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TV Bites: Sum-Sum-Summer, It’s Reality Summer

by Neena Louise

Snap_2011.03.15-23.10.18_001_thumbAs usual, the summer TV "season" heralds the return of reality programming.

I like some reality programming, but much of it is just kind of…sad. I often wonder what sort of people want to go on a reality show to bare themselves (sometimes literally) for the entire nation to see. For the money? Because they’re fame whores? Because they have something to prove? Like I said: sad. But, I digress…

In no particular order, here is a summary of some of this season’s reality fare on the Big Four:

Expedition Impossible (ABC)

Host: Dave Salmoni

The premise: Teams do arduous tasks while in Morocco. The last team to arrive in each leg gets eliminated, until there is only one team left.

The payoff: $150,000.

The verdict: Complete and utter The Amazing Race rip-off, but not nearly as clever or entertaining.

101 Ways to Leave a Game Show (ABC)

Host: Jeff Sutphen

The premise: Contestants are given multiple-choice answers to a trivia question, with one of the answer choices being wrong. The one with the wrong answer must leave the show by some bizarre method like falling off a moving semi truck, being shot in the air, etc. Last one standing wins.

The payoff: $50,000.

The verdict: You only need one way to leave this game show: turn the channel.

Love in the Wild (NBC)

Host: Darren McMullen

The premise: Total strangers pair up and do tasks in the "wild". At the end of each leg, the couple that come in first are immune. The rest have the option of staying with their partner, or asking someone else to become their partner instead. The last two without a partner get eliminated. Last one standing wins.

The payoff: A trip around the world and the prospect of getting laid…er, finding love.

The verdict: A boring, pale imitation of The Amazing Race with beautiful, horny people.

America’s Got Talent (NBC)

Host: Nick Cannon

The premise: Contestants do their schtick – singing, dancing, piercing themselves, etc. – in front of 3 celebrity judges. If the judges like them, they move on. If they don’t, they get X’ed out and are eliminated. America votes to select the final winner.

The payoff: $1,000,000 (though it gets paid out over 40 years, so it’s actually a pittance) and a headline a show in Las Vegas.

The verdict: Most of the time, America does not have talent and the performances are cringe-worthy. Occasionally, however, there is a gem that makes it worth watching.

So You Think You Can Dance (Fox)

Host: Cat Deeley

The premise: Hopeful dancers audition before alleged celebrity judges. If the judges like what they see, the dancer moves on. During the finals, 20 dancers are coupled up and America votes. The bottom 3 must "dance for their lives" and the judges have the final say who goes and who stays. In the end, the winner gets chosen by the public.

The payoff: $250,00 and bragging rights as "America’s Favorite Dancer"

The verdict: This show has been uneven since its ill-advised fall airing a couple of seasons back. Since then, they keep messing with the format, much to my chagrin. This season, the judges’ ridiculous choices and overly-enthusiastic gushing over lackluster performances is just plain boring.

Masterchef (Fox)

Hosts: Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich, Graham Elliot

The premise: Amateur cooks perform various cooking tasks for three celebrity chefs. Each week, the worst dish gets the cook tossed out. Last one standing wins.

The payoff: $250,000 and bragging rights as "Masterchef".

The verdict: The contestants are a bit strange with their borderline-creepy enthusiasm, anxiety and emotional outbursts over trivial things, but it can be engaging at times.

Big Brother (CBS)

Host: Julie Chen

The premise: Strangers are locked into a "house" completely wired with cameras. Each week, they perform tasks and are met with "surprises". The winner of the task gets the power to select 2 people they want out. The other contestants vote on who leaves. Last one standing wins.

The payoff: $500,000.

The verdict: If you like to ogle empty-headed hot young bodies, this is for you. For the other 99.7% of the population, don’t bother.

It’s Worth What? (NBC)

Host: Cedric the Entertainer

The premise: A team of two contestants play a series of value-based challenges (usually selecting which collectable is most expensive). They go through 7 rounds, adding money to the bank. If they get one wrong, they aren’t eliminated, but don’t add any money to the bank. In the final round, they can earn up to 10 times what they bank, depending on how confident they are in their choices.

The payoff: Up to $1,000,000, though it seems unlikely anyone would be able to win that.

The verdict: This is a weird sort of combination of The Price is Right for Collectables and several other game shows, making it unnecessarily convoluted. The constant "it’s worth whaaaaaaat?!" and "are you sure sure?" (which is nonsensical) are very annoying. Strictly an if-there’s-nothing-else-on show.

Hell’s Kitchen (Fox)

Host: Gordon Ramsay

The premise: Hopeful chefs are split into two teams – men vs. women. They prepare meals for a full dinner service as well as compete in challenges along the way. Chef/host Gordon Ramsay chooses the worst-performing team, who must then select the 2 that performed the worst. Ramsay selects the one that leaves. Last one standing wins.

The payoff: A $250,000 salary as head chef at some swanky place (this year it’s BLT Steak in New York City).

The verdict: The clash of personalities can be interesting, but the "challenges" are lame and Ramsay’s unending screaming, cursing and hissy fits are so tiresomely phony, that – 9 seasons in – they are eye-rollingly stupid. He should find another shtick.

Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition (ABC)

Host: Chris Powell

The premise: Personal trainer Powell puts a morbidly obese person on a year-long weight loss program.

The payoff: Weight loss.

The verdict: Though Powell is very likeable and seems to truly care, this is yet another "fatty exploitation" show. Though it benefits the one going through the weight-loss program (in more ways than just weight loss), I see no reason why they must be weighed in their underwear, nor why we must be shown close-ups of their rolls of fat. Like The Biggest Loser, I’m guessing it’s so the viewer can feel better about themselves. Or, perhaps, give some viewers something to mock. This must stop.

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