The highlight of this week’s reality TV show debuts has to be the return of RuPaul’s Drag Race, with its third all-star season (VH1, Jan. 25, Thursdays at 8). Nine contestants have been announced; it seems likely that a 10th will join the competition, or perhaps show up in a different capacity.
VH1 announced the guest judges last week, and they range from the expected (Tituss Burgess, Kristin Chenoweth, Vanessa Williams, Chris Colfer) to one rather curious guest judge (House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, who is apparently a fan of the show).
Also returning this week: Bravo’s Summer House (Mondays at 10); History’s Pawn Stars (Mondays at 10), which debuts with its 500th episode; and Travel’s Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern (Tuesdays at 9).
The rest of the week’s debuts, however, are a little heavier in content. Or a lot heavier.
Former Today Show anchor Ann Curry connects people who haven’t seen each other in years despite being together at key points in history, from Vietnam to Mt. St. Helens. The show is called We’ll Meet Again (PBS, Tuesdays at 8). For example, childhood friends Mary Peters and Reiko Nagumo reunite 72 years after Reiko and her family were interred by the U.S. government during World War II.
Netflix’s Dirty Money (Jan. 26) promises “an up-close and personal view into untold stories of scandal and corruption in the world of business.” And the novelist James Patterson James Patterson’s Murder is Forever (ID, Jan. 22, Mondays at 10) looks at real murders instead of made-up ones.
Meanwhile, Viola Davis narrates a new series, Two Sides (TV One, Mondays at 10), which looks at officer-involved shootings, while Hate Thy Neighbor returns (Viceland, Tuesdays at 10) with a British comic talking to American extremists.
Five specials and multi-party documentaries
- Some pro football players who aren’t competing in post-season play but have special talents are competing in the special MVP: Most Valuable Performer (CBS, Thursday, Jan. 25, at 9), which is hosted by LL Cool J and will be broadcast live, with players being mentored and judges critiquing their live performances. The 32 semifinalists were previously voted on by the public.
- “The first scientific mission in 30 years to be authorized by the Egyptian government to examine the pyramids of Egypt” is the subject of Secrets of the Dead: Scanning the Pyramids (PBS, Wednesday, Jan. 24, at 10), which goes into the Great Pyramid of Khufu.
- It’s been 25 years since the Branch Davidian compound was raided by the ATF, during which four agents and six cult members were killed. A new miniseries on the Paramount Network, Waco, debuts this week, but on Sunday, A&E looks at David Koresh and his followers in the confusing and subtly titled documentary Waco: Madman or Messiah (A&E, Jan. 28 and 29 at 9). It’s confusing because, well, Waco couldn’t be either; it’s a place where Chip and Joanna Gaines live and redesign homes. Anyway, A&E says its doc uses “Koresh’s own voice taken from many previously never-before-seen FBI negotiation tapes” and interviews with nine Branch Davidians.
- Silicon Valley: The Untold Story tells the story, untold, about Silicon Valley. All three parts air on Sunday (Science Channel, Jan. 28 from 8 to 11 p.m.), and offer “a comprehensive look at the century-and-a-half history of this fascinating place, and reveal how and why it became such a fertile ground for technological breakthroughs,” according to the network.
- The Number on Great-Grandpa’s Arm is a partially animated short documentary (HBO, Saturday, Jan. 27, at 6) about a grandfather’s “life that spans happy memories of childhood in Poland, the loss of his family, surviving Auschwitz, and finding a new life in America,” according to HBO. The documentary, directed by Amy Schatz, airs on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.