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9 must-read reality TV stories, from Jerry Springer to Kristin Cavallari

9 must-read reality TV stories, from Jerry Springer to Kristin Cavallari
Very Cavallari Kristin Cavallari on Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen on July 11, 2018. (Photo by Charles Sykes/Bravo)

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!

Trash, class, and free cigarettes: My life with The Jerry Springer Show

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.”

Rose McGowan Is Not Done With Harvey Weinstein

Rose McGowan, winter 2018 TCA, Citizen Rose

Rose McGowan at the Television Critics Association winter press tour on Jan. 9, 2018. (Photo by Evans Vestal Ward/NBCUniversal)

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.”


How TV’s Biggest True-Crime Players Find Their Stories

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.


Kristin Cavallari is back on reality TV. This time, she’s done being your villain.

Kristin Cavallari

Kristin Cavallari, in a photo taken for her jewelry and home goods line, Uncommon James. (Photo via Facebook)

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's Mark Cuban and Daymond John

Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban, left, with co-star Daymond John in season six’s first episode. (Photo by Tony Rivetti/ABC)

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)

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means.


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