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Summer reality TV gets into full swing as nearly 50 reality shows and specials premiere

Summer reality TV gets into full swing as nearly 50 reality shows and specials premiere
Adam Rayl during the American Ninja Warrior All-Stars special (Photo by David Becker/NBC)

Summer is here: Hot and humid weather, the long Memorial Day weekend, and reality TV shows from The Bachelorette and to Big Brother. While we don’t even know yet exactly when Big Brother will return, there are a bunch of reality TV shows premiering soon.

This preview of reality TV and televised documentary premieres covers the next two weeks, which includes Memorial Day week.

I’m doubling up so I can take a few days vacation next week (don’t worry; there will still be new stories every day on reality blurred), and also because my quarterly guide to upcoming reality TV show premieres will be published soon, too.

This week: May 20 to June 2

Game of Thrones may be over, but for some real-life throne intrigue, there’s Private Lives of the Monarchs (Smithsonian, Mondays at 8), which promises that it “uncovers the nitty-gritty, down and dirty and outright strange about the most iconic rulers of our history books – from the infamous Henry VIII to the ‘mad’ King George III and up to Queen Victoria’s long-lasting reign.”

Back for new seasons tonight are Beat Shazam (Fox, Mondays at 8) and Pawn Stars (History, Mondays at 10).

Survivor’s Colby Donaldson is back hosting a reality show: The Butcher (History, Wednesdays at 10), which is a competition about cutting meat.

MTV’s super-dumb How Far Is Tattoo Far? (MTV, Thursdays at 9) returns with super-dumb people agreeing to let their dumb friends or family members design a dumb tattoo that will be applied to their body before they see it.

Here are two new HGTV shows:

  1. Say Yes to the Nest (HGTV, Mondays at 10), “follows different newlyweds on their journey to finding and purchasing their first shared home,” according to the network.
  2. Flip or Flop‘s Christina Anstead gets her own show, Christina on the Coast (HGTV, Thursdays at 9), which follows her life and design business in southern California.
2015 reality TV host Emmy Jane Lynch Hollywood Game NIght
Two-time Emmy-award winning reality TV host, Jane Lynch. (Photo by Trae Patton/NBC)

A special Hollywood Game Night (NBC, Thursday, May 23, at 10) will air as part of NBC’s Red Nose Day, a fundraiser that brings attention and money to kids living in poverty. Jane Lynch hosts and Kelly Clarkson, Kenan Thompson, Kristen Bell, Jennifer Garner, Sean Hayes, Jeff Goldblum, Leslie Mann, Thandie Newton will compete.

For the first time, the Royal Horticultural Society’s Chelsea Flower Show will stream live in the U.S. (Britbox, May 20 to 24). Britbox president Soumya Sriraman said in a press release that it’s “truly a momentous occasion in Britain and for the first time ever U.S. viewers will be able to see it in almost real time through BritBox’s NOW feature.”

The documentary Wrestle (PBS, Monday, May 20, at 10) gots “inside the lives of four members of the high school wrestling team at Huntsville’s J.O. Johnson High School, a longstanding entry on Alabama’s list of failing schools,” according to Independent Lens,” which calls the doc a “closely observed, deeply affecting depiction of growing up disadvantaged in America.”

A special edition of Carpool Karaoke (CBS, Monday, May 20, at 10 p.m.) will have Celine Dion singing and also “James Corden’s favorite moments from this past year,” according to CBS.

A Tale of Two Kitchens (Netflix, May 22) is a documentary short produced by Gael García Bernal and directed by Trisha Ziff that follows the staffs of two restaurants, both run by chef Gabriela Cámara: Contramar in Mexico City and Cala in San Francisco.

After Maria (Netflix, May 24) follows three families after Hurricane Maria destroyed their homes and communities in 2017.

And Ask Dr. Ruth (Hulu, June 1) tells the life story of sex educator and Holocaust survivor Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Watch its trailer:

The week of Memorial Day

The most-popular summer reality show, America’s Got Talent (NBC, May 28, Tuesdays at 8), returns with two new judges and a new host.

It will be followed by a new competition, Songland (NBC, May 28, Tuesdays at 10); in each episode, a different recording artist will hear different songwriters, and then choose one and record that song.

In other big summer shows, American Ninja Warrior returns for its 11th season (NBC, Wednesday, May 29 at 8, then Mondays at 8 starting June 10).

First up is a three-hour all-star ANW special airing May 27 from 7 to 10 p.m. ET, during which “the fastest, strongest and most impressive athletes from the show to compete head-to-head on the National Finals course,” according to NBC.

Masterchef (Fox, May 29, Wednesdays at 8, plus Thursdays at 8 starting June 20) is back with Gordon Ramsay, Aaron Sanchez, and Joe Bastianich judging.

