These days, there is a slew of makeover shows on television.
In 2007, Project Runway‘s Tim Gunn became the star of his own reality show, Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style (2007-2008). Co-hosted by Veronica Webb in the first season and Gretta Monahan in the second season, the subject of each episode goes through the standard head to toe reality show makeover. As long as each participant follows Gunn’s rules for fashion, they are allowed to express themselves via the clothes they choose to wear.
There is a reason why this program lasted only two seasons. Though Gunn is well respected in the fashion industry, the show was just a little too cookie cutter to survive in the cutthroat world of reality television.
Do I recommend it? Not really.
Being a parent is never easy, regardless of age. But so is infertility.
In the 2005 TV movie Mom at Sixteen, Donna Cooper (Jane Krawkowski) is a high school teacher who desperately wants to be a mother. But she is wrestling with infertility. Jacey Jeffries (Panabaker) is a sixteen year old who has discovered that she is pregnant. Her mother, Terry (Mercedes Ruehl), forces Jacey to keep the baby and arrange for adoption after the baby is born. But Jacey decides to keep the baby and have her mother raise her grandchild as her own child. How can Donna help and will Jacey be able to raise her child?
For a Lifetime movie, which is usually oozing schmaltz and predictability, Mom at Sixteen is pretty good. I appreciate that the film honestly depicts both teenage pregnancy and the turmoil that comes with being infertile. Both topics are emotionally difficult, but this film plays in a way that does not feel forced or overdone for the sake of a few more eyeballs on the screen.
Do I recommend it?
Behind every successful musician is a human being who did everything they could to see their dreams become reality. Along the way, there are predictably a few bumps and bruises.
Behind the Music premiered in 1997 on VH1. For the last 22 years, it has been one of the staples of the network’s schedule.
Each episode focuses on the lives and careers of a specific band or artist. Each artist or band is followed as they grow up, struggle to make it as a performer, become successful and try to maintain that career while dealing with the everyday stuff that we all deal with.
I really like Behind the Music. In terms of the biography format,it doesn’t feel forced or glossed over. Each artist has the opportunity to tell their own story in a way that it unique and personal to them.
I recommend it.
When the cats away, the mice play. The same could be said for employees who act one way in front of their bosses and another way when the boss is not around.
Mystery Diners aired on Food Network from 2012-2016. The premise of the show was as follows: A restaurant owner was suspicious that something was going at his restaurant, but he couldn’t quite figure out what the problem was. Enter Charles Stiles and his team. The restaurant is rigged with hidden cameras. As Charles and the restaurant owner watch from a hidden control room, mystery diners are sent in as customers or new staff to get the lowdown from the unsuspecting employees. When there is enough proof, the cover is revealed and the owner of the restaurant makes a decision on what to do about the offending staff.
This is a typical reality show. But unlike other reality shows, there was a disclaimer at the end of the credits. From my perspective, even if it was not 100% “reality”, I still enjoyed it. The element of surprise, for both the audience and the restaurant owner was enough to keep me coming back for further episodes.
I recommend it.
When we marry, the expectation is that the person we are marrying is who they say they are.
In the miniseries, Mrs. Wilson, Alison Wilson (Ruth Wilson, playing her grandmother), receives a rude awakening after the death of her much older husband, Alexander (Iain Glen). Her husband was good at keeping secrets. His most potent secret was that she was not his only living wife. Coleman (Fiona Shaw), her husband’s handler from World War II is not too forthcoming with information. There is also the question of Dorothy Wick (Keeley Hawes), who keeps popping up as Alison tries to find out the truth of her husband’s life. As the series flips between the beginnings of Alison and Alexander’s (who was known as Alec) early relationship during the war to the 1960’s, where the widowed Alison is desperate for answers.
I have to admit that I am impressed with this series. I am impressed because this is a very personal story for Wilson. It takes a lot to share a personal story that is part of her family lore with the public. As a viewer, I can understand why Alison was not the last woman to fall for Alec. He was charming, intelligent and appeared to radiate qualities that would qualify him as a good man.
