Here’s your semi-regular collection of reality TV-related stories that caught my eye over the past few weeks, maybe even months.
Behind the scenes insight
- An interview with Love and Hip Hop creator Mona Scott-Young, who talks about its origins and criticism of the franchise.
- “Dim the lights.” Now that we’ve heard Ryan Seacrest say that for the last time, read Brian Stelter’s interview with American Idol lightning director Kieran Healy, the man who actually dims the American Idol lights—and has done so every single episode since episode one in 2002.
- Paula Abdul says she almost quit American Idol eight different times during the first season, maybe even on the first day. In her interview with EW, she has some surprisingly cogent and candid things to say about the experience.
- This essay, Reflections Of A Degenerate American Idol Gambler, covers everything from betting on the show to DialIdol.
- Bachelor production designer Angelic Rutherford talks about how she got started, making the set comfortable, and designing spaces for each of the show’s stars. Her team, by the way, consists of 24 people on set, who do everything from the rose ceremonies to clean-ups after wine spills.
- Reality TV has been a success for Mark Wahlberg, star of Wahlburgers. “It hasn’t hurt anything I’ve done or the brand I’ve built over the last 27 years, because we own it and we live it. It’s an amazing marketing tool, and it’s all about promoting the business and building the business,” he told AdWeek, which reports on the trend of “a reality series focused on a single brand that becomes a TV hit while simultaneously propelling the brand itself to new heights.”
- Aviva Dresher on the pressure to be dramatic on The Real Housewives of New York City, and how producers used a shorter contract to try to get her to deliver more drama. She also talks about using her artificial leg to produce fake drama.
- A former Chopped Teen Tournament contestant talks about the audition process and filming his episode.
- A brief profile of James Avery, a Hell’s Kitchen sous chef, who says, “Behind the scenes, Gordon’s all laughs and busting jokes. But when he’s in a restaurant and working, it’s like a drill sergeant mentality. He wants to see what people are made of, so he’s very serious and to the point. Gordon’s an awesome guy, and I just hope some of his success rubs off on me.”
- Nicole Polizzi, aka Snooki, talks about her life in reality TV and transitioning beyond Snooki: “[W]hen you think of Snooki you think of the girl from Jersey Shore. She died four years ago.”
- The CEO of Hatch Baby, who says she and her co-founded “decided to launch” the company by appearing on Shark Tank, gives advice to other start-ups about going on the show.
- Chef’s Table creator David Gelb talks about how the series is produced. Among other things, he reveals that the filmmakers spend two weeks with each chef, but that’s preceded by a lot of research.
Reality TV news from all over
- American Idol‘s faded popularity means there will not be a summer tour with the finalists. It wasn’t really cancelled, though, as it was never even scheduled.
- After 14 episodes, FYI has cancelled Kocktails With Khloe, Khloe Kardashian’s talk show.
- So You Think You Can Dance, the one with kid contestants, has added a 13-year-old judge, Maddie Ziegler, who Fox says is “Best known for starring in the award-winning reality series Dance Moms.”
- TMZ reported, in its shoddy way, that Survivor contestant Debbie Wanner “Pled Guilty To Falsifying Katrina Water Tests.” Here’s what Bloomberg BNA reported in 2014: “Debbie Ann Wanner, former laboratory manager at Blue Marsh Laboratories Inc., pleaded guilty to making false statements for the preparation of laboratory reports, at the direction of Blue Marsh owner Michael McKenna, that falsely stated EPA methods were used to test samples.” Here’s what the Department of Justice said in July 2012:
“On June 11, 2012, Blue Marsh Labs and owner Michael McKenna each pleaded guilty to conspiracy, a false statement, and a Clean Water Act false statement violation (18 U.S.C. §§ 371, 1001; 33 U.S.C. §1391(c)(4)) for causing environmental test reports to be prepared and mailed falsely stating that the proper EPA methods for analysis had been performed.
