Happy Friday. Here’s my latest roundup of reality TV-related news, starting with four longer, in-depth looks at people involved with unscripted TV.
Outing Zeke Smith and the Shame That Followed (Entertainment Tonight)
Before Jeff Varner plugged his upcoming book—about the shame he experienced after outing Zeke as transgender on Survivor—he wrote an essay about it. For Entertainment Tonight.
His introduction says, in part,
“I’ve stumbled sharing my story for fear discussing it publicly would be poor timing, insensitive to Zeke, the real victim in this situation. Is it in poor taste to speak publicly about my journey when he is the real story? Should I sit down, shut up and suffer in silence? Maybe. And you can stop reading here if you don’t care to hear it. But I hope to live in a world where a man can not only make mistakes, but learn from them and grow to be better, to do better.”
The Property Brothers Are Fixing to Take Over the World (New York Times)
A profile of Jonathan Scott and Drew Scott, the HGTV stars known as The Property Brothers, which includes details like how they reshoot scenes and how carpenters pretend to work. Jonathan also compares his show’s mission to our former reality star president’s actions: “I believe our show is about finding solutions for the little guy, and I think the current administration is doing stuff that is counterproductive to serving the little guy,” he says.
NBC Reality Chief Paul Telegdy on the Arnold-Trump ‘Apprentice’ Feud, Nick Cannon and Netflix (Hollywood Reporter)
Paul Telegdy is candid when talking about some of NBC’s stumbles recently, including The Apprentice (it’s dead for now; he calls it “a fairly uncertain future” and added “I don’t think there’s any rush to renew the show), Nick Cannon’s departure (“Somewhere, we just drifted apart. We could’ve all communicated that a bit better”), and earlier rumors American Idol could move to NBC (“The Voice is strong and beloved, so if we were to do Idol, we would have to have a strong reason”).
But he also doesn’t quite seem to understand some other successful shows. For example, talking about Netflix’s Making a Murderer, Telegdy says, “Funnily enough, as everyone was ranting about that case, it had already been on Dateline twice.” Of course, Making a Murderer told the story better than Deadline ever could.
Reality TV’s Ruling Class: Top 10 Power Players of 2017 (Hollywood Reporter)
I don’t this is a comprehensive list of “power players,” whatever that means, but listicle format and choices aside, there are some good mini-profiles of people who’ve had success and/or are doing interesting things in unscripted.
reality show news
- A lawsuit says that new America’s Got Talent host Tyra Banks caused “severe emotional distress” for the daughter of a couple who were auditioning. (Daily Beast)
- Climate change will come up on Deadliest Catch this season, because warming oceans mean fewer crabs—50 percent fewer, actually, meaning smaller quotas. Executive producer R. Decker Watson, Jr., told Indiewire that “There’s nothing political in the way we’re discussing it. I think everyone agrees that the climate is changing; anyone with a thermometer isn’t denying that. This is a changing world and these guys are either having to adapt or they won’t survive… There is something to be said for heeding to science.” (Indiewire)
- Wendy Williams hosted VH1’s live “Fierce Friday” segments during RuPaul’s Drag Race breaks, but Michelle Visage, Detox, and others have a problem with that because, as Mic reports, of “a 2009 incident in which the Wendy Williams Show allegedly confronted drag performer Erickatoure Aviance for attending the show in a black dress and wig.” (Mic) Citing Williams’ comments about Caitlyn Jenner, Alaska Thunderfuck wrote, in part, “I think the decision to make Wendy Williams one of the hosts of the weekly spots framing commercial breaks for RuPaul’s Drag Race’s weekly broadcast is tone deaf, untimely and incorrect” and “I certainly don’t think she is the right person to be hosting our community’s flagship television program.”
- Say Yes to the Dress had its first transgender bride. (People)
- There will be no age limit for contestants on the next America’s Next Top Model, Tyra Banks announced.