Both Wilson and Glen are familiar faces to Masterpiece viewers. Wilson made her Masterpiece debut in the 2006 adaptation of Jane Eyre. In 2011, Glen had a brief role as Sir Richard Carlisle, Lady Mary’s fiance on Downton Abbey. As Alison and Alec, I was rooting for them as a couple. On the same note, my heart was aching for Alison as she grieved not only for her husband, but for the husband she knew.
I recommend it.
The first two episodes of Mrs. Wilson are online. The final episode airs this Sunday at 9PM on PBS.
Albert Einstein once said the following:
The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.
This is the premise of What Would You Do? (2008-2015). Originally airing on ABC before moving to A&E, the program was hosted by John Quiñones. The program is based on the question on what one would do if they saw someone else in a conflict or doing something illegal. Would they speak up or just go about their business?
In the establishment of each particular scenario, hidden cameras are setup. Actors are brought in to play out the scenario; he reactions of the bystanders are recorded by the cameras. When all is said and done, Quiñones appears and interviews the bystanders. The footage is then viewed and discussed by experts in the field of psychology or education.
Unlike other reality shows, this program makes the audience think. It’s a reminder that television has the power to change lives and how we set each other.
I recommend it.
When you live in an apartment building, your neighbors hopefully become more than your neighbors. They become friends and by extension, family.
This is the premise of the new NBC series, The Village. Set in an apartment building in Brooklyn, the series follows the lives of the residents.
Sarah (Michaela McManus) is a nurse and single mother raising her teenage daughter. Gabe (Darren Kasagoff) is a young lawyer who has the most unexpected of roommates: his grandfather Enzo (Dominic Chianese). Ava (Moran Atias) is an immigrant who is raising her son alone when ICE comes calling. Nick (Warren Christie), is the newest resident of the building and a veteran. Ron (Frankie Faison) is the super whose passion for his social worker wife, Patricia (Lorraine Toussaint) is as strong as the day they married.
I’m not really a fan of schmaltzy television. When a show goes over the top with drama, I am usually turned off. But I liked The Village. I liked it because it’s my world. As many of you know, I live in New York City. To have a house of one’s own is a luxury. Most people either rent or own their apartment. I understand these characters and familial bond that goes with living in an apartment building.
I recommend it.
The Village airs on NBC on Tuesdays at 10:00.
One of the more interesting sub-genres of reality television is the fish out of water story.
Dancing with the Stars (2005-Present) can most certainly be defined as a fish out of water story. The American version of the UK program Strictly Come Dancing, the premise of the show is as follows: a celebrities who are not known for their dancing skills are matched with professional dancers. The dance of the week is chosen the week before the episode is set to air. As the season rolls on, the couples are eliminated until one is crowned that season’s winner.
DWTS is one of the more interesting programs that fall within the reality television genre. It is not as mind numbing as other shows and perhaps inspires viewers to try something new by putting on their own dancing shoes.
Do I recommend it? I am leaning toward yes.
It’s boring when we are around the same people who have the same beliefs. Life is much more interesting when we are around people whose beliefs and viewpoints are different from ours.
The View premiered on ABC in 1997 and since then, has become a staple of the network’s morning schedule. Created by journalism legend Barbara Walters, the premise of the show was to bring in five different women of varying ages, backgrounds and opinions to discuss the latest headlines and interview prominent figures. Joining Barbara at the table for the first few years was Meredith Vieira, Star Jones, Joy Behar and Debbie Matenopoulos. Over the years, the women around the table have changed (except for Behar), but the voices of the diverse women coming together remains the same.
I’m not a fan of Daytime TV. I find it sometimes to be rather boring. But, on the rare occasion when I am home on a weekday, I will watch The View. I find the conversation to be interesting and the differing perspectives of the hosts a refreshing take on the us vs. them mentality that has become part of our national discourse.
I recommend it.
The process of looking for a new home is hard enough. Adding a complete renovation to the process is almost akin to asking for a major headache on top of the home buying process.
This is the premise of the HGTV program, House Hunters Renovation (2012-Present). The first half of the episode follows the homeowners as they choose from one of three possible new homes to purchase. The second half of the episode continues to follow the new homeowners as their home is renovated.
I enjoy watching House Hunters Renovation. Unlike other reality shows, I feel like I am learning something. It’s also groan inducing to watch the homeowners as they deal with the pitfalls of renovating their new home.
I recommend it.