The defendants were previously charged in an 84-count indictment with charges stemming from the falsification of environmental laboratory testing from 2005 through 2007. Among the tests falsified were results from Hurricane Katrina flood water samples that were to be tested for a variety of contaminants, including cyanide. Other tests falsified included those required by the USDA for fruit imported from South America that was suspected of being contaminated with pesticides. Former lab manager Debbie Wanner previously pleaded guilty to three counts of making false statements under the Clean Water Act.”
- Former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clark settled a lawsuit and apologized to a producer he punched.
- Vanderpump Rules‘ Jax Taylor, whose real name is Jason Michael Cauchi, was sentenced to 364 days of probation; he was arrested last July for second-degree theft after taking more than $300 from a store in Waikiki, Hawaii. In court, he said, “I had too many drinks, too many mai tais. I made a mistake, took full responsibility and I understand this is going to follow me the rest of my life due to the fact that I’m on television. So I just want to say I’m sorry and I apologize.”
- Swamp People stars Roland (R.J.) Molinere Jr. and his son Jay Paul Molinere were arrested for battery over an Aug. 13 fight. A sheriff’s office press release said that the victim “said that he was beat up by the two and struck in the head with a beer bottle by Molinere Jr. The victim said that he suffered with a black eye, swollen jaw and had a knot to his forehead.” The Molinere’s attorneys said they were confident “the actions of both R.J. and Jay Paul will be vindicated. Further, we call on local law enforcement to investigate the actions of the other parties involved as we believe there is ample evidence to support the charge of aggravated assault and simple battery committed upon our clients.”
- New York’s Court of Appeals heard a case regarding a widow suing a hospital and ABC for broadcasting her husband’s death on NY Med. She wants the court to reinstate her lawsuit.
- A consultant who sued Mark Burnett’s former partner Conrad Riggs over revenue from Survivor won his case, but was awarded just $480,000 of the $14 million he sought. Layne Britton now wants a new trial.
- Freddie Prinz Jr. will host USA’s First Impressions, the competition between impressionists with Dana Carvey.
- A six-year-old charity baking competition in the UK that calls itself The Great Roath Bake-Off has been warned by the producers of The Great British Bake-Off that its name violates their copyright.
- The mother of a woman who appeared on LMN’s Escaping Polygamy has sued A&E Network and RIVR Media for trespassing and defamation.
- An “incredible theory” suggesting serial killer Ed Edwards actually killed Teresa Halbach, whose murder resulted in the conviction of Making a Murderer subject Steven Avery.
- Peggy, the person featured on Hoarders Jan. 31 who had a house full of dead animals in cages, was arrested, and the code enforcement officer featured on the show has been placed on leave pending an investigation. But the fact that the animal bodies were disposed of by the show’s crew means there isn’t physical evidence. A police spokesperson said, “The issue of hoarding is not a police issue, however if that causes danger, abuse, or death to an animal or other person, we will get involved, and we take that very seriously.”
- Kelly Clarkson is the first American Idol contestant to have #1 hits across all Billboard charts.
- BuzzFeed runs down connections between the O.J. Simpson trial and reality TV shows. For the most part, it’s about how many shows involve the Kardashians.
- 58 American Idol contestants talk about the show to BuzzFeed. There’s a lot of love for the show and what it did for people’s careers, but it’s not entirely a love-fest. (Definitely read Tim Urban’s response.)
Reality shows, recently announced
- Apple is producing its first original series—and it’s reality TV. The New York Times reports, however, that it “might sound more like a marketing campaign than a blockbuster production.” Will.i.am and reality producers Ben Silverman and Howard T. Owens, are on board for the show, which is about apps. But few details are known; Apple “declined to discuss specifics, such as financing, title, timeline, storylines, episode length or how people will watch the show,” the NYT says.
- Fox’s You’re Back in the Room will have contestants hypnotized before asking them to complete challenges. Taye Diggs will host the show, which begins production in July. Keith Barry is the hypnotist; he also starred in the UK version of the show.
- Steve Harvey and Mark Burnett are partnering for a new ABC reality series that is untitled but sounds very Shark Tank + American Idol, as it “brings together sets of rival entrepreneurs who competitively pitch their ideas head to head in front of a live studio audience,” which votes to give someone funding.
