Recently, a long-time reality blurred reader wrote to me to thank me for recommending a show. While I appreciated the note, it made something click for me: recommending great reality TV is what I love best.
This year, I’ve been experimenting with highlighting things that bring happiness into my life, but I haven’t found a name for this feature, nor a regular schedule! But the e-mail made it click: they’re just recommendations of things I loved and hope you will too.
I’ll continue with full reality TV show reviews, of course, but occasionally round up other recommendations. So, here’s today’s. I hope some of these spark as much joy for you as they did for me.
The Real Housewives of New York City—and Kitchen Island
Bethenny may have moved on to star in her own version of The Apprentice, but The Real Housewives of New York City have moved on without her.
The season 12 trailer came out in February, and it looks spectacular. But we have to wait until April to actually watch the show!
In the meantime, there’s The Real Housewares of Kitchen Island, a RHONY parody by Ben Mandelker, who co-hosts the podcast Watch What Crappens, and who I first got to know when he was one of the founders of the still-missed website TVGasm.
The animated parody series has the cast members represented by kitchen items; Ramona is a spoon, and its voice and eyes are <chef’s kiss> perfection. Even the backdrops for the interviews are hilarious—Sonja’s made me actually laugh out loud.
There have been nine episodes so far, and they’re a quick watch at about five minutes each, and they’re exactly what I needed to tide me over until April when the RHONY cast returns with their ridiculous drama.
Hilarious Bachelor recaps
I only occasionally watch The Bachelor, because I can’t quite shake the feeling that I’ve already watched what I’m seeing, like I’m stuck inside some kind of time loop where Chris Harrison just says “coming up” over and over again.
So, I rely on others to keep me informed, including Reality Steve.
Now, I’m thrilled that a friend of mine, Mary Beth Ellis, is now doing live recap reactions of The Bachelor for Monsters & Critics.
I first encountered Mary Beth’s work when we were both in grad school, back before there was electricity. I read a draft of her essay “The Waltz,” which would eventually end up in this book, on the plane on the way to school, and was in awe of her talent as a writer.
It was vulnerable, informative, and hilarious—and so are her recaps of The Bachelor. They are mostly, however, hilarious, what would you expect from someone who subtitled her memoir, “Notes from a Woman’s College Womb”, and perhaps especially funny if you are more of a Bachelor skeptic than devoted believer that this process is about anything more than securing more Instagram followers.
A Tom Hanks mystery
I first heard of this new nonfiction podcast, Dead Eyes, when Adam Conover recommended it on Twitter. He’s a guest in one of the episodes, and there’s a parade of other celebrities you may recognize: D’Arcy Carden, Jon Hamm, Zach Woods.
Actor Connor Ratliff—”you’ve probably never heard of me,” he says—created the podcast to solve a mystery: Why did Tom Hanks fire him from a tiny part in the 2001 HBO show Band of Brothers?
As a guest on the podcast says, “it’s like Serial, but about something really insignificant.” It’s unclear where this is going, or if Tom Hanks will appear and solve the mystery, since he’s probably the only one who really can.
But right now, I’m enjoying the journey: Dead Eyes meanders down paths, exploring Hollywood’s dysfunction and rejection’s tendency to linger and haunt us, and it’s a universal story that also has some insight into how pop culture gets made.
Bonus podcast episode recommendation: This week’s episode of Reply All, “The Case of the Missing Hit,” is just wonderful.
Netflix’s reality TV and cable TV’s return to reality
A few articles that were really informative about how cable and streaming services are changing—and using reality TV:
- How HGTV Maintains Its Grip on Comfort Television by Constantly Evolving (Variety)
- Cable networks are swinging back toward reality TV and abandoning expensive and not-exactly-blockbuster scripted series. (Hollywood Reporter)
- Inside Netflix’s Reality-TV Invasion (The Daily Beast)
- Has Netflix Finally Figured Out Reality TV? (Vulture)