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Max promises ‘the best of unscripted.’ So what reality TV is coming?

Max promises ‘the best of unscripted.’ So what reality TV is coming?
Joanna and Chip Gaines will star in Magnolia Network's new Fixer Upper: The Hotel (Photo by Warner Bros. Discovery)

The big news today is that Warner Bros. Discovery’s flagship streaming service HBO Max is rebranding as Max, because why have two words when you can drop the one that has decades of television goodwill behind it?

But at least it will come with “the best of unscripted”!

What does that actually mean? What reality TV shows will Max bring us after taking away so many other reality shows?

A logo overtop a tinted blue image of many different TV show cover images
HBO Max goes away and becomes Max on May 23, as seen in this image from the April 12, 2022, presentation (Photo by Warner Bros. Discovery)

To begin, the new Max will have different plans but is otherwise basically what HBO Max is right now.

However, subscribers will get free marketing language like “combining unrivaled breadth and superior quality with iconic franchises and strong product experience, all for great value.”

They’ll also receive brand-new features such as “smarter recommendations,” “improved performance,” and “new hubs.” Oh, do they know how to get me excited! Hubs!

In terms of actual content, the biggest announcement is that Warner Bros. Discovery decided to do a 10-year deal with J.K. Rowling, who will executive produce a new Harry Potter TV series that will be cast with new actors.

There is a long, documented history of Rowling’s transphobia and bigotry, and thus an obvious question of why the actual fuck Warner Bros. Discovery wanted “a decade-long series” produced “in partnership” with “executive producer J.K. Rowling.” (The answer is money, of course. Just money. Nothing else.)

A man sitting on a chair with a small table and glass of water next to him
Casey Bloys, chairman and CEO of HBO and HBO Max Content (Photo by Warner Bros. Discovery)

When asked about it, Max executive Casey Bloys decided to be a coward and served journalists this word salad:

“That’s a very online conversation, very nuanced and complicated and not something we’re going to get into. Obviously, the Harry Potter story is incredibly affirmative and positive and about love and self-acceptance. That’s our priority—what’s on screen. […]

[Rowling] will be involved. She’s an executive producer on the show. Her insights are going to be helpful on that.”

Hey Casey: What’s off-screen are a group of people being targeted by politicians, lawmakers, and other assorted morons who are using “genocidal rhetoric” while proposing and passing laws that are actively harming people.

Just admit your blatant cash grab is more important than people, and we can move on. And hopefully, Max can actually not cause further damage to human beings with their unscripted shows.

What reality TV is Max planning?

A house with pink accents and a pink and purple italicized logo over top of it
HGTV’s Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge is one of the shows coming to Max

Max is promising “best-in-class programing across food, home, reality, lifestyle and documentaries from leading brands like HGTV, Food Network, Discovery Channel, TLC, ID and more.”

Despite that, Discovery+ is not going anywhere. While it has long been abandoned as a streaming service that produces original content, it’s now a decent library for new and old Food Network, HGTV, TLC, and other cable reality shows.

Instead, some of those shows will make their way onto Max, which says it will have “the best of unscripted.”

In unscripted originals, the company announced these shows:

  • SmartLess: On The Road, “following Jason Bateman, Will Arnett, and Sean Hayes as they take viewers on an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the sold-out live tour of their podcast”
  • The end

So yes, an ad for a podcast disguised as a show is the only example of “the best of unscripted” that we got today.

Seriously, this kind of original series is what HBO Max axed the outstanding voguing competition Legendary and wiped its other originals off the service to make room for?

Warner Bros. Discovery they did announce other shows that will be on Max, but they aren’t exclusive to the streaming service, as they’ll be on cable television networks, too. They are:

  1. Barbie Dreamhouse Challenge, HGTV, on which “eight teams of HGTV superstars … transform a Southern California home into a real-life Barbie Dreamhouse”
  2. Fixer Upper: The Hotel, Magnolia Network, on which “Chip and Jo will bring the former Grand Karem Shrine building back to life and turn it into the premiere hotel destination in Waco”
  3. Lost Women of Highway 20, Investigation Discovery, hosted by Octavia Spencer and focusing on women murdered on a highway
  4. Love & Translation, TLC, on which “three American men and twelve international women are traveling from across the world to live on a remote paradise island together”
  5. Survive the Raft, Discovery Channel, a show “inspired by Mexican anthropologist Santiago Genovés’ 1973 behavioral study” that sounds like Outlast on a raft as nine players “test whether personal interest will sabotage the team’s chance to win a fortune together”

So, you know, the usual Discovery family of networks stuff. Some of those shows may be great! None of them seem like shows people would sign up for Max for, especially if they still have cable.

HBO Max was, for a while, the streaming service I’d tell friends they should definitely get, thanks to its range of content from new theatrical superhero films; great scripted shows like Hacks and Our Flag Means Death; original reality TV such as Take Out with Lisa Ling and Legendary; and a deep and quirky library that includes one of my favorite UK reality TV shows of all time.

The Great Pottery Throw Down is still there, thankfully. But this lackluster announcement seems to indicate that any new original reality TV content is just going to be following the Discovery/Food/HGTV/TLC/ID cable TV model. Perhaps that’ll change, but it’s hard to find MAXimum excitement in any of this today.

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart

    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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Happy discussing!

Joe R

Tuesday 18th of April 2023

Warner Bros. Discovery makes for such strange bedfellows. Who was clamoring for one streamer that contained Six Feet Under, Angels in America, Dr. Pimple-Popper, and MILF Manor?? But yes let's drop the "HBO" from the name because it's too elitist.