- Update: This was an April Fool’s Day joke that totally convinced me.
AC/DC will use a reality series to find a new lead singer, similar to INXS’ search on Rock Star: INXS. The show is called Long Way To The Top and Simon Cowell will executive produce.
- A producer is trying to get networks to buy The Write-In, an Idol-like show that aims to select a third-party, write-in candidate.
- If you can’t get enough Keeping Up with the Kardashians, the cast now shares their lives in real time on Snapchat.
- Making a Murderer defense attorney Dean Strang will host a new series, Road to Justice, which is being described as a legal version of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown.
Assorted reality star news
- Big Brother‘s Will Wikle is now doing porn for CockyBoys—specifically, a feature-length porn film called The Stillest Hour. He told the Huffington Post, “I’d always found the conversation between myself, my own sexual identity, and the public’s perception of it to be very interesting.” The link to his interview is SFW. For a NSFW preview, go here.
- Jessica “Sugar” Kiper from Survivor Gabon got married on Valentine’s Day to a photographer she met online, and with whom she has a three-month old baby. “I was in love and told him I wanted a baby. So we consummated that last Valentine’s Day. That’s when we started trying, and I think we may have nailed it the first time,” she told People.
- Becoming a villain on The Bachelorette has helped JJ Lane: “I get laid off perception,” he said.
- An interview with Bad Girls Club‘s Tanisha Thomas, in which she says that “divine intervention” helped her turn her appearance into a career that led her host the show’s reunions and lying about an appearance on Orange is the New Black.
- Braxton Family Values star Tamar Braxton cites her WE tv show as a major benefit to her career: “Reality TV has everything to do with my comeback. A lot of people didn’t know who Toni’s little sister Tamar was outside of the music industry. My shows let a lot of people see my personality and they pretty much fell in love with my journey,” she told Forbes.
- Kim Fields, who’s currently on Dancing with the Stars, won’t be back on Real Housewives of Atlanta. Stacey Dash is not replacing her.
- Pawn Stars Chumlee, aka Austin Lee Russell, was arrested for “felony weapon and drug charges” and “taken into custody when officers serving a search warrant in a sexual assault investigation found methamphetamine, marijuana and at least one gun at his southwest Las Vegas home,” USA TODAY reports. In a search of his home, police found “marijuana, methamphetamine, drug pipes and other paraphernalia, lots of ammunition, and 12 guns, including handguns, revolvers, rifles and shotguns, some of them loaded.” A police statement also said that he had items “commonly found with persons who package and sell controlled substances, i.e., plastic baggies and digital scales.”
- Top Chef and James Beard Award winner Paul Qui was arrested and charged with assaulting his girlfriend in Austin. He said in a statement, “On Saturday morning, I asked my friend to call the police to aid in an argument with my girlfriend that had escalated beyond my control. I was arrested and charged with two misdemeanors. I am innocent of the charges of assault. This situation made me realize that I need to take more time for my health and myself. I will be checking myself into a treatment facility in the coming days and I am appreciative of the support of my family, friends and partners. Thank you for respecting my privacy.”
- All of those misognysitic and sexist things Donald Trump has said to and about women, on The Apprentice and elsewhere, which have been turned into a campaign ad? He says he was just joking.
- Duck Dynasty‘s Willie Robertson is now a Fox News contributor and will host a weekly podcast for Fox News Radio.
- Extreme Weight Loss star Rod Durham, a drama teacher in Florida, died at age 52 from diabetic shock. On the show, he lost more than 180 pounds.
- American Gladiators‘ The Hawk, whose real name was Lee Reherman, died at age 49 on Feb. 29.
- Deadliest Catch star and captain Sig Hansen is recovering from a heart attack.
- Fashionista looks at where 21 fashion-adjacent reality TV stars are now.
- Seth Abramovitch’s THR interview with The Most Interesting Man In the World, aka 77-year-old Jonathan Goldsmith, who’s ending his run as the Dos Equis commercial character after 10 years. He’s not a reality TV star, of course, but people have confused him for his character in ways that seem different than the typical actor/character confusion.