There’s a lot of nonfiction and unscripted entertainment in the world, from our favorite reality series to brilliant podcasts and documentary films. This is wonderful and terrible—terrible because it’s impossible to watch all of it. That’s the reality of reality TV in 2017, and I’m certainly glad there’s more than less.
But there’s so much that it’s easy to miss it all. In fact, there are nearly 40 new and returning shows this week alone. That’s more than any of us could reasonably watch, including me. And besides regular series, there are one-off specials and documentaries that I often don’t cover, because they’re here and gone before I get a chance to see or write about them.
This Week in Reality (my titles are creative, I know) is my attempt to address that problem, and to make this glut of nonfiction entertainment a little more manageable for all of us. Every one or two weeks, I’ll present a list of highlights—shows, specials, podcasts, anything nonfiction—that has caught my attention. These aren’t reviews or even necessarily recommendations—though there are certainly both here—but it’s perhaps best to think of it as a list that says, Hey, I wanted you to know this thing exists.
Know of something coming up that I shouldn’t miss and/or should include here? Whether you’re a producer, publicist, or fan, feel free to send it to me.
Celebrating Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds
Last week’s unexpected deaths of Carrie Fisher and then, a day later, her mother Debbie Reynolds led HBO to move its documentary about them to this Saturday, Jan. 7 at 8 p.m. ET. The network calls it “an intimate portrait of Hollywood royalty in all its eccentricity” that features “vintage family films that bring iconic old-world Hollywood to life, as well as extensive vérité footage.”
Here’s a clip from Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds, directed by Alexis Bloom and Fisher Stevens, which really is an intimate look at how these two amazing women lived.
Kissing and telling
The Bachelor (ABC, Mondays at 8) returns tonight, giving a guy his fourth chance at ABC love. There are two notable changes: besides its newly diverse cast, the show will be followed (ABC, 10 p.m.) by a Talking Dead-ish special: “Jimmy Kimmel Live: Here for the Right Reasons.”
Kiss Bang Love (FYI, Tuesdays at 10) is yet another dating experiment show, one in which strangers—including gay people this time!—kiss while blindfolded. (The groping around may remind you of ABC’s 2009 show Dating in the Dark.)
Though the title would suggest otherwise, they don’t have sex blindfolded, too. Instead, one person kisses 10 strangers and chooses who to date based on that. The series is another international format (which flopped in Australia) that’s been brought to the US by Kinetic Content, which produces Married at First Sight. The trailer is quite compelling:
“A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism”
A&E will no longer be airing a reality show about the KKK, but they will be airing this film that I’m anxious to see. Life, Animated (A&E, Jan. 7 at 8 p.m) is based on this book, a father’s story about his autistic son’s journey from being unable to speak to using Disney movies to communicate with the world.
Directed by Roger Ross Williams, who won the Sundance directing award for this film, the film uses “unconventional interview techniques and three different types of original animation,” according to A&E, and “Williams brings Owen’s journey to the screen, exploring how his empathy for Disney animated characters gave him the means to understand his feelings and to interpret reality.”
Finding new Mythbusters
The competition that I’m most looking forward to checking out is Mythbusters: The Search (Science, Jan. 7, Saturdays at 9), which reminds me of another short-lived competition that I really liked. Instead of just rebooting Mythbusters, Science has turned the process of finding its cast into a TV show.
New and noteworthy
- Do we need much more convincing to check out a show than Vivica A. Fox and hot male strippers? Vivica’s Black Magic (Lifetime, Jan. 4, Wednesdays at 10) looks, at least in previews, like her version of Vanderpump Rules—again, just with strippers.
- The Real Mad Men of Advertising (Smithsonian, Jan. 8, Sundays at 9) is a documentary approach to the world explored in fiction on Mad Men.
- In the United States, we’re a few weeks away from the transition between one president to the next—something that seems so simple, but was a “radical idea, unprecedented in world history” when America’s second president took over from its first. Transition of Power: The Presidency (History, Jan. 8 at 9) is a two-hour special looks at what actually happens behind the scenes, including “details surrounding key milestones of the modern transition process including security briefings, cabinet selection and the transfer of the nuclear football,” and “the challenges and complications that accompany the vital and celebrated transfer of power through a look at the most notable presidential transitions in U.S. history.”
- CNBC stays on brand but gets dirty with Blue Collar Millionaires (CNBC, Jan. 4, Wednesdays at 10), a documentary-style series that follows “the entrepreneurs getting their hands dirty to make themselves dirty filthy rich,” according to the network and its puns.
- Everest Rescue (Discovery, Jan. 8, Sundays at 9) follows the people who rescue Everest climbers.
