These reality TV stories caught my attention over the past month or so, ranging from Matt Damon explaining to Robert Durst pleading, The Bachelor’s celebration to Swamp People’s conclusion.
See something—a story, a video, some reality show news—that I’ve missed or that I should know about? Please let me know! (You can also e-mail tips at reality blurred.com.)
Read these three stories
- Playboy’s interview with the six-person team, The Blur Man Group, that is responsible for blurring out genitalia on Discovery’s Naked and Afraid.
- A fascinating history in The Washington Post of The Apprentice and how Donald Trump became a reality TV star.
- Five and a half years after the one-season life of The Real Housewives of DC, The Washingtonian profiles Tareq Salahi. You may recall that Michaele and Tareq Salahi crashed a White House party, which Andy Cohen later said “torpedoed” the season and left “a stink on it.”
News about reality shows and cast members
- Dave Mirra, who hosted several seasons of The Challenge, died by suicide Thursday. He was 41. Fellow BMX rider and current Challenge host TJ Lavin wrote on Instagram, “Dave always had the best stories. He was one of the funniest people you could ever know and was super quick witted. […] Please know if you’re even thinking about doing something like this that its NOT the solution, EVER… please call someone and tell them you need help. It’s a permanent solution to a temporary problem.” (If you need to talk to someone, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.)
- Graham Elliott is leaving Masterchef.
- Logo announced the cast of RuPaul‘s Drag Race eighth season, and its debut date, March 7. The premiere episode be the show’s 100th, and also feature the 100th drag queen to appear on the competition. Watch the promo.
- Why was The Real Housewives of Atlanta‘s Amiyah Scott fired instead of becoming the show’s first permanent transgender cast member?
- Bachelor fans, People magazine has a special edition out now: The Bachelor!: Celebrating 20 Seasons of Love, Lust, Hookups, Breakups, Roses & Rings.
- Allison Williams met her husband at a Bachelor viewing party.
- The winners of Project Greenlight‘s $25,000 online series contest are Edson Jean and Joshua Jean-Baptiste, who are producing a web series called #Josh based on their time living in Miami. Jean-Baptiste told The Miami Herald, “I hope [viewers] identify with the Miami situation. Or the Haitian situation, awkward black male situation, or just awkward situation. Just looking to relate.”
- After previously congratulating himself for Project Greenlight‘s episode one controversy, Matt Damon told the New York Times a fuller version of the story: “Ben and I had taken a lot of stick for this 10 years ago, that our committee of mostly white men had selected three white men, in succession, as winners. … By the time we arrived to do our judging, we knew we had blown it, so Ben and I were already frustrated and upset about that. So when Effie brought it up, it was like, yes, O.K., we got it.”He adds, “The idea that I would say that there didn’t need to be diversity behind the camera, it’s not only complete anathema to what I believe in my heart and always have, but it’s not something that I think anybody would ever say with a camera on. And so when Effie was advocating for the woman and the Vietnamese-American guy, what I actually said was, ‘Are we judging a contest or are we casting a reality show?’” he continued. “And that’s when she said, ‘Wow.’ And I went, no, Effie, I’m completely serious, what is our responsibility at this point? Because we had already blown it on the competition.”
- Jon Gosselin claims that after TLC tried to get him to stay with Kate for the show and he quit, “The network sided with my ex-wife, they paid for her divorce attorneys, everything.”
- Top Chef‘s culinary producer Sandee Birdsong talks about the challenges of filming a season in multiple locations.
- On Wednesday, both The Jinx‘s Robert Durst and Serial‘s Adnan Syed were in court. Syed was asking for a new trial and introducing new evidence, which we heard about on the podcast. Meanwhile, Durst pled guilty to possessing a firearm and will go to federal prison for 85 months. He’ll be imprisoned in Los Angeles, where he’ll likely charges for the death of Susan Berman.
- Lawyer Dean Strang, who became famous thanks to Making a Murderer, shares his thoughts about #Strangers and StrangCore.
- Steven Avery wrote a letter to a news station, his first public post-Making a Murderer statement. He’s fond of exclamation points: “The real killer is still out there. Who is he stalking now? I am really innocent of this case and that is the truth!!! The truth will set me free!!!!!!!”
- Focusing on reality instead of artificiality is working for Discovery, which announced that the network grew its audience in 2015, and became “cable’s #1 non-sports network for men,” and had “its highest rated year ever across both Persons 25-54 and Men 25-54 and its most watched year ever in Total Viewers P2+.” In addition, the not-fake Shark Week had its highest ratings yet. Meanwhile, Naked and Afraid was the “#1 new unscripted series on cable in total viewers” and in certain demos, while Gold Rush led unscripted shows among people 18 to 49.
- Poker player Anna Khait says in an interview that there were “challenges that can last up to two hours” on this upcoming season of Survivor.
- The first female winner of Masterchef Junior, Osta Smith, will be a headliner on the November Masterchef cruise.
- Mark Cuban debuted three Shark Tank products at CES.
- American Idol has its final group of semifinalists, but still is the same old show, screwing with its contestants.
- The next season of History’s Swamp People, which debuts Monday, will be the seventh and final season.
