Last Comic Standing back for an eighth season after a four-year absence on the network, and Sunday announced that the show has been renewed. The network also renewed America’s Got Talent and American Ninja Warrior.

That’s somewhat of a surprise: it doest seem to have much buzz, and its ratings have been about half of Big Brother’s on recent Thursdays, though the CBS show airs an hour earlier. Its timeslot competitor NY Med actually had more viewers, though slightly fewer viewers 18 to 49.

More significantly, it hasn’t been that great. The audition episodes, while they used stronger comedians, were often more tedious than funny. I was intrigued by the idea of challenge episodes, but so far only two have aired, thanks to two weeks (!) of recap episodes, and neither was exceptionally interesting or funny. It doesn’t help that the editing interrupted sketch comedy with interviews, perhaps because the interviews were funnier and more entertaining than the sketch itself. And watching people go on a talk show is not great reality television, even when the host is Ellen.

Wanda Skykes, who executive produces the show now, is a strong mentor, and is the best part of the new series. Her advice is useful and also funny. Beyond that, there’s occasionally decent comedy, but some of the comics are better than others, and it’s getting more obvious which comics are going to make it to the end.

So why is this so-so competition definitely returning for a ninth season? NBC alternative entertainment president Paul Teledgy told TV critics Sunday that “we missed it while it was gone,” he said the show “is profitable for us and we’re very proud of it, it had also been an incredible talent search vehicle.”

It also helps NBC find comics. “It was a way for us to always keep our finger on the pulse of that whole stand-up world. So it serves a dual function for us. It’s a great entertaining TV show for the laughs and also a great outreach and a great casting process for NBC, in general,” he said.

NBC entertainment chair Bob Greenblatt said that “we genuinely were excited” when executive producer Wanda Sykes came to them with the idea of bringing the show back: “we thought it seemed like a good idea.” It did, since there’s potential here; hopefully the next season will be better.

Crumbs bakery saved by The Profit’s Marcus Lemonis

The Profit star Marcus Lemonis is buying Crumbs Bake Shop, the cupcake store that closed its stores Monday night. The store has fans, like the person who bought a “last” cupcake for $255, but it had been suffering financially recently.

Late Friday, Marcus Lemonis, and his partner in the venture, Fischer Enterprises, announced along with Crumbs that they’d buy the business. In the release, Marcus said:

“I truly believe in the Crumbs brand and am excited to help the Company enter into a new chapter in its history. I think there is tremendous opportunity to expand the Crumbs offering, build on the Company’s growth strategy and to leverage the synergies between Crumbs and other companies in my and the Fischers’ portfolio, such as Dippin’ Dots ice cream, Doc Popcorn, Wicked Good Cupcakes, Little Miss Muffin, Betty Lou’s snacks, a host of gluten-free baked goods, Matt’s Cookies, Pie King, Key West Key Lime Pies, Mr. Green Tea Ice Cream, Sweet Pete’s Candy and Coffee of Grace (Grace Hightower De Niro), as well as a new exciting product from an episode of the upcoming fall season of CNBC’s The Profit.”

Several of those companies—such as Key West Key Lime Pies and Sweet Pete’s Candy—were businesses that were featured on the CNBC show, on which Marcus Lemonis invests in challenged businesses.

The Lemonis Fischer Acquisition Company “would acquire substantially all of Crumbs’ assets” and “hopes to complete the sale process in approximately 60 days, pending receipt of the necessary approvals from the Bankruptcy Court,” according to a press release. They “will evaluate the retail strategy with the goal of reopening select locations or opening new locations in the future.”

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