It’s time for our semi-regular round up of reality TV news and links. I hope everyone has an awesome Thanksgiving; safe travels and happy days of relaxation, work, and/or mad consumerism. I’m very grateful for you, supporting reality blurred by reading, sharing stories with friends and colleagues, responding to the damn surveys, and sending me tips, links, and other stuff. I don’t know most of the people reading this but I appreciate each one of you nevertheless.
Reality TV show news you may have missed
- The Idol Pad reported that former Columbia Records and Jive executive Teresa LaBarbera Whites will be American Idol‘s new mentor, replacing Randy Jackson, who replaced Jimmy Iovine. That she’s not a household name is a good sign, I’d say, in terms of the show’s priorities; she’s also undeniably talented, having signed Destiny’s Child and Jessica Simpson at the start of her career. Grammy Pro called her “one of the top music executives on the planet.”
- The finale of Dancing with the Stars last night, which Fresh Prince of Bel Air star Alfonso Ribeiro won, had its best finale ratings since 2012.
- Cheryl Burke is leaving Dancing with the Stars, but Julianne Hough will return as a judge.
- Last Comic Standing is “on hold for now while we work on reivising the format with the network,” executive producer Page Hurwitz told The Comic’s Comic.
- USA is burying and burning off its version of It Takes a Choir, which was filmed in 2012. Based on the hit BBC show, it has been scheduled and rescheduled repeatedly since last year, and now USA is dumping it on Dec. 29 and airing all episodes in a row.
- In a now-deleted story, The Mirror laughably claimed that Simon Cowell was leaving X Factor in the UK to re-launch a version of it on Fox with Nicole Sherzinger, the judge he fired. Gossip Cop’s sources say the obvious: it’s “fiction.”
- A few days after Shark Tank aired and celebrated its 100th episode, the show had another milestone: the first acquisition of a business featured on the show by a publicly traded company. GrooveBook has been acquired by Shutterfly for $14.5 million; Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary invested $150,000 in it in exchange for 80 percent of licensing rights.
- More than 112,000 people so far have signed a petition encouraging TLC to cancel 19 and Counting after Michelle Duggar publicly supported repealing a law designed to protect transgender people; her super-bigoted robo-call said that transgender people are “males with past child predator convictions that claim they are female.”
- The cows on Utopia have not been cancelled: The two dairy cows (Betsy, Honey) and one calf (Ca$h) are now at Farm Sanctuary, which announced that “the producers contacted Farm Sanctuary, America’s leading farm animal rescue and protection organization, to ask for their help in providing a forever home” instead of sending them back to be dairy cows. The organization’s shelter director, Susie Coston, said in a statement that “We’re grateful to the Utopia producers for recognizing these animals as individuals with their own feelings and desires, and making sure that they get to enjoy a happy life together.” They are also changing the calif’s name: “Now that she’s at Farm Sanctuary, her only job in life is to be happy, so we have changed her name to Meredith.”
News about networks and people
- MTV star Diem Brown, who died of cancer two weeks ago, lied about her age, saying she was 32 instead of 34. People reported this, and Lilit Marcus writes that “the publication she had entrusted with her final words was writing a tabloid story about how she had lied about her age. … It disgusts me that barely two weeks after her death, instead of honoring Brown’s death from ovarian cancer we are gossiping about a lie she told while she was living.”
- The Orange County Coroner’s report says American Idol alumni Michael Johns died from an enlarged heart caused by dilated cardiomyopathy, according to TMZ. Previously, his best friend said alcoholism killed Michael, while his family blamed a blood clot.
- A very insightful interview with truTV’s Marissa Ronca, the network’s senior VP of development and original programming, who talks about how the network was “in a rut” and is now “really focused on finding creator-driven content and talent-driven content.”
- ABC is once again without a reality TV executive: Lisa Berger quit after one year, having previously been president of E!. In a remarkably honest statement, she said, “I’m thankful for the the opportunity to run alternative at ABC, but in the end we found our creative sensibilities weren’t aligned. I’m proud of the shows we developed and wish the team the greatest success in the future.” VP Rob Mills is overseeing reality TV at ABC in the interim.
- The CW’s senior VP for alternative programming, Kristen Connolly Vadas, has left the network, leaving Justin Rosenblatt in charge of The CW’s reality TV. She’d been with the network since 2007.
- More and more reality TV remakes are being made, perhaps because of television’s general risk-aversion.
- The pendulum may be swinging back as cable networks venture into scripted programming after (over-) relying on reality TV.
- A French reality TV star who wanted to be like Kim Kardashian was charged with attempted murder after stabbing her boyfriend, which her lawyer says was in self-defense.
- The Dance Moms family suing Abby Lee Miller and the show’s producers, Collins Avenue Entertainment, have had several of their claims thrown out, though their lawsuit will still go to trial over their claims that their contracts were breached.
- This list has a pretty good summation of the appeal of reality TV but the most unnecessarily sexist premise ever: 7 Reasons Girls Love Watching Reality TV. I wish its author would have explained why having a vagina and ovaries has anything to do with her reasons.
- HBO has “probably 160 lawyers” working on a new documentary about Scientology, HBO Documentary Films President Sheila Nevins told The Hollywood Reporter. Directed by Alex Gibney, the film is based on the book Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief.
- Susan Sarandon writes about how documentaries “use their art, their vision, their mastery of story telling to speak truth to power.”
- An interesting story about documentaries that use animation to help tell their stories.
- MTV appeared to be trolling by casting a documentary by seeking people “who appear to be between the ages of 16 and 24” who think they’re oppressed because they’re white. But its director, Jose Antonio Vargas who calls himself a “gay, undocumented person of color,” told Buzzfeed News said they will be looking for other perspectives, too, and said, “One of the things that’s going to be a hallmark in this project is an openness in the kind of empathy and the kind of political thinking that, I think, is lacking specifically when it comes to white people,” Vargas said. “When I hear young white people say ‘I’m a victim of racism’… How do they justify that? What does that look like to them? I feel like that’s a really important question to ask.”
- Ivanka Trump has launched a new web site and campaign, #WomenWhoWork, in order to challenge the reactions that she got when trying to create “a company for women who work.” She tells Vogue that she “was blown away by the response that I got. They basically told me that ‘work,’ when associated with women, wasn’t marketable. And it wasn’t aspirational. And it wasn’t sexy. And they tried to have me change my tagline from ‘women who work’ to ‘women who do.’ And I’m sitting there kind of rolling my eyes, and looking at these mainly men in front of me who are giving me this feedback and I had this aha! moment. That this is exactly why this sort of hilarious stereotype of a one-dimensional working woman prevails.”
- Mark Cuban explains why he opposes net neutrality. The Verge’s Ben Popper then wrote about why “Mark Cuban is a hypocritical asshat,” which led to a debate on Twitter. (Here’s a primer on net neutrality and why it matters.)
- An audio mixer, Adam Dobosz, talks about his work recording sound on reality TV shows–more than 80 shows during his career so far.
- Bravo has an incredibly cool chef finder tool that allows you to find restaurants belonging to Top Chef and Top Chef Masters contestants.
Your surreal children’s TV clip of the week
In this Sesame Street clip, Andy Cohen helps Elmo understand what “popular” means. It includes a cameo by “Honey Moo Moo” and also Elmo telling Andy Cohen that he’s popular. It’s part of a series in which celebrities interact with a muppet and teach them things; the one below, with John Oliver and Cookie Monster, is a must-watch.