Good Monday morning. I’ve spent the weekend watching Ted Lasso, which is just a non-stop joy of a show (it’s on Apple TV+). It’s not reality TV, but I think it has the same relaxed, warm vibe as The Great British Baking Show—which brought its 2019 holiday episodes to Netflix on Friday. I’ve also been watching Britain’s Best Home Cook with Mary Berry on Hulu, which is not quite GBBO but has its own charms.
These are the kinds of shows I want to watch at this time of year—and at the end of a year when I’m feeling particularly exhausted—because they’re heartwarming, kind, and easy to like. There are more of those reality shows premiering this week, but also ones about murder and surgery and drunk reality stars and other subjects, if your needs are different than mine.
Let’s start our look at this week’s premieres with MTV’s last remaining competition series. The Challenge: Double Agents (MTV, Wednesdays at 8) was filmed in Iceland in September, and will take 30 reality stars from MTV and elsewhere in what MTV is calling “a game of secrets, spies and lies.” I think they forgot “drunk,” unless that’s just assumed now.
Members of a wealthy Vietnamese-American family in Houston, Texas, are the stars of the new docudrama House of Ho (HBO Max, Friday).
Craft in America returns with an episode about “Storytellers,” focusing on artists who use their mediums to tell their own stories (PBS, Fridays at 9, but check your local listing), while Light Speed (YouTube, Monday) follows those competing at the World Solar Challenge.”
A new series, The Surgeon’s Cut (Netflix, Wednesday) follows four surgeons, while Murder in the Heartland (ID, Tuesdays at 10) returns for a new season of profiling a different kind of knife work.
Also this week, HBO Max is adding seasons two and three of Adam Ruins Everything, seasons two to five of The Carbonaro Effect, and Chasing Life with Sanjay Gupta.
Christmas and holiday reality TV
Two Christmas-themed reality TV competitions premiere this week:
- The Great Christmas Light Fight (ABC, Wednesdays at 8) has four families competing for $50,000 in each episode. I’ve previously written a behind-the-scenes story about how the competition works.
- The Christmas Caroler Challenge (The CW, Fridays at 8) is a competition between carolers. Two episodes air each Friday.
And here are three holiday-themed episodes of reality shows, two competitions and two not:
- Haute Dog—whose host was just celebrated in these pages—will have a special holiday episode in which groomers compete for $10,000 (HBO Max, Thursday).
- The Masked Singer has a holiday singalong episode (Fox, Wednesday, Dec. 9, at 8) on which, Fox says, “the final three singers perform never-before-heard holiday songs, with all-new animated clues, and the already unmasked celebrities join together to perform their favorite holiday jingles.”
- My Lottery Dream Home: Holiday Extravaganza (HGTV, Friday, Dec. 11, at 8) has David Bromstad “show[ing] fans how to deck the halls like a lottery winner—but on a realistic budget.”
- Guy’s Grocery Games: Delivery, a fun, home-shot version of the reality competition, airs a holiday episode this week, with Antonia Lofaso, Beau MacMillan, and Damaris Phillips competing from their kitchens (Food Network, Wednesday, Dec. 9, at 9).
Real Housewives of Potomac and other specials
The Real Housewives of Potomac begins its reunion (Bravo, Sunday, Dec. 13, at 9:15 p.m.), which was filmed face-to-face for some reason.
Couples Therapy has a special edition about this year’s shutdown and how it affected couples (Sunday, Dec. 13, at 8). During the special, Dr. Orna Guralnik works with couples over Zoom to navigate their new reality. If you haven’t seen the full series, I highly recommend it.
YouTube is launching a new documentary series, 30 Days With, which offer a “30-day snapshot of the lives of today’s most talked about public figures, athletes, artists, and YouTube creators.” It launches with 30 Days With: Why Don’t We (YouTube, Wednesday), which follows the band.
40 Years a Prisoner (HBO and HBO Max, Tuesday, Dec. 8, at 9) tells the story of “the 1978 police raid on the radical, back-to-nature group MOVE by the Philadelphia Police Department,” according to HBO.
Giving Voice (Netflix, Friday) follows students competing in the August Wilson Monologue Competition.
With Drawn Arms (Bounce, Sunday, Dec. 13, at 9) tells the story of the Olympians who, in 1968, “raised their fists to the sky in silent protest against social racism in a move that would echo for more than 50 years and counting,” according to the network.
Finally, The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (HBO, Saturday, Dec. 12, at 8) is a documentary directed by Frank Marshall that “chronicles the triumphs and hurdles of brothers Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb, otherwise known as the Bee Gees,” according to HBO.
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