There are more than 70 reality shows debuting this month, an absolutely overwhelming number. But several new shows, and a couple returning ones, stand out to me as less visible but absolutely worthy of at least checking out.
Fake Off, truTV, Oct. 27, Mondays at 10. truTV has rebranded as a more authentic, more comedic network (a welcome change from my previous perception of it as a network that aired fake, stupid shows masquerading as reality), which includes the fun series The Carbonaro Effect. As part of change comes this fascinating new competition between teams that recreate moments from pop culture in 90 seconds. It’s hard to describe, so the preview below is the best explanation, but the network calls it “a mix of theater, acrobatics, black light and illusion.” Its teams try to explain, but it’s clear their work can be incredible.
Town of the Living Dead, Syfy, Oct. 7, Tuesdays at 10. This series isn’t follows residents in a small town who’ve been trying to make a zombie movie for six years. At the end of the series, Syfy will air the film, so it’s kind of like The Chair or Project Greenlight meets Sharknado. The trailer looks like the series could come off as another misguided, not-funny attempt at comedic reality, but it also has hints that it is a true documentary-style series that just chronicles their filmmaking attempts and the drama that results. I hope the series will swing the latter way, but I fear it’ll go the former.
A Chef’s Life, PBS, Sundays. This Peabody Award-winning series is the kind of show Food Network should be airing instead of knock-off competitions in studios, but as this great Washington Post profile reveals, no network wanted it until PBS picked it up via a South Carolina affiliate. It’s a hybrid cooking show and fly-on-the-wall series that follows chef Vivian Howard as she travels through Eastern North Carolina to learn about its people, traditions, and ingredients and applies those to her own cooking and restaurant.
Lucha Underground, El Rey Network, Oct. 29, Wednesdays at 8. This series follows Lucha Libre wrestlers (“Luchadores”), and comes from producers of The Contender and Tough Enough. This preview, which may be most notable for executive producer Mark Burnett’s Jesus beard, shows that it’s filmed cinematically, in the style of The Contender that simultaneously highlighted and minimized the brutality. But the format isn’t exactly clear: will it be more fights than story, or more story than fights?
Welcome to Fairfax, Pivot, Oct. 17, Fridays at 10. I couldn’t handle Pivot’s workplace reality series Human Resources because of it felt so heavily staged and not at all as clever as it wanted to be, even though it was following an interesting company. But this show seems to take the opposite approach, following a group of creative entrepreneurs on L.A.’s Fairfax Avenue, which the network calls “a mecca of cutting edge fashion designers, skateboarders and musicians.”
Project Runway: Threads, Lifetime, Oct. 23 at 10:30, Thursdays at 10. Fox had surprising success with Masterchef Junior, allowing talented kids to compete in an adult competition, and now Lifetime is applying that formula to its marquee reality franchise Project Runway. The twist is that it’s more like Chopped, with three new pre-teen or teenage competitors each week. The trailer suggests that they’ve found compelling and talented people to compete, but Project Runway: All-Stars suggests that it’s hard to duplicate the success of the original–though making each episode a one-off competition may just work in its favor.
Art21: Art in the 21st Century, PBS, Oct. 24. It’s actually the seventh season of this PBS series, which airs every two years and focuses each week on a theme in contemporary art–and, more importantly, people creating that art. This award-winning documentary series is the product of a nonprofit organization by the same name that calls itself “the preeminent chronicler of contemporary art and artists.” That’s exactly what the series does, taking into the minds and process of those who create.
The Profit, CNBC, Oct. 14, Tuesdays at 10. Although the second season was a bit more sensational than the first, The Profit remains a compelling series, and I’m looking forward to its return more than any other series returning in October.