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Clay & Ruben, Queer Eye − Bobby, Guy Fieri + $100m, and more reality TV news

Clay & Ruben, Queer Eye − Bobby, Guy Fieri + $100m, and more reality TV news
Clay Aiken and Ruben Studdard, in a photo posted to their Instagram, taken in San Diego in November 2023, 20 years after their time on American Idol

Despite November being one of our shorter months, with a short holiday week here in the States, there’s been plenty of reality TV news this month.

I’ve been collecting and curating links along the way: a change to Real Housewives reunions, Kate Butch’s theory about her Drag Race UK exit, a new role for the creator of Flavor of Love, Jeff Probst saying something ridiculous about Survivor, and a Survivor winner defending a friendship.

All of those and more are below.

I’ll continue to update this into December, which tends to be a slower news month as Hollywood shuts down—though it’s also gearing back up, so who knows?

Must-reads

Two people standing on a runway; one is wearing a flowing dress, the other is gesturing and talking
Rami Kashou describes his “Freedom” dress to the Project Runway 20 judges on episode 10. (Photo by Zach Dilgard/Bravo)

Project Runway and its runner-up Rami Kashoú “accomplished something American television has until recently largely declined to do: Put a face on, give a voice to, and honor the singular difficulties of the Palestinian experience,” Roxana Hadadi writes in this Vulture essay, which is also about the scripted show Ramy.


Emily Yahr interviewed American Idol 2’s finalists, who are on tour together. “It’s hard for them to imagine going through such a transformative time and not relying on the only other person in the world who understands what it’s like,” she writes in this The Washington Post profile.


Vulture’s Joe Adalian interviewed Netflix’s unscripted executive Brandon Riegg, who talks about everything from needing to make its reality TV more “broadly commercial” (RIP Dating Around) and its growing “cast ecosystem” shows. It’s a fascinating read:

November and December 2023 reality TV news

Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith at the end of GBBO season 12. They'll soon judge The Great America Baking Show together
Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith at the end of GBBO season 12. (Photo by Channel 4)

Paula Abdul has sued former American Idol producer and So You Think You Can Dance judge Nigel Lythgoe, claiming he sexually assaulted her twice, once in an elevator during Idol auditions and at his home during SYTYCD production. It says she feared retaliation but “ultimately decided not to take action for fear that Lythgoe would have her fired from American Idol.” Lythgoe called the lawsuit an “appalling smear” after trying to discredit her by referring to “Paula’s history of erratic behavior.” [Associated Press, 12.30.23]

Survivor winner Erika Casupanan revealed that in 2023, she “realized I’m a lesbian,” while Survivor winner Parvati Shallow shared a photo of her with comedian Mae Martin captioned, “We’re here. We’re queer.” [12.30.23]

The Challenge’s Nelson Thomas wrote on Instagram about his March DUI, saying “I’ve found closure with the legal aspects and won’t carry this burden into 2024.” He also wrote about the GoFundMe that raised money for him and was criticized; he says a friend “created it with positive intentions, aware that I would go through hard times and need help. I initially withheld this information due to legal considerations.” [12.30.23]

Best Evidence compiled lists of the best 2023 true crime documentaries and Hidden True Crime Gems, plus The Worst True Crime of 2023 and 2024’s Most Anticipated True Crime (both of which I contributed to!). [12.23]

Survivor 44’s Carolyn Wiger said she left an abusive relationship, writing on Instagram, “I used to think it couldn’t happen to me. But even through the darkest time of my life, I’ve found hope. Abuse can happen to anybody. You’re not alone. It is what you do to overcome it that is important.” (If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for help at 1-800-799-7233 or text “START” to 88788) [12.27.28]

Austin Li Coon wrote about what it was like to recover from Survivor 45, including how “overwhelming” it was to return to normal life, and writing, “I’ve noticed since returning that it has been difficult for me to stay present, and so I deliberately spent 80% of my first week back from Survivor alone.” [Austin Li Coon, 12.27.23]

Bobby Rivers—whose career included Food Networks Top 5 and being an early VH1 VJ, among other things—died at age 70 from lung cancer. He was “Milwaukee’s queer media pioneer,” as the Wisconsin LGBTQ History Project said in its detailed look at his career. [12.26.23]

Theresa Nist’s friends want her to get a prenup before marrying Gerry Turner, if you believe gossip reports about their rocky relationship in advance of their Jan. 4 live wedding. [Life & Style, 12.21.23]