- The return of To Tell the Truth (ABC, Sundays at 8) and Match Game (ABC, Jan. 4, Wednesdays at 10) this week aren’t the only prime-time game shows. NBC’s latest attempt at a game show is The Wall (NBC, Jan. 3, Tuesdays at 8), which is just a large version of Plinko, though host Chris Hardwick tried to explain that away. What it does have, however, are balls that change color depending upon whether or not the players got an answer to a trivia question correct, and it also has emotional drama with a heavy focus on contestants’ stories and what they’ll do with the money.
Back for more
- The Celebrity Apprentice (NBC, Jan. 2, Mondays at 8) returns after a long hiatus with a new host and a lot of baggage, including that our incoming president will profit from it.
- Killing Fields (Discovery, Tuesdays at 10) is back Tuesday for its second season of investigating the 1997 murder of Eugenie Boisfontaine. Preview it and read my season one review.
- The 10th season of Unsung (TV One, Jan. 4, Wednesdays at 8) debuts with a profile of Sisters With Voices, aka SWV, the Grammy-nominated group that includes Taj George, aka the Survivor contestant. Full episodes are online after they air.
- The Real Housewives of Atlanta (Bravo, Sundays at 10) returned last night.
- Marriage Boot Camp Reality Stars (WE tv, Jan. 6, Fridays at 9) collects another group of reality stars who are willing to get pretend therapy and/or pretend they’re in relationships to get camera time. This season will be the second without Jim and Elizabeth Carroll, who departed after five seasons of this increasing mess of a series. Getting attention this season: The Bachelorette’s Ashley Hebert and J.P. Rosenbaum; 19 Kids and Counting’s Amy Duggar and Dillon King; Love & Hip Hop’s PreMadonna and Buck Thomas; Mob Wives’ Renee Graziano and Joey Gambino; and Bad Girls Club’s Gabrielle Victor and Victor Tarrats.
A big list of every show premiering this week, because there are a lot
- To Tell the Truth (ABC, Jan. 1 at 9, Sundays at 8)
- Guy’s Grocery Games: Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives Tournament (Food Network, Jan. 1, Sundays at 8)
- Worst Cooks in America (Food Network, Jan. 1, Sundays at 9)
- Paradise Run (Nick, Jan. 2, Mondays at 7)
- The New Celebrity Apprentice (NBC, Jan. 2, Mondays at 8)
- The Bachelor (ABC, Jan. 2, Mondays at 8)
- Kids Baking Championship (Food Network, Jan. 2, Mondays at 8)
- Antiques Roadshow (PBS, Jan. 2, Mondays at 8)
- The Wall (NBC, Jan. 2 at 10, then Tuesdays at 8)
- The Dengineers (Discovery Family, Jan. 3, Tuesdays at 7)
- Post My Party (Discovery Family, Jan. 3, Tuesdays at 7:30)
- American Masters (PBS, Jan. 3, Tuesdays at 8)
- Seven Year Switch (FYI, Jan. 3 at 8, then Tuesdays at 9)
- Killing Fields (Discovery, Jan. 3, Tuesdays at 10)
- Holmes & Holmes (DIY, Jan. 3, Tuesdays at 10)
- Kiss Bang Love (FYI, Jan. 3, Tuesdays at 10)
- Monster in My Family (LMN, Jan. 3, Tuesdays at 10)
- Unsung (TV One, Jan. 4, Wednesdays at 8)
- My 600-LB Life (TLC, Jan. 4, Wednesdays at 8)
- Little Women: Atlanta (Lifetime, Jan. 4, Wednesdays at 9)
- Match Game (ABC, Jan.4, Wednesdays at 10)
- Blue Collar Millionaires (CNBC, Jan. 4, Wednesdays at 10)
- Vivica’s Black Magic (Lifetime, Jan. 4, Wednesdays at 10)
- Bringing Up Bates (Up, Jan. 5, Thursdays at 9)
- L.A. Hair (WE tv, Jan. 5, Thursdays at 9)
- Ghosts In the Hood (WE tv, Jan. 5, Thursdays at 10)
- Fuck, That’s Delicious (Viceland, Jan. 5, Thursdays at 10)
- Ginormous Food (Food Network, Jan. 6, Fridays at 8)
- Marriage Boot Camp Reality Stars (WE tv, Jan. 6, Fridays at 9)
- Treehouse Masters (Animal Planet, Jan. 6, Fridays at 10)
- Tiny House Nation (FYI, Jan. 7, Saturdays at 9)
- Mythbusters: The Search (Science, Jan. 7, Saturdays at 9)
- Unplugged Nation (FYI, Jan. 7, Saturdays at 10)
- The Guardians (Animal Planet, Jan. 7, Saturdays at 10)
- Dinner at Tiffani’s (Cooking Channel, Jan. 8, Sundays at 8)
- Tia Mowry at Home (Cooking Channel, Jan. 8, Sundays at 8:30)
- Everest Rescue (Discovery, Jan. 8, Sundays at 9)
- The Real Mad Men of Advertising (Smithsonian, Jan. 8, Sundays at 9)