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Reality TV premieres through Memorial Day weekend

Good morning! While there’s been a non-stop flood of premieres have continued since the start of the year, we’re fast approaching the start of the summer reality TV season. There’s a lot on the way: The week of Memorial Day alone, there will be more than 30 reality shows premiering!

Because my summer quarterly calendar is coming next Tuesday, this weekly preview will take us through May 31 for show premieres, and through June 6 for one-off specials or feature documentary premieres. Let’s get to it!

The long-awaited reunion of the Friends cast finally arrives on TV this week (HBO Max, Thursday), but it seems like it’ll be less of a reunion like The Real World: Homecoming and more like a Bravo reunion, with Jennifer Aniston, Courteney Cox, Lisa Kudrow, Matt LeBlanc, Matthew Perry, and David Schwimmer sitting down to talk on the Warner Bros. lot, in the soundstage where they filmed their iconic sitcom.

American Ninja Warrior will kick off summer competition season (NBC, Mondays at 8 starting May 31), with more than 400 contestants, including people as young as 15, attempting the show’s challenging obstacle course.

A reality competition with much, much smaller challenges arrives on NBC—more than two years after I reported NBC had ordered it straight to series. Small Fortune (NBC, Mondays at 10 starting May 31) has teams of three competing in miniaturized challenges; Lil Rel Howery hosts.

The producers of Big Brother have created a new cooking competition, Crime Scene Kitchen (Fox, Wednesdays at 9), on which the bakers have to try to recreate baked goods from crumbs alone. I’ll have a review of the show on Wednesday.

Two other cooking competitions are premiering new seasons—and both feature younger contestants than usual:

  1. Hell’s Kitchen is back, but with a season that features only contestants who are all 21, 22, or 23 years old: Hell’s Kitchen: Young Guns (Fox, Monday, May 31, at 8).
  2. Chopped Next Gen (Discovery+, Tuesday) is technically a spin-off, with host Liza Koshy—who previously hosted Nickelodeon’s reboot of Double Dare—and a cast of “young, hip and hungry chefs.” Discovery doesn’t say how old they actually are, though. Kids? Teens? Twenty-somethings?

In other culinary reality TV: The new series High on the Hog (Netflix, Wednesday), which follows food writer Stephen Satterfield as he explores “How African American Cuisine Transformed America,” as the show’s subtitle says.

TLC’s 90 Day Fiance franchise is being expanded to include food TV (?!). The new show is called 90 Day: Foody Call (Discovery+, Saturday), and has couples preparing meals in their kitchens. Finally, Extraordinary Places to Eat (BBC Select, Monday, May 31) is a six-episode series where chefs visit their favorite restaurants around the world.

Returning for new seasons over the next eight days:

  • Mental Samurai (Fox, May 25 at 8, then Tuesdays at 9)
  • 7 Little Johnstons (TLC, Tuesdays at 8)
  • sMothered (TLC, Mondays at 10)
  • Property Brothers: Forever Home (HGTV, Wednesdays at 8), which is back on HGTV after being “exclusive” to Discovery+
  • Gordon Ramsay: Uncharted (National Geographic, Mondays at 9 starting May 31)

In real estate reality TV, 40 Year Old Property Virgin (Discovery+, Wednesday) follows first-time home buyers, while The Parisian Agency: Exclusive Properties (Netflix, May 31) follows a family who runs a luxury real estate business in Paris.

In paranormal reality TV: Curse of Akakor (Discovery Channel, Wednesdays at 10) follows investigators who follow explorers who disappeared while looking for the mythical city; Haunted Hospitals (Discovery+, Fridays) and Unexplained: Caught on Camera (Discovery+, Sundays) are both self-explanatory.

American Idol’s mentor travels around and does things on Breaking Bobby Bones (National Geographic, Mondays at 10 starting May 31).

Between Black and Blue (Sundance Now, May 25) has the subtitle “a true story based on lies”: it’s a four-part series about two New York City detectives convicted of murder who are trying to clear their names.

Documentaries and specials premiering on TV

Who Gets to Be An Influencer? (FX and Hulu, Friday, June 4, at 10) follows Collab Crib, a Black creator mansion that’s trying “to achieve social media stardom in 90 days” while “wrestling with a nagging, and profound, challenge: how can they succeed in a nascent industry that seems tilted to their disadvantage,” according to Hulu.

Onision: In Real Life – Sarah Speaks (Discovery+, Thursday) is a follow-up to the documentary that focuses on Sarah, who Discovery+ says she “bares all for the first time and exposes the shocking truth behind the allegations that have haunted Onision and caused him to be one of the most hated men on the internet.”

The Donut King (PBS, Monday, May 24, at 10) tells the story of Ted Ngoy, who Independent Lens says is “a Cambodian refugee who escaped genocide and overcame poverty to build a life for himself”—and a “multimillion-dollar empire of donut shops.”

Louis Theroux: Life on the Edge (BBC Select, Monday) is a four-part series that follows the documentarian as he reconnects, virtually, with subjects he’s met over 25 years.

A small town in Michigan became the first Muslim-majority city in America, and Hamtramck, USA (WORLD Channel, Tuesday, May 25, at 8, and then streaming) follows people in the town before an election.

Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson is the subject of Sir Alex Ferguson: Never Give In (Paramount+, Saturday).

Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness narrates the documentary Vice Versa: The Neglected Pandemic, 40 Years of HIV & AIDS (VICE, Wednesday, June 2, at 9).

Three high school athletes are profiled in Changing the Game (Hulu, Tuesday, June 1), all of whom are “at different stages of their athletic seasons, personal lives, and unique paths as transgender teens,” according to Hulu.

Ballerina Boys (PBS, Friday, June 4, at 9) profiles the all-male ballet company Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, who you may have seen on social media (they’re known as The Trocks), as they tour through the Carolinas.

The Falconer (WORLD, Tuesday, June 1, at 8, and streaming on the PBS app) follows Rodney Stotts, who “is on a mission to build a bird sanctuary and provide access to nature for his stressed community,” according to PBS.

Yellowstone: Super Volcanoes (Discovery+, Tuesday, June 3) explores the super volcano, focusing on the massive one under the western United States.

Breaking Boundaries: The Science of Our Planet (Netflix, Wednesday, June 4) profiles Johan Rockström who led the team who developed the Planetary Boundaries framework.

Apocalypse ’45 (Discovery+, Thursday) has “restored footage and the voices of 24 men who lived through” the end World War II to look at those events.

Nail Bomber: Manhunt (Netflix, Wednesday) is about the nail bombs that went off in London in 1999, targeting Black, gay, and Bengali people.

Mike Tyson: The Knockout (ABC, Tuesday, May 25 and June 1, at 8) “will chronicle the former champion’s climb, crash and comeback, from his difficult childhood to becoming undisputed world champion to his 1992 rape conviction and his personal struggles,” according to ABC News.

And finally, Kitty Love: An Homage to Cats (Netflix, Saturday, June 5) is a documentary following—you guessed it!—cats.

That’s everything on my list for this week/two weeks. Have a great week!

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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. Learn more about Andy.

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