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu formally apologized to Alan Swanson and Willie Bennett, two Black men blamed for the murder of a white woman who was actually killed by her husband, whose story was told in HBO’s Murder in Boston. “I am so sorry for the pain that you have carried for so many years. What was done to you was unjust, unfair, racist, and wrong, and this apology is long overdue,” Wu said. Police Commissioner Michael Cox apologized “for the lack of professionalism shown by our department” and for the “poor investigation … overzealous behavior, and more likely unconstitutional behavior.” [Boston Globe, 12.20.23]

Holiday Baking Championship finalist Thoa Nguyen talked about how she was edited (the first episode “created this first impression to viewers that I was the weakest link, and I think that followed me through, even though I was doing well”) and how filming allows for “time between interviews and baking, and that was the time we got to really sit with other contestants to get to know them and become really good friends.” [Westword, 12.20.23]

Mayim Bialik was fired as host of Jeopardy!, she announced on Instagram, writing, “Sony has informed me that I will no longer be hosting the syndicated version.” She added, “I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of the Jeopardy! family.” [12.15.23]

The Daytime Emmy Creative Arts Award winners include Netflix’s Instant Dream Home and Discovery+’s José Andrés and Family in Spain. [Emmys, 12.16.23]

The Great American Baking Show season 3 finalist Molly Brodak, who died by suicide, is the subject of her husband’s Blake Butler’s memoir, Molly, which has been getting acclaim while others question it. The memoir’s first chapter was published by The Paris Review.

CNN cancelled Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy last December; now, NatGeo has picked up the show, which will be called Tucci — The Heart of Italy. [TVLine, 12.14.23]

Survivor 44’s Carson Garrett, who memorably practiced puzzles by 3D printing them before competing, has launched his own line of 3D-printed puzzles: Puzzlenaut by Carson Garrett [12.13.23]

Hulu’s reality show following Sean “Diddy” Combs and his family, Diddy+7, following accusations of that he committed sexual assault and violence against several women. [Rolling Stone, 12.13.23]

Disney TV reality TV executive Rob Mills said the network will “thoughtfully consider” future Golden Bachelors and spin-offs, but added, “We’d be stupid not to say, ‘What are other stories we can tell with these people?'” [Deadline, 12.12.23]

Netflix’s most-popular reality TV show in the first half of last year was not Love is Blind. That was the second-most-popular. The first: Physical: 100. [Netflix, 12.12.23]

Former Dancing with the Stars co-host Samantha Harris says executives told her: “viewers are confusing you with the dancers because you’re too tanned and too toned […] so we need you to stop doing any self-tanning — which I’ll be honest, I tanned as much as you guys did — and to gain weight.” [People, 12.12.23]

The Golden Bachelor’s dramatic conclusion did well for ABC: it was “the largest audience (7.13 million) for any series in The Bachelor franchise (i.e., The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise) since March 2020,” ABC said in a press release. Expect more Golden Bachelor/ette! [ABC, 12.11.23]

Anna “Chickadee” Cardwell, Honey Boo Boo’s sister and Mama June’s daughter, died at age 29 on Dec. 9, from adrenal cancer. [NBC News, 12.10.23]

Squid Game: The Challenge will return for a second season, and is now casting. [Netflix, 12.6.23]

I haven’t noticed Drew Carey saying “I love you” at the end of Price is Right episodes, so I appreciated Travis M. Andrews giving it some attention. [Washington Post, 12.6.23]

Former Double Dare host and Restaurant Impossible producer Marc Summers is heading off-Broadway with his autobiographical show, The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers. Tickets are now on sale, and it’s great; I saw the show back in spring 2016 when I profiled Marc for the L.A. Times. [People, 12.6.23]

HBO’s Murder in Boston: Roots, Rampage & Reckoning tells the story of “a man who not only killed his wife and unborn child, but then actively sought to destroy the life of a complete stranger he knew was innocent,” as Jack Hamilton writes, but makes the choice to “foreground the role of race in the Stuart affair, in terms of both its backdrop and its aftermath” instead of highlighting the murderer. [Slate, 12.4.23]

The Golden Bachelor Gerry admitted he dated after his wife died. How dare he! [Hollywood Reporter, 12.3.23]

The Traitors UK will have a companion show, The Traitors: Uncloaked, “which will show players who have been eliminated finding out who the traitors are.” [BBC News, 12.1.23]

OMG snails on the set of The Great British Bake-Off [TikTok, 11.24.23]

Hilary Farr is leaving Love It or List It after 17 seasons. In HGTV’s announcement, Hilary said, “David and I will remain friends forever and I expect him to be as fabulously and hilariously annoying as ever. Love It or List It has had such a true impact on so many lives, including mine, but now it’s time for me to embrace new challenges that have come my way. If this is my legacy, it’s a great one.” [WBD, 12.1.23]

