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The biggest reality TV surprises from the network upfronts

All four broadcast networks have now announced their schedules for fall, and there’s not a lot of new reality TV, been a lot of upheaval with the legacy shows, mostly involving timeslots. Here are the things that caught my attention over the past three days:

  • The Amazing Race has been moved from its Sunday night timeslot to Fridays at 8 p.m. That gets it out of the way of football overruns, which should make east coast viewers happy, but also puts it in direct competition with Fox’s sleeper hit Masterchef Junior. While some reality TV has thrived on Fridays, including Shark Tank, this could indicate CBS’ lack of confidence in the show’s future performance–or just that it wants to support a new drama.
  • Fox has scheduled the second of its two weekly Utopia episodes opposite ABC’s killer Shark Tank. I’m not sure head-to-head competition matters as much in the age of the DVR, but it seems dumb to try to launch an ambitious new show in a way that forces the most engaged reality TV viewers, those who watch live, to choose one show over another. However, it will follow the return of the hit Masterchef Junior on Fridays, so perhaps Fox is looking more at the lead-in than the competition.
  • Speaking of face-offs: Fox is sending Hell’s Kitchen to Wednesdays at 8, where it will attempt to survive against Survivor. Good luck, Gordon Ramsay and your cast of cannon fodder.
  • The Taste is returning to ABC. Yes, those stupid spoons–which, in fairness, were barely visible in the improved second season–will be back again along with judges Anthony Bourdain, Nigella Lawson, Ludo Lefebvre, and Marcus Samuelsson.
  • The Great Christmas Light Fight will also return to ABC, along with Shark Tank, The Bachelor, and Dancing with the Stars.
  • NBC is bringing back The Voice,America Ninja Warrior, America’s Got Talent, The Biggest Loser, Celebrity Apprentice, and Hollywood Game Night.
  • The Biggest Loser is getting moved to Thursdays.
  • American Idol, which was basically ignored on Monday, is finally getting demoted: it will probably air just one two-hour episode a week next year and be reduced to about 37 hours a season. Fox’s Kevin Reilly compared American Idol it to Survivor on a conference call: “Idol is not gonna come back to being the ratings champion it once was, but what we believe is the show can be on the air for many years to come and will be a potent time period contender and a top-rated unscripted show that’s a quality show, that people love that we can do business with, in the same way that Survivor hasn’t been at the top-ratings for many years and it has vital seasons year after year.”
  • Fox’s press release mentions all of the Gordon Ramsay series–under “additional Fox series”–except Kitchen Nightmares. Even Hotel Hell, the terrible spin-off of the terrible Kitchen Nightmares, is on the list. I’d bet it’ll be back, though.
  • CBS is bringing back Undercover Boss mid-season.
  • NBC, ABC, and CBS did not announce a single new reality series announced. Fox’s only new show is Utopia, which was announced early this year.
  • There will be 13 hours of reality TV on network TV this fall out of 77 total hours of programming.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.


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