- Tyra was congratulated on her second hosting gig, America’s Next Top Model, by its previous host, Nick Cannon. He sent her flowers and tweeted, “Salute Queen! Congrats, I know you will be amazing! Wonderful Choice”.
- The three judges from VH1’s America’s Next Top Model—Ashley Graham, Drew Elliott and Law Roach—will all return next season, when Tyra Banks returns as host. In a press release, Tyra said, “I trust their amazing talents and expertise will continue to bring a FIERCE edge to the competition, where for the first time ever we are doing away with age limits, and accepting prospective contestants from 18 to infinity.”
- There’s conflict over the way Netflix’s Hot Girls Wanted reality series was produced. People interviewed for the series now say they were told specifically that it wasn’t for Hot Girls Wanted. (The Daily Beast) Producers say “nobody was coerced.” (Variety)
- An actual Hell’s Kitchen restaurant will open in Las Vegas later this year at Caesars Palace. It’ll take the place of the current Stripside Café, and the casino says that the new space will not only feature Gordon Ramsay’s signature dishes from the show, but people who eat there “will feel transported to the studio set, as if they are participating in the TV show. The design will be a nod to both the red and blue teams featured on the show and the bustling kitchen will be the centerpiece.” (Caesars Palace)
- The Humane Society’s Genesis Awards, which honor “the news and entertainment media for their outstanding reporting and creative portrayals of animal protection issues,” have been announced. The TV documentary series award went to Ocean Warriors, a great show that Animal Planet oddly burned off last year; the film documentary award went to Netflix’s The Ivory Game; and TV documentary awards went to National Geographic’s Explorer: Batter for Virunga and Animal Planet’s Toucan Nation. (Humane Society)
- The Amazing Race‘s executive producers, Bertram van Munster and Elise Doganieri, talk about the show’s evolution and how they split their work. (Variety)
- Survivor executive producer Mark Burnett has praise for its current showrunner, who’s also its host, Jeff Probst. While CBS was hesitant to let Probst take over the show, Burnett said, “This is the right move for the health of the show. And look what happened when Jeff took over as showrunner. The show took off even more. Here we are at the 33rd live finale, at the 34th season finale, and numbers are up. And as other shows have tapered off, this show is on par with every single show unscripted—and I don’t think there’s one scripted network show beating Survivor.” (Hollywood Reporter)
reality industry news
- CBS Entertainment President Glenn Geller is on leave after having what he described as “a mild heart attack.” Gellar, a reality TV fan, wrote in a memo to staff, “The good news is the doctors have given me an excellent report card and say I’m on track for a full recovery. The bad news is that pilot season and the Upfront isn’t the best environment to achieve that recovery. After consulting with my doctors, my husband, and my family, I plan to take off a few more weeks and return at the end of May.” (Hollywood Reporter)
- Turnover in network reality TV continues: CBS reality executive Chris Castallo, who took over when Jen Bresnan left in 2013, is leaving the network when his contract expires in the fall. (Hollywood Reporter)
- CBS’ new reality TV executive is Sharon Vuong, who replaces Castallo. In a press release, CBS says “Vuong joined CBS in 2011 as Director, Alternative Programming, working as the current executive on Big Brother, Survivor, The Amazing Race and Undercover Boss,” and later “helped develop The Case of: JonBenet Ramsey, the live-action game show Candy Crush, debuting July 9, and the recently announced Ambulance.” Prior to that, she worked as a producer on shows including Hell’s Kitchen and Dancing with the Stars, and worked in casting on Survivor season 13.
- CBS Television Studios has hired Susan Levison to work with Ghen Maynard “to create and develop new alternative and unscripted content for all broadcast and cable networks, streaming services and digital platforms.” Levison comes from VH1, where she launched Dating Naked and Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood as its head of programming; she started at Fox, developing The Simple Life and Paradise Hotel. CBS Television Studios hired Maynard last fall to launch the alternative division; earlier in his career, at CBS, he launched three little shows: Survivor, Big Brother, and The Amazing Race.