Other returning series include:

  • Naked and Afraid XL (Discovery, June 2, Sundays at 8), which adds an all-star component
  • Southern Charm New Orleans (Bravo, June 2, Sundays at 9).
  • Chrisley Knows Best (USA Network, May 28, Tuesdays at 10)
  • Sweet Home Sextuplets (TLC, May 28, Tuesdays at 10)

In new shows, but with familiar faces, there’s Property Brothers: Forever Home (HGTV, May 29, Wednesdays at 9), on which Drew and Jonathan help transform homes into dream houses, and Marriage Rescue (Paramount, June 2, Sundays at 10), on which Bar Rescue’s Jon Taffer will attempt to help people’s relationships by screaming at them.

Drew and Jonathan Scott, Property Brothers: Forever Home
Drew and Jonathan Scott on their new series, Property Brothers: Forever Home (Photo by HGTV)

Discovery has two new brilliantly named shows, both of which happen to be set in Florida:

  • Dirty Mudder Truckers (Discovery, May 27, Mondays at 10), on which mega trucks come to take on a Central Florida mud pit, and
  • Guardians of the Glades (Discovery, May 28, Tuesdays at 10), which follows a snake hunter in the Everglades who’s trying to capture pythons that are out of control, thanks to idiots who get pythons as pets and then dump them in the Everglades.

A family of nine decides to move to an off-grid homestead in Raising Wild (Discovery, June 2, Sundays at 10). Does it count as being off grid if you have a reality show crew filming you?

On Secrets of the Zoo (NatGeo WILD, June 2, Sundays at 9), cameras go behind the scenes of the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium,

America Unearthed (Travel Channel, May 28, Tuesdays at 10), promises to explore “mysteries that have been hidden until now,” and Unidentified (History, May 31, Fridays at 10) says “Former military intelligence officials … expose new evidence on UFOs.” I’m sure those are completely accurate claims.

Two more “social influencers” try to become TV stars: Relatively Nat & Liv (E! June 2, Sundays at 10) follows cousins Natalie Halcro and Olivia Pierson as they split their lives between L.A. and Vancouver.

Hell in the Heartland: What Happened to Ashley and Lauria? (HLN, June 2, Sundays at 9) is a doc series about “unsolved murder, and allegations of cover- up and corruption in Oklahoma.”

The New York Times’ journalists tell stories on television with their new series, The Weekly (FX, June 2, Sundays at 10).

A’s Biography is returning with three documentaries airing over two nights:

  1. Chris Farley: Anything for a Laugh (Monday, May 27, at 9)
  2. Jeff Dunham: Talking Heads (Tuesday, May 28, at 8)
  3. Jeff Foxworthy: Stand Up Guy (Tuesday, May 28, at 10).

The final days of the circus were filmed for Ringling Bros. And Barnum & Bailey Circus: The Final Farewell (AXS TV, Monday, May 27, at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT). The documentary was filmed in 2017 and offers, according to AXS, “a rare glimpse into the 146-year-old organization as it prepares for the last performances of an unprecedented run—capturing the emotional goodbyes and enduring mystique that had come to define the show throughout the years.”

Diesel Brothers: Monster Jump Live (Discovery, Monday, May 27, at 8) concludes the season and a stunt that’s been planned during previous episodes: Heavy D and the DieselSellerz crew will be “jumping a Monster Jam truck over a flying airplane,” Discovery says.

ESPN’s next 30 for 30 doc, Qualified (ESPN, Tuesday, May 28, at 8), is about the first female race car driver to qualify for the Indy 500, Janet Guthrie.

The famous and failed 2018 Senate campaign run by Beto O’Rourke was followed behind the scenes by filmmaker David Modigliani. Running with Beto (HBO, Tuesday, May 28, at 8) follows Beto’s “rise from virtual unknown to national political sensation,” according to HBO.

It’s been 50 years since the Stonewall riots, and State of Pride (YouTube, May 29) a new documentary talks to young LGBTQ+ people to see what pride means to them.

Nearly all Top Gear UK seasons, from two to 25, will start streaming on the MotorTrend network’s app starting June 4, and in advance of that, several episodes will air on TV (MotorTrend, June 1, 2 and 3, from 8 to 11 p.m.). That’s the network that used to be known as Velocity.

Family Man, Family Murderer (ID, Sunday, June 2, at 10) is about a man’s murder of his pregnant wife and daughters.

Ghostbusters: Behind Closed Doors (Reelz, Sunday, June 2, at 9) “goes inside the movie with the real stories from stars Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Sigourney Weaver and Ernie Hudson,” according to the network.

The Jonas Brothers are back as a trio, and that includes a new documentary, Chasing Happiness (Amazon Prime, June 4). It follows the Jonas Brothers’ journey from a family struggling to make ends meet, to pop superstardom, to an abrupt hiatus that shocked the world,” according to Amazon.

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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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