Andy Cohen keeps calling this story “a factually incorrect rehash,” but now also says “We’ve addressed each of the things that did happen, and we’ve moved forward.” Someone needs better talking points. [Vanity Fair, 11.30.23]

Is There Still Sex in The City will follow four 50-something friends who will “live together in a cozy country chateau where they’ll have their pick of a different group of men in each episode,” according to the logline of a Sex and the City reality TV show being developed by Bunim-Murray. Yes to a dating show with people not in their 20s. No thanks to another IP extension. [Variety, 11.30.23]

Netflix’s VP of unscripted TV, Brandon Riegg, is looking for a “shiny floor” show—a studio-based game show or performance competition—for the streamer, possibly with voting. “It would be a first to see people in 192 countries all voting,” he said. Riegg also said he “couldn’t be happier” with Squid Game: The Challenge, which has been Netflix’s #1 TV show this past week. [RealScreen, 11.29.23]

If you’re tired of Guy Fieri on Food Network, I have news: He just signed a three-year, $100 million deal. That means more Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Guy’s Grocery Games, and Tournament of Champions (yay), plus shows he produces. I have not yet read anything about whether Hunter is included in the deal. [Variety, 11.28.23]

Netflix added Fall In Love Like A K-Drama yesterday, in which actors compete for roles and maybe fall in love. Rick Ellis recommends it in part because “You get to see what worked and what didn’t and how the actors interacted with each other in-between scenes.” [AllYourScreens, 11.28.23]

Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino says he spent $500,000 on opioids during filming of Jersey Shore from 2009 to 2012. He’s sober now, but says, “The only time I’m tempted is when I’m filming.” [Asbury Park Press, 11.28.23]

Four Survivor 44 players have started a podcast, Surviving the Dice. Carson Garrett introduced it by writing, “A year and a half ago, four dweebs met on the islands of Fiji and started talking about DnD.🤓 Though none of them made it out with the million dollar prize, they came away with something far more valuable: the seeds of a new campaign.” [11.27.23]

Almost one year after Top Gear host Andrew “Freddie” Flintoff was injured in a car crash, and eight years after Jeremy Clarkson punched a Top Gear producer and got fired, Top Gear has been cancelled. Critic Ed Powers wrote about how “Britain’s national broadcaster has taken a once hugely lucrative ratings winner – in 2015, it was worth £50 million a year – and driven it into the ditch.” [The Irish Times, 11.25.23]

A law firm representing Squid Game: The Challenge contestants says it “sent letters of claim on behalf of contestants injured in this show” because producers “pushed the boundaries of safety in the name of entertainment.” [Realscreen, 11.24.23]

Jeff Probst said Survivor’s cast is young because more younger people apply. If only Survivor knew how to find people who didn’t apply. [EW, 11.22.23]

Drag Race Germany made history by crowning a cisgender woman, Pandora Nox, as “Germany’s First Drag Superstar.” [Them, 11.21.23]

Survivor winner Sandra Diaz-Twine posted a photo on Instagram of “lunch with one of my Survivor Besties Jeff Varner.” Considering what Jeff Varner did—and considering the transphobic shit he’s posted online since—Sandra was criticized for that, and she doubled-down, defending her friendship with him. [Collider, 11.21.23]

The co-creator of The Surreal Life and other shows including Flavor of Love, Cris Abrego, was elected chair of the Television Academy, which awards Emmys, among other things. [Television Academy, 11.20.23]

Kate Butch knew she’d be eliminated from RuPaul’s Drag Race UK before the roast: “I knew if I got onto that I’d do quite well and then I’d be in the final three, and that kind of didn’t make sense given the trajectory I’d had,” she told The Tab. “It’s not my time to be in the final three, so make sense that I go home now. I knew it wasn’t my time because… I didn’t spend any money on the outfits! I’ll do another series where there’s [prize] money and I might spend a bit. I’m the only queen not in debt!” [The Tab, 11.17.23]

Love Island was renewed for two additional seasons, which Peacock says is its “#1 Original reality series.” Good for it, but #1 really should be The Traitors! [11.16.23]

Why Does Reality TV Keep Shoving Marriage Down Our Throats? [Stylecaster, 11.15.23]

Brandi Mallory, who was on Extreme Weight Loss in 2014, died at age 40. She was found dead in her car. [People, 11.15.23]

Bobby Berk decided to leave Queer Eye—or was asked to leave because the other cast members resent him, if you believe Us Weekly’s report. Dustin Rowles pointed out that Bobby “spends much of the episode separated from the rest of the group, mostly because he’s doing the hard part.” Isn’t making guacamole really the hard part, though? [11.13.23]

