Reality TV

MTV’s ‘Slednecks’ Isn’t Particularly Offensive — So Will Anyone Care to Watch It?

The film Reality (by Gomorrah director Matteo Garrone), about a provincial Italian fisherman who dreams of being on Big Brother, and keeps dreaming himself into a series of delusions that bring his life crashing down, beautifully sums up the ambiguity of the whole reality TV genre in its very title. In the 21st century, nobody in their right mind mistakes reality TV for reality. The fact of it its factlessness is no epiphany — but reality TV also shouldn’t be mistaken for fiction, either. Stripped of the woes that befall fictitious characters — as fiction is typically written to emulate reality — bracketing people, who, as real people, are prone to tragedy and tragic missteps, into lighthearted, producer-planned dramas that are confined to producer-planned sleepovers or producer-planned outings, reality TV is a claustrophobic realm unto itself of enclosed, resolvable dramas. The “reality” in it is neither “reality” nor fiction as we know it. It’s something far more stifling. … Read More

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Here’s a Trailer For ‘Branson Famous,’ A Musical Reality TV Series

Just when you thought reality TV had mined every awful possibility, the creative demons of television commerce have concocted… Read More

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Fox’s ‘Utopia’ Turns an Intriguing Social Experiment Into a Mundane Reality Show

Fox’s Utopia is not a reality show — it’s a “social experiment.” What this really means is that it’s trying to pretend it’s smarter than the average reality program. There have been others with the same stated goal: Wife Swap aims to teach people about different kinds of family values, Shattered had contestants go without sleep for a week, and Kid Nation put 40 kids in a deserted town to build their own society without adult supervision. Utopia is Kid Nation‘s spiritual equivalent. Fifteen adults live together on a plot of undeveloped land and create their idea of a utopian society. If Utopia were, indeed, a social experiment, it would be a fascinating television show — Fox is so confident in this that it will air episodes twice a week — but instead it offers nothing more than typical reality show boredom. … Read More

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‘Kid Nation': Looking Back on TV’s Most Disturbing Reality Show

Ever since the reality TV genre took off in the early 2000s, networks have been in an unspoken competition to put out the most unique, controversial, or just absurd programs. 2007 was a big year for reality, but Kid Nation was the clear winner. In Kid Nation, 40 children were sent to a privately owned town in New Mexico to create their own society, set up a government, and fend for themselves without adults. The children, ages eight to 15, had to do everything themselves — from doing their own laundry to slaughtering their own dinner — and, if they were lucky, were sometimes rewarded with a sack full of buffalo nickels. CBS thought this show was a good idea. … Read More

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Kristen Schaal and Casey Wilson’s ‘Hotwives of Orlando': Is the ‘Real Housewives’ Franchise Too Ridiculous to Parody?

It seems pointless to mention that the main draw of Housewives-brand reality shows – and the very reason why a great number of people still watch them – is that they’re hyperbolically unreal. And yet I mentioned it, because Hulu’s The Hotwives of Orlando, created by Danielle Schneider and Dannah Phirman, is the kind of parody that booby-traps one into stating the obvious. … Read More

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The Eminem Show: Music’s Greatest Ongoing Reality Saga

There was a moment in the early 2000s when the release of a new Eminem single felt like a bona fide cultural event. Everyone would know the words to tracks like “My Name Is” or “The Real Slim Shady,” but that moment has passed. Sure, there’s a decent number of people who still wait on every new release, a core of diehard fans who’ll invade your comment section and tell you that Em is the greatest rapper in the world if you dare to suggest otherwise. As far as a connection with the general public goes, though, Eminem’s moment has passed. But still the Eminem show goes on — and Mother’s Day brought a new episode, a song and music video titled “Headlights,” intended as an apology to his mom, Debbie. … Read More

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‘True Detective’ of the Web: ‘Catfish’ Creators Nev Schulman and Max Joseph on Solving the Mysteries of Online Love

Dart through Times Square, where even the Hello Kitty plushies are knockoffs, into the Viacom building on Broadway and 45th, where even the security guards hassle you just because they can. Run smack-dab into Iggy Azalea, dripping with Moschino and contempt, as you enter the elevator. Walk past “ballsy” quotes from M.I.A. and Sid Vicious — an attempt to edge up the colorful MTV offices, where A$AP Rocky blares when you both enter and leave — and step into a conference room overlooking the Hudson River where a team of MTV publicists outnumber your interview subjects. You’re here to talk to Nev Schulman and Max Joseph, the co-stars and co-creators of the “docudrama” Catfish, which returns for its third season this week. It’s almost laugh-out-loud funny how much the real and the fabricated are at battle here within this single experience, an attempt to get to the heart of a TV show that examines what’s real and what’s fabricated in relationships that exist exclusively via digital means. … Read More

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Where Did All the Female Rappers Go? Reality TV

Earlier this week, NPR asked where all the female rappers had gone, and yesterday VH1 gave them their answer, albeit a weak one: a new reality show. This fall, the cable network responsible for “docudramas” like Love & Hip Hop and The Salt-n-Pepa Show will unleash White Girls of Rap into the world, yet again making female rappers a novelty item. … Read More

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The 10 Dumbest TV Shows of All Time

Tonight at 8pm, ABC will debut its new series Splash, a “celebrity” diving competition show in which such iconic figures as Kendra Wilkinson, Keshia Knight Pulliam, and Louie Anderson… well, they do dives, and that’s pretty much the show. If you’re anything like us, you may have greeted this description with one question: “Holy moly, is that the stupidest idea for a television program, ever?” To which we laugh and laugh, and then say, “I dunno, maybe.” To be fair, it’s a tough competition; since its inception, television executives have seemed consistently challenged to top each other in creating excruciatingly dumb shows. After the jump, we’ve rounded up ten that give Splash a run for its money. … Read More

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Amish Youth Escape to New York in TLC’s ‘Breaking Amish’

The Television Critics Association summer press tour ends today, and while most of the big network announcements came last week, its final few days have focused on what’s in store on cable in the next few months. One of the most sensational of these new shows is TLC’s Breaking Amish, a reality series that has shamelessly ripped off the title of Breaking Bad and finds four Amish people and one Mennonite escaping the confines of their secluded communities for the bright lights and impossible rents of New York City.

As you might remember, rebellious Amish youth aren’t a new subject for reality TV: Back in 2004, UPN brought us Amish in the City. The difference is that while the kids in that show were on rumspringa, the Breaking Amish cast members have actually elected to leave the world of barn raisings and horse-drawn buggies forever. There’s already been some controversy among critics over whether TLC producers played too large a role in their subjects’ decision to move to New York, and as you’ll see in the trailer, there’s certainly a semi-exploitative “Look at these fucking Amish” vibe to some of the clips. And yet, we remain curious to learn about people who have had hugely different lives from our own. Click through to get a first look at Breaking Amish, and let us know whether your ethics will permit you to watch the show when it premieres, September 9th. … Read More

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