This week’s look ahead at reality TV and documentary premieres is actually looking ahead this week and back to last week, because I didn’t publish a preview last week, and this weekend was a holiday weekend and I was lazy. But enough about me: on to the big summer spectacles, which start this week.
Returning tonight and tomorrow are six big summer shows, in decreasing order of big-ness:
- Summer’s number-one show, America’s Got Talent (NBC, Tuesdays at 8), which returns with the same judges and cast as last year
- Last year’s new hit, the Jennifer Lopez-judged World of Dance (NBC, Tuesdays at 10)
- American Ninja Warrior (NBC, Wednesdays at 8 until June 18, then Mondays at 8), with its ludicrous athletic talent on a crazy obstacle course
- Jamie Foxx’s fun game show Beat Shazam (Fox, Tuesdays at 8)
- Season nine of Masterchef (Fox, Wednesdays at 8), which will be judged by Gordon Ramsay, Aaron Sanchez, and Joe Bastianich.
- The Andy Cohen-hosted, surprisingly empty revival of Love Connection (Fox, Tuesdays at 9)
The competition to find America’s favorite book from these 100 finalists started last Tuesday (PBS, online). The Great American Read is now open to voting all summer, and will conclude with seven more episodes in the fall. Meredith Viera hosts.
The documentary reality series that went inside The New York Times for a year, The Fourth Estate, debuted Sunday (Showtime, Sundays at 8), and all four episodes are now on-demand and streaming. I’ll have a review of the entire series later today.
48 Hours: NCIS (CBS, Tuesdays at 10) isn’t behind-the-scenes of the hit CBS procedural; instead, it’s the reality TV version of that show, with what CBS describes as “unprecedented access to the dramatic and shocking cases handled by the real-life U.S. Naval Criminal Investigative Service.”
Volunteers who go to the middle east to fight terrorism are the subject of Hunting ISIS (History, Tuesdays at 10; repeating on Viceland, Sundays at 10).
Several shows returned for new seasons last week: Who Do You Think You Are? (TLC, Mondays at 9), Shaunie’s Home Court (VH1, Mondays at 10), Growing Up Hip Hop (WE tv, Thursdays at 9), and Street Outlaws (Discovery, Mondays at 9).
Returning this week: Josh Gates’ Expedition Unknown (Discovery, Tuesdays at 10), Black Ink Crew: Chicago (VH1, Wednesdays at 8), and Man Fire Food (Cooking Channel, Wednesdays at 9), Extreme Cake Makers (Cooking Channel, Fridays at 10).
New shows include Our Wild Life (TLC, Tuesdays at 9), which follows a family with five kids and 81 animals; Explained (Netflix, Wednesdays), which takes quick deep dives into various topics, from diets to cryptocurrency; and Cults and Extreme Belief (A&E, Tuesdays at 10), which looks at active cults through their former and current members.
And in its quest to become as grisly and low-brow as ID, Oxygen has two new true-crime series that start Sunday: Buried in the Backyard (Oxygen, Sundays at 7), which is about murdered people buried in random places, and A Wedding and A Murder (Oxygen, Sundays at 8), which focuses on the always-entertaining stories of relationships that ended in murder.
From John McCain to Mary Kay Letourneau
Senator John McCain is the focus of John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls, which debuted last night on HBO and is now on demand. The film begins after his diagnosis with brain cancer and offers “unprecedented access to his daily life in Washington, D.C. and Sedona, Arizona,” according to HBO, and that access resulted “an illuminating, exclusive profile of one of the most influential forces in modern American politics.”
Going to War (PBS, check local listings) “explores the paradox of war: a painful and horrific experience that also brings exhilaration, purpose, connection — and even love,” according to PBS.
The Final Year (HBO, on demand) goes behind the scenes of foreign policy decision-making during the final year of Barack Obama’s presidency.
Bipolar Rock ‘n’ Roller (Showtime, on demand) focuses on “combat sports broadcaster Mauro Ranallo and his lifelong battle with mental illness.”
Mary Kay Letourneau: Autobiography (A&E, Tuesday, May 29, at 8) is about the teacher who went to prison for seven years because of her relationship with her 13-year-old sixth-grade student. A&E calls it “her most in-depth confessional to date.” Her student—Vili Fualaau, now her spouse—will also tell his story.