Here’s what’s ahead this week in reality TV and unscripted content.
- RuPaul’s Drag Race debuts on its new network and new night (VH1, Fridays at 8), but before then, its old network, Logo, is airing a 24/7 marathon of old episodes with new bonus content.
- One of television’s best series, period, returns, though this season, The Last Alaskans (Discovery, Wednesdays at 9) will be missing one of its families.
- Dancing with the Stars kicks off its 24th season (ABC, Monday at 8) with this cast, half of whom I didn’t recognize.
- The most popular series on Nat Geo WILD, The Incredible Dr. Pol, concludes its 10th season Saturday, and that finale will also be the show’s 100th episode. The network will first air a special (Nat Geo WILD, 8 p.m.) “that highlights the series’ top moments and most memorable cases,” and the finale follows (9 p.m.).
- The finale of Missing Richard Simmons will become available Wednesday, March 22. While I loved the series at first, the last two episodes have left me in an ambivalent place: is it exploitative? good journalism? a friend concerned about a friend? or something else? I am anxious to see how the finale attempts to address those questions.
- Are You The One: Second Chances (MTV, Wednesday at 9) is a Challenge-like spin-off of the MTV series, on which “perfect matches” from earlier seasons of AYTO “compete in challenges designed to test the strength of their bonds,” according to MTV.
- The next Bachelor spin-off, The Twins: Happily Ever After? debuts (Freeform, Mondays at 9), following alleged fan favorites Emily and Haley Ferguson.
- Syfy tries again with another cosplay series, though Cosplay Melee (Tuesdays at 10) looks basically like a version of Face Off, rather than an overly staged documentary-style series.
- A Bravo series that follows actual friends, not fame-hungry people who are fine pretending their fellow cast members are their friends? That’s the selling point for Sweet Home Oklahoma (Bravo, Mondays at 10), which follows three best friends. Allegedly.
- The Comedy Jam (Comedy Central, Wednesdays at 10) brings together comedians and musicians: comedians tell stories that involve a song and/or musician, who then joins them on stage to perform. Watch its trailer:
A last chance for The Bad Kids
An excellent early reality series was American High, the R.J. Cutler-produced series that followed seniors at a Chicago-area high school. It aired just four episodes on Fox before being cancelled, though PBS later picked it up and aired the entire series, which went on to win an Emmy.
I was reminded of that show watching this trailer for The Bad Kids, which airs tonight (PBS, Monday, March 20 at 10):
The film focuses on a school for at-risk kids who probably won’t graduate—and of course, a high school diploma is a bare-minimum requirement for almost anything in our society.
It follows three students—“Lee, who has the additional pressure of now trying to support a child that he co-parents with another Black Rock student; Jennifer, a young woman grappling with sexual abuse; and Joey, a young man with a talent for music but who comes from an unstable home with a history of drug addiction,” according to PBS—over one year.
It’s reality-based filmmaking that won a special jury award for vérité filmmaking at Sundance last year.
The film airs free tonight on PBS as part of Independent Lens, and is also part of the American Graduate: Let’s Make it Happen project, which is “public media’s long-term commitment to supporting community-based solutions to help keep youth on the track to a high school diploma and beyond.”
That has so far brought together “more than 128 public radio and television stations have joined forces with more than 1,700 partners and at-risk schools across 48 states and one territory. It’s funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which Donald Trump’s budget would cut to $0.