reality TV reviews and news

Bill Nye, marijuana, a Holocaust discovery, and more reality TV this week

It's the final season for T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle. (Photo by VH1)

It’s your weekly look at reality TV and documentaries that will be airing this week.

Bill Nye returns to TV, Team Ninja Warrior swaps networks, and other premieres

A full list of premieres this week follows, but first, five highlights:

  1. The Ninja Warrior franchise has survived the death of another network. The original show started on G4 and then found a home on Esquire, which is going away. But the franchise is moving to USA, and Team Ninja Warrior debuts there on Tuesday, where it will air at 10, right after WWE SmackDown. Team Ninja Warrior may be my favorite version of the show, because the course is doubled in width and two competitors run it at the exact same time. Also, there isn’t the same kind of sudden-death elimination, as teams earn points and also aren’t penalized for touching the water.
  2. The sixth and final season of T.I. and Tiny: The Family Hustle (VH1, April 17, Mondays at 10) starts tonight.
  3. River Monsters starts its ninth and final season (Animal Planet, April 23, Sundays at 9) of having Jeremy Wade try to catch legendary fish.
  4. TLC is getting into the live TV game with This is Life Live starting on Sunday and continuing for four nights. The show will try to capture several families’ “life altering moments as they unfold.”
  5. Our childhood is back on television—or at least 2017’s version of television, Netflix—with Bill Nye Saves the World (Netflix, April 21). The show looks ridiculously fun, from its cameos to Bill himself. Watch the trailer:

This week’s premieres

Viceland turns 4/20 into a week-long event

Thursday is 4/20, which the best I can tell, is a holiday for pot smokers, and Viceland has created an event out of it: Weed Week. It starts tonight, and is “four days of entirely weed-themed originals, documentaries, comedies and other 24/7 content dedicated solely to exploring legalization and all things marijuana.”

That includes their marijuana-themed unscripted series Weddiquette, of course, but also weed-themed episodes of Fuck That’s Delicious and Bong Appetit. They certainly have a lot of pot-themed shows on Viceland, don’t they?

A full schedule is on Viceland’s web site, and the network produced this fun trailer for the festivities:

An historic discovery about the Holocaust

Often, PBS documentaries tell stories about what happened in the past. But sometimes, like with Wednesday night’s episode of NOVA, they capture a discovery while they’re filming—a discovery that made headlines last summer.

That’s when a team of archeologists working with NOVA found concrete evidence of the Holocaust Escape Tunnel (PBS, April 19 at 9 p.m.), which is exactly what it sounds like: a hand-dug tunnel created by 80 Jewish prisoners who’d been ordered to destroy corpses to hide evidence of 100,000 bodies of people—mostly Jews—shot and killed by Nazis.


The episode includes interviews with living relatives of people who escaped the Ponar killing pits. Here’s more information from NOVA:

“As the Soviets approached to retake Lithuania from the Nazis in 1944, the Germans ordered a so-called ‘burning brigade’ of 80 Jewish prisoners (76 men, 4 women) to exhume and incinerate the corpses in an attempt to hide the evidence. Over the course of several months, as the job was completed, the prisoners knew they lived on borrowed time, and they would be the next victims. Fearing that if they did not survive, the story of the horrors perpetrated in Ponar would never be told, they came up with a plan: to dig a tunnel, beginning with a single 70 x 65 centimeter hole that the prisoners painstakingly excavated each night.

They dug for 76 nights using only their hands, spoons and crude improvised tools. On April 15, 1944, the last night of Passover, the shackled prisoners attempted an audacious escape through the narrow, 100-foot-long tunnel. Right below the feet of their Nazi jailors, 12 of them made it out, and 11 survived the war to share their horrific tale among themselves and their families.

Until now, only the entrance of the tunnel had been located—found by Lithuanian archeologists in 2004 within the burial pit where the prisoners had been housed. Despite efforts, no other evidence of the tunnel’s existence or whether it had been completed had ever been found—and its path remained a mystery—until the expedition team working with NOVA made the stunning find.”

Also this week

  1. L.A. Burning: The Riots 25 Years Later (A&E, April 18 at 9 p.m.) is a two-hour documentary about the riots that followed the acquittal of LAPD officers who’d beaten Rodney King. One9 and Erik Parker Executive producer John Singleton says in a press release, “I believe the 1992 LA Uprising has never truly been given a voice until now… we’ve attempted to chronicle the untold stories and unique perspectives of people whose lives were profoundly affected by this event. As a native Los Angeleno I know the actions of that three day event didn’t just appear out of thin air … the city was a powder keg boiling at the seams for many years under police brutality and economic hardship of people of color.”
  2. The nonfiction book The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks becomes a fictionalized HBO movie starring Oprah Winfrey as Deborah Lacks, the daughter of the woman whose cancerous cells were harvested without her consent. Those cells were used by scientists and led to what HBO calls “unprecedented medical breakthroughs” and “a medical revolution that changed countless lives.” (HBO, Saturday, April 22 at 8 p.m.).