- The Property Brothers have released their first music video, which is for their country song “Hold On.” (As musicians, they go by The Scott Brothers.)
- The Sundance Institute announced its new Art of Nonfiction initiative, which “includes both a Fellowship for filmmakers and resources to help them build sustainable creative practices.” The first fellows are: “Robert Greene (Kate Plays Christine), Margaret Brown (The Order of Myths), and Omar Mullick and Bassam Tariq (These Birds Walk).”
- Conde Nast has created CNE Studios to produce reality television. It’s executive vice president is Al Edgington, who won an Emmy for his work producing The Amazing Race and also executive produced Last Comic Standing and Who Do You Think You Are? Conde Nast Entertainment’s announcement said that “currently has five unscripted television series in production or on the air, and the formation of CNE Studios, which will produce many of CNE’s future unscripted television projects, will build upon the division’s success and expand CNE into a full-service, next-generation production company, developing and producing projects in film, television and digital video.”
- Producers share five reality show ideas that never made it to air, including a Bachelor for porn stars and a show about people being waxed.
Renewals and new reality shows
- After the success of Celebrity Family Feud last summer, ABC is bringing back Pyramid: The $100,000 Pyramid will air this summer.
- For those who didn’t think there was enough annoying drama in Naked and Afraid XL, Fox has you covered with Kicking and Screaming, a “new, eight-episode competition series that teams 10 expert survivalists with pampered partners to face the toughest race of their lives.” A press release says the show, produced by Fear Factor EP Matt Kunitz, “drops these unlikely duos in a forbidding wilderness where they must overcome dangerous animals, raging rivers, hunger and extreme weather” and deal with “their privileged partners, who think roughing it is going a week without a massage.”
- VH1 has picked up America’s Next Top Model, though perhaps only the format, especially now that Tyra Banks is on The Apprentice. This is according to The New York Daily News‘ gossip column, whose story hasn’t been picked up by other outlets—but then again, VH1 also hasn’t pushed back. The paper reports that “executive producer Ken Mok — who has run the show since its first season and recently produced Jennifer Lawrence movie Joy — negotiated the VH1 deal.”
- Top Chef has been renewed and is now casting; Bravo said the show has up 6 percent among viewers 25 to 54 compared to last season.
- A talk show bit has produced a massive cable reality hit: Lip Sync Battle has been renewed by Spike for a 20-episode third season. The network pointed out the series “is the most-watched original series in Spike’s history” and “is averaging 4.4 million viewers and is the top-ranked series in its timeslot with a 3.1 rating in the coveted demographic of adults 18-49 in all of television.”
- Kansas City Chiefs player Travis Kelce will star in E!’s new Bachelor-like series Catching Kelce, which the network said will feature “50 eligible women, one from each US state,” and include appearances by Kelce’s “famous friends and family to help him along his journey.” The difference between this and The Bachelor: “the women are able to strategically decide who is attending the VIP dates.”
- At Sundance, Animal Planet acquired the TV rights to Million Dollar Duck, a documentary that follows six artists trying to win the Federal Duck Stamp Contest, which a press release describes as “among the most successful conservation tools ever created, simultaneously spawning a uniquely American subculture brimming with talent, ego, art, controversy, big money, and migratory waterfowl.”
- Animal Planet will follow fourth-year students at the University of Pennsylvania’s veterinary school for a new series called Penn Vet that’s being produced by High Noon Entertainment.
- El Rey Network has ordered a third season of Lucha Underground, which just started its second season Jan. 27.
- A&E renewed Born This Way, a show I wanted to like a lot more than I actually did. After one month on the air, the Bunim-Murray show had 83 percent growth among adults 25 and 54, and 83 percent growth among total viewers.
- Science Channel’s Outrageous Acts of Science will return with new episodes this summer. It averaged 574,000 viewers and was the network’s top-rated show of 2015.
- In addition to its new LeBron James series and The Profit spin-0ff with Marcus Lemonis, CNBC announced two new reality series. Follow the Leader is a half-hour series produced by The Jay and Tony Show; on each episode, Farnoosh Torabi shadows one of “the sharpest business minds in the world to unlock their truths about making it big.” On Billion Dollar Buyer, “billionaire hospitality mogul Tilman Fertitta … will spend time with two small businesses, sample their goods, get to know their owners, and assess their compatibility with Landry’s, Inc.” and “decide whether to place a transformative purchase order with one of the companies, both, or neither.”
- Pop has renewed Sing it On, the show that follows collegiate a cappella teams, for a second, eight-episode season that will debut later this year. The new teams, who are “competing in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella,” are “Faux Paz (University of Maryland), Off The Beat (University of Pennsylvania), One Note Stand (The University of Texas at Austin), S#arp Attitude (University of Massachusetts), and Hexachords (University of Massachusetts).”
- PBS will air a 16-part documentary series 16 for 16, which “spotlights unforgettable presidential and vice presidential candidates whose dramatic campaigns may or may not have been successful, but earned a place in the history books nonetheless.” It’s produced by OZY Media.
- Jake Gyllenhaal is executive producing “an anthology” series for A&E “that will explore the world of a different major American cult persona and the provocative nature of belief each season.” Season one will focus on cult leader Jim Jones.