- Now that Bates Motel is over, A&E is dumping scripted content and returning to its reality TV roots. A&E and Lifetime GM Rob Sharenow said “in today’s world where we really try to clarify and focus our brand for the consumers and to lean into what we are best known for, what we are best at, I think it was a good time to say, ‘We are going to double down on nonfiction content where we are having a lot of success. The market’s really hungry for it.'” (Deadline)
- The Peabody Awards announced its 12 documentary winners. The 2016 documentaries include 13th, O.J.: Made in America, and Southwest of Salem: The Story of the San Antonio Four. (Peabody Awards)
- The 200+ person crew of NBC’s Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge walked off the Atlanta set in order to secure a union contract, and got it within one day. (IATSE)
reality star news
- A profile of Real World New Orleans cast member Preston Roberson-Charles, whose went from the show to being homeless. (New York Times)
- “My life went from Bering Sea badass to full blown junkie very rapidly,” Deadliest Catch cast member Nick Mcglashan writes about his addiction to alcohol, meth, and heroin. (Chosen Magazine)
- Two storm chasers who appeared on the Weather Channel’s Storm Wranglers died: Kelley Williamson and Randy Yarnall died, as did Corbin Lee Jaeger, when their vehicles collided. (Star-Telegram)
- Clay Adler, a cast member on MTV’s Newport Beach: The Real Orange County, shot himself in the head while out shooting with friends, and died from his injuries the following day, March 26. He was 27. (TMZ)
- Former X Factor judge L.A. Reid is out as CEO of Epic Records after accusations that he sexually harassed employees and executives covered it up. (Billboard)
- Ben Higgins and Lauren Bushnell have split up, saying in a statement, “We feel fortunate for the time we had together, and will remain friends with much love and respect for one another.” That time they had together included a spin-off series, Ben & Lauren: Happily Ever After. (People)
- The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast member Eden Sassoon isn’t returning for season eight. She wrote on Facebook that she’s now “free & ALIVE to BE the REAL ME that was not shown to the #bravo world of viewers.” (People)
- A cast member on the 2009 OWN series Love in the City, Brian Benjamin, is running for New York state senate as a Democrat—and what happened on the show has come back to haunt him. On the show, he and his girlfriend, Tiffany Jones, split after he flirted with other women, and she told her friend, “He took my computer. He took my Chanel bag. He took my hairpiece.” Now she says, “I am confirming that what was said on the show is true,” but he says, “Being on a reality-TV show means having parts of your life exaggerated and played up for dramatic effect. There are always going to be things that are not entirely accurate. Still, I remember that time in my life fondly.” (New York Post)
- In the defamation lawsuit filed against him by Apprentice contestant Summer Zervos, Donald Trump argued in court that he cannot be sued as president. (Hollywood Reporter) In court, Summer’s lawyer argued the opposite: “because Defendant’s underlying tortious behavior has nothing to do with his current duties or office, and because it occurred before he took that office, he does not have immunity from suit.” (Politico)
- Donald Trump did not like the second episode of A&E’s Biography, and former A&E executive Michael Cascio writes how Trump confronted him and “wanted me to take the interview from the first version and use it instead of his interview in the more current version.” (RealScreen)
- Miami WAGS cast member Hencha Voigt was ordered to unlock her iPhone by a judge; “police believe were used in a plot to extort a social-media celebrity” and the judge “ruled that unlocking their phones would not violate their constitutional right against self-incrimination,” the Miami Herald reported, noting that her “case [is] being closely watched in legal and tech circles.” (Miami Herald)
- A couple who visciously pranked their children on YouTube on their channel “DaddyOFive,” Michael and Heather Martin, lost custody of their children. They’ve now hired a PR firm. (The Outline)
- Beth Chapman, from Dog The Bounty Hunter, “should have a role in helping select the next chief of the Honolulu Police Department, the police commission’s chairman said,” though another commissioner was “incredulous” about that suggestion. (AP)