2016 is drawing to a close, and for many of us people, it cannot end fast enough. This year was full of devastating losses of people whose contributions to culture were life-changing, never mind a brutal presidential election that concluded with the election of a man who’s been best known for being a reality TV star.
But 2016 was also a year in which we watched a lot of great television, and reality TV gave us so many wonderful moments to share with each other, whether in person with friends or online with fellow fans. There was a lot of great reality TV this year! We may long for the past and have anxiety about the future, but what we have right now includes a connection with each other via our TV screens, whether it’s discovering how others live and work, seeing experiences through someone else’s eyes, being reminded of the deep pain of loss, or just enjoying joyous frivolity.
To close the year on reality blurred, I’ve gathered together this list of the most-read stories were that I published since last January, and they range from a new twist on a popular series to news about an old (but changed) favorite. Altogether, I published 487 stories this year, ranging from previews to reviews to in-depth interviews.
Enjoy this brief time capsule, and enjoy the final few days of 2016. Thanks so much for reading reality blurred this year, and I’ll look forward to a brand-new year of reality TV coverage starting on Monday. Happy New Year!
The Real World went back to Seattle to film its 32nd season, where it aired a season that broke with tradition by casting another MTV reality star, but mostly just reminded us of how broken this franchise has become since it first visited Seattle.
Another season of Big Brother, another houseguest using anti-gay slurs on social media. Once in the house, Corey laughed as he told a story about a goat being set on fire, and also casually used homophobic language.
The increasingly inauthentic, increasingly obnoxious interviews on Big Brother led me to write this essay. Whether they’re being fed lines, forced to narrate things that we already understand because we’ve just watched them, or just told to repeat what they said, it makes for a painful experience. Just let them talk, please!
An on-screen relationship between two Survivor millennials had a dramatic conclusion after the game ended, when Taylor learned he was going to become a father, and as Figgy said, she learned “some things about people in their real life that you didn’t know on the island.”
TNT quietly dumped one of its most-popular reality series, Cold Justice, on which investigators looked into cold cases. I first reported its cancellation. Months later, one of its stars confirmed the end of the show in a Facebook comment, but there has otherwise been no public announcement or discussion of its end—an odd end for a popular series that became the victim of a network’s rebranding.
I published four quarterly reality show debut schedules this year, but for some reason, spring got more love than the other three.
This year, the 1980s returned to television in the form of a Double Dare reunion—and possible revival of the show itself, with Marc Summers hosting—and also on the long-running People’s Court, when original court reporter Doug Llewelyn returned.
Changing the cast of Dual Survival from Matt Graham and Joseph Teti to Bill McConnell and Grady Powell created what its executive producer described as a “violent reaction” from fans.
The absence of The Amazing Race on CBS’ fall schedule sent people search for information about what happened to the show. Eventually, CBS scheduled The Amazing Race 29—but fans will have to wait even longer to see it. The show also didn’t film a season this November, as it usually does, so there are a warning signs that suggest the show may be in trouble.
Discovery and the producers of Deadliest Catch decided to exclude the Cornelia Marie from the 13th season, which has not yet debuted. But fans of the show—and the boat, once captained by Phil Harris, whose death was covered on the series—are not happy. (In an unrelated story, Phil Harris’ son Jake Harris was robbed and severely beaten in November.)
As I first reported early this year, The Amazing Race 29 did something very different: it cast an entire season of strangers and then let them choose their own teams of two. For a show that stood out for casting pairs that had pre-existing relationships, it’s quite a change.
A&E may have ended the year by attempting to erase its latest bad idea, but another one aired: 60 Days In, which followed—and badly edited—innocent people who went to jail and were filmed for some reason. My less-than-thrilled review of that series
The second-most popular story this year was the one that I got wrong: the identities of four returning players for Big Brother 18. I had bad information that I confirmed with trustworthy people who had more bad information, and that led me to have to correct and explain what went wrong. While being wrong happens in journalism and in life, and in both, it’s important to acknowledge mistakes, it’s still painful.
My report that Big Brother would air a fall season, later revealed to be online-only, and then later confirmed by other media, was the most-read story of the year on reality blurred. Perhaps because the season, called Big Brother: Over the Top was available to subscribers only, and aired immediately after Big Brother 18 concluded, there was less interest in the season itself, though it changed several things that should (but won’t) carry over to the summer season.