Quiet a few new reality shows debuted over the past month, so here are quick reviews of five of them.
Real financial problems on Life or Debt
Life or Debt (Spike, Sundays at 10) follows the familiar business makeover model, except here the takeovers are of families in financial crisis. The “takeover” and stunts feel like they’re there to fit the Spike/Bar Rescue mold, but the problems are real, and host Victor Antonio digs into financial issues like The Profit does. Thankfully, he’s not the typical anger tornado, and though he rarely takes a breath as he restructures families like businesses, there’s a lot of useful information. As a bonus, the show goes back and checks in after three months to find out what worked and what didn’t—and, in one shocking outcome, whose house burned down.
Access is the key to Follow the Leader
Follow the Leader (CNBC, Wednesdays at 10) has host Farnoosh Torabi dips into a business leader’s life for 72 hours, and at its best, the show allows us to eavesdrop on real moments and interaction. Farnoosh can be an excellent guide: sitting in on a particularly light meeting, she basically calls bullshit on John Paul DeJoria and asks if everyone is just playing nice for the cameras. This is not a confrontational show, though; for the most part, these are friendly feature profiles. The Gary Vaynerchuck episode felt more infomercial than exploration, with him just spewing social media buzzwords and not offering much access at all, while the Lyor Cohen episode did the opposite, creating some fascinating moments.
Food Network’s latest is more of the same
True story: I thought “cons” in Cooks vs. Cons (Food Network, Thursdays at 9) referred to convicts. But no; it means home cooks who are trying to con the judges into thinking they’re pro chefs. In other words, it’s pretty much the same Food Network cooking show, complete with secret ingredients, though only two dishes in an hour makes it kind of drag. But there is a surprise here: Geoffrey Zakarian, who’s a great host and has an absurd amount of energy, especially in the intro, which was quite a contrast from his Chopped judge persona.
Quit Your Day Job is Shark Tank light
For those who wondered what it’d be like to spread a Shark Tank pitch over an entire episode, add challenges but ignore all those pesky numbers and dollar amounts, there’s Your Day Job (Oxygen, Fridays at 7). The most famous investor here is Randi Zuckerberg, formerly of Facebook, where her brother also works, and the panel of investors—who must agree unanimously to invest—have good chemistry, both with each other and when they work with the “aspiring millennial entrepreneurs.” But the show itself doesn’t quite work—which Oxygen seems to understand, having just moved it from Wednesdays at 10 to outside of primetime on Fridays.
Sponsor porn meets food porn in Going Off the Menu
Bravo’s first online-only standalone series Going Off the Menu (BravoTV.com, YoutTube, and elsewhere; Mondays) is heavy on the Toyota sponsor porn, but is also a nice, quick, documentary-ish survey of some of L.A.’s culinary scene. On each episode, “underground chef” Russell Jackson and James Beard award-winning blog writer Liza deGuia take a celebrity to underground-ish food experiences in Los Angeles. It works best when the celebrity is game for having fun with this, a prize that so far goes to episode one star Lea DeLaria, from Orange is the New Black.