Tag Archives: Reality Television

Flashback Friday: Mob Wives (2011-2016)

There has been a fascination with the mafia since the beginning of the modern entertainment industry. The danger, the violence, and the potential for financial and material profit have a certain appeal. But there is also the chance that the ones you love most will not be immune from your decisions.

Mob Wives was on the air via VH1 from 2011-2016. This Real Housewives-esque series followed the lives of women whose relations were in jail due to mafia-related activities. Shot in the New York City borough of Staten Island, this reality show delves into the day-to-day lives of the wives and daughters of prominent members of the American Mafia. While they are trying to support the men they love, they are doing their best to provide for their children and live as normally as possible.

When the series initially premiered ten years ago, the argument that it was based on Italian-American stereotypes was not one that went unnoticed. Like all reality television, it can be mildly entertaining. But, the catch is that the reader knows that it can be as fully scripted as programs that are completely fictional.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Throwback Thursday: This Old House (1979-Present)

When we watch home renovation shows, it appears that the process is quick and easy with very little stress. The truth is that it is a process that is time consuming, expensive, and riddled with potential problems.

This Old House has been part of the PBS schedule since 1979. The OG of this genre of television, it was originally hosted by Bob Vila. The program follows the craftspeople as they rebuild a house that appears to be past its prime. Unlike other shows of this nature, it is informational and takes multiple episodes, if not an entire season to give the building new life.

While other reality shows that also focus on property restoration are flashy and Hollywood-ized, This Old House is down to earth. It may come off as boring, but I would wager that someone who is interested in this topic would the show fascinating.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

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Flashback Friday: So You Think You Can Dance (2005-Present)

Dancing, like all art, requires skills, talent, and drive to succeed. It also helps when reality television comes calling.

So You Think You Can Dance has been on the air since 2005. A “real” version of The Big Leap, dancers from all genres compete in a reality competition show to become “America’s favorite dancer”. Once the participants are chosen, they perform both solo and group pieces that go beyond their dancing bubble. Judged by respected and well-known professional dancers, one contestant is eliminated every week until the winner is announced.

I can certainly appreciate the effort it takes to get to this level. This is not the type of activity that can be phoned in. But at the same time, it is a reality show. Once again I have to question if what we are watching is authentic or crafted to bring in as many eyeballs as possible.

Do I reccomend it? Maybe.

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Throwback Thursday: The Millionaire Matchmaker (2008-2015)

When we can’t find love on our own, it is tempting to look to a matchmaker to find that special someone.

The Millionaire Matchmaker aired on Bravo from 2008-2015. Premiering shortly after Confessions of a Matchmaker, wealthy singles hired professional matchmaker Patti Stanger to help them find their other half. Once a client was accepted into the organization, Patti and her staff went through the process of introducing him or her to potential dates. Known as being dedicated and perhaps a bit abrasive, she has made it her life goal to spread love as far and wide as she can.

Anyone who has entered the dating pool knows that it can be hit or miss. Similarly, fans of reality television understand that what they are watching is not as authentic as it seems. I would categorize The Millionaire Matchmaker as a guilty pleasure. We want to root for the subjects of each episode, even when they are repulsive or need a reality check.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Throwback Thursday: Kitchen Nightmares (2007-2014)

Change is never easy. Sometimes, we have to get knocked down before we can realize that it is necessary if we are to thrive.

Kitchen Nightmares aired between 2007 and 2014. This reality show followed celebrity Chef Gordon Ramsay as he helps failing restaurants become successful. As with Restaurant: Impossible and Bar Rescue, his first introduction never goes well. He then works with the owners and the staff to improve the restaurant while his team does a complete makeover on the building itself. By the end of the episode, it looks like all of the issues have been sorted out and there is nothing but blue skies ahead.

Like all reality television, I have to question if what I m seeing is legit or has been manipulated to keep eyeballs on the screen. But, I will say that Ramsay is a compelling person to watch. He does genuinely care about the people he