In this periodic round-up of great journalism and writing about reality TV, here are four deep dives—two about shows, and two about reality TV stars.
And in case you missed it, also read my behind-the-scenes look at Adam Ruins Everything from Pacific Standard.
If you have a link to suggest, whether it’s a story you read or a story you wrote, send it to me!
Trashy talk shows share a lot of DNA with trashy reality shows, and perhaps the trashiest—and most successful—was The Jerry Springer Show, which just stopped producing new episodes after 27 years and 4,000+ episodes. Katie Rife writes about the show’s history—and her time working as a PA on the show who handled contestants.
At the A.V. Club, Rife breaks down how real the show was and what happened behind the scenes, writing that “in general, the love triangles and warring clans were real, albeit heavily coached” while for more outrageous topics, “a producer might not look too deeply into a guest’s background if they were willing to put on enough of a performance.”
BuzzFeed’s Kate Aurthur profiles Rose McGowan, and that includes conversation about her documentary reality series that aired earlier this year. McGowan says that she is “proud of E!” for airing her show Citizen Rose, but critical because they were “brave enough to take it on, but not brave enough to see it through to the finish line — they pretty much swept it under the rug.”
She says of the series, “It’s super raw. But my life — I wanted people to see the truth, to see the personal cost, the toll. It did almost kill me, this stuff. Harvey and his team of minions and accomplices and evildoers, they want me to be so insane I kill myself.”
There are now two cable networks dedicated to true-crime reality TV, Oxygen and ID, plus Netflix’s artsy documentary series. What are those networks looking for, and how do they find shows and stories?
Vulture’s Maria Elena Fernandez and Josef Adalian asked executives for those three networks (plus Lifetime, which airs fictionalized movies based on true crimes), and learned about their approaches and priorities.
Emily Yahr profiled Kristin Cavallari, the former Laguna Beach and The Hills villain who now has a show on E!, Very Cavallari.
Those early reality show experiences weren’t easy for her: “I didn’t look at myself as a star. I looked at it more like, ‘Everybody hates me.’ That was really tough for me, being so young.”
Now, she doubles-down on not having her kids get vaccines (“I still get shit for it, I’ll still get more shit for it. But I really don’t care.”)
Five more stories
Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown debuted the first episode of its final season on Sunday. Bourdain had only completed one episode at the time of Bourdain’s death. Here’s how CNN will be handling the other episodes it will air this fall. (Los Angeles Times)
Shark Tank star Mark Cuban’s NBA team, the Dallas Mavericks, had “numerous instances of sexual harassment and other improper workplace conduct,” according to an investigation, confirming what had been previously reported in a February Sports Illustrated story: Inside the Corrosive Workplace Culture of the Dallas Mavericks. “The investigation did not implicate Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in the perpetrators’ actions,” according to the Dallas Morning News, but it did point out his “significant errors of judgment”; as a result, “Cuban agreed to contribute $10 million to organizations committed to supporting the leadership and development of women and combating domestic violence.” Appearing on ESPN, he apologized to the women who were affected and said “this is not something that just is an incident and then it’s over—it stays with people, it stays with families, and I’m just sorry I didn’t see it. I’m just sorry I didn’t recognize it.” (Dallas Morning News)
HBO and Cinemax have dropped all adult-oriented programming, including the reality series Taxicab Confessions, Real Sex, and Cathouse. An HBO rep told the LA Times, “Over the past several years HBO has been winding down its late-night adult fare. While we’re greatly ramping up our other original program offerings, there hasn’t been a strong demand for this kind of adult programming, perhaps because it’s easily available elsewhere.” (Los Angeles Times)
Why did OWN fail to attract viewers with its early reality TV shows? “I don’t know,” president Erik Logan told Wired. “I think we were more focused on trying to find what could work than trying to diagnose what didn’t. There is a saying that Oprah has—‘What happens to you happens for you.’” (Wired)
RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars winner Trixie Mattel said, “I hate doing ‘Drag Race.’ I hate it.” The reason: “To me, drag is about doing whatever you want, and nobody says anything. And ‘Drag Race’ is about doing what you’re told and having it evaluated. I hate being judged.” (New York Times)