Sean Campbell explores how “the resurrection of reality policing is all but complete, to devastating consequences” [Slate, 11.10.23]

Joe Reid argues that Prue Leith is The Great British Bake-Off’s “weak link” [Primetimer, 11.11.23]

Claire Spellberg Lustig compares the competing cult docuseries Desperately Seeking Soulmate and Escaping Twin Flames, looking at how they “are different enough in their framing.” [Primetimer, 11.8.23]

Ramona Singer was axed from BravoCon after texting part of a racial slur to a reporter and another event, but was still featured in a trailer for The Real Housewives: Ultimate Girls Trip: RHONY Legacy [The Wrap, 11.5.23]

Joey Graceffa is asking fans to give up to $1+ million to make a theatrical short or feature film of Escape the Night, his hybrid YouTube series. With 56 days to go, 476 people have given a total of $72,070, short of the $250,000 minimum that will be used to make a 25-minute short. [Indiegogo]

Netflix filmed The Circle seasons six and seven in Atlanta earlier this year, and will air season six in spring 2024. [11.6.23]

Erin Jensen asks if reality TV “stars owe us every detail” of their lives. I was interviewed for the story, and found the question and the other perspectives quite interesting! [USA Today, 11.3.23]

Bravo renewed The Real Housewives of New Jersey, Below Deck Mediterranean, Below Deck Down Under, Below Deck Sailing Yacht and Summer House for new seasons. [11.3.23]   

Exciting news for fans of Housewives using explicit language: “Uncensored reunions will stream on Peacock the day following their Bravo airdate.” [Bravo, Nov. 3]

Jordan Schmidt took a loving but critical two-hour look at all 14 English-language versions of The Mole. [YouTube, 10.16.23]

Magnolia Network is developing four new shows, including Human vs. Hamster (which is exactly what it sounds like), a roller skating competition, and a show that is basically like 1900 House except set in the 1800s. [11.2.23]

There will be a Dance Moms Reunion on Lifetime next year with “fan favorite dancers and moms … reuniting to talk about the good, bad and everything else in between.” Will Abby Lee Miller participate? [11.1.23] 

Schitt’s Creek star Jennifer Robertson will host The Great Canadian Pottery Throw-Down, while Seth Rogen will be a guest judge, in addition to producing through his production company. The show airs on CBC sometime this winter. [CBC, 10.31.23]

reality blurred updates

  • Monday, Dec. 11: The Golden Bachelor’s dramatic conclusion did well for ABC: it was “the largest audience (7.13 million) for any series in The Bachelor franchise (i.e., The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise) since March 2020,” ABC said. Expect more Golden Bachelor/ette!
  • Friday, Dec. 8: Happy Hanukkah!
  • Tuesday, Dec. 5: Enter my latest contest for a chance to win one of three fun reality TV-themed books, such as a Golden Bachelor coloring book!
  • Monday, Dec. 4: My story about The Mole placed third in the 2023 National A&E Journalism Awards‘ individual entertainment blog category.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 28: If you’re looking for a charity to donate to today or any day, may I suggest José Andrés’ World Central Kitchen? There’s a lot horrible and horrifying shit happening in the world—millions of people homeless and thousands of people killed after terrorism in Israel and bombing in Palestine; ongoing war in Ukraine; fires in Hawaii, a hurricane in Mexico, and other natural disasters. In all these places, WCK just showed up and fed people in need, whether that’s in a war zone or the aftermath of a natural disaster. They’re amazing people who help other people.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 28: Please tell me: What show did you wish I’d covered this year but did not?
  • Thursday, Nov. 23: Happy Thanksgiving! I’m grateful for you, and for our discussions about reality TV!
  • Wednesday, Nov. 15: No Survivor 46 or Amazing Race recaps for tonight’s episodes—at least until Sunday or Monday. My apologies!
  • Monday, Nov. 13: CBS announced that Survivor 46 will have 90-minute episodes (after two two-hour episodes), and again be paired with Amazing Race on Wednesdays.
  • Tuesday, Nov. 7: Sunday’s episode of The Circus will be the final one; Showtime has cancelled it after eight seasons and 130 episodes.
  • Friday, Nov. 3: I just learned that my story about The Mole is a finalist in the L.A. Press Club’s National A&E Journalism Awards—I’m honored and excited!
  • Thursday, Nov. 2: Max announced The Jinx Part Two is coming next year. Do we need a Jinx Part TwoOf course not. Did anyone ask that question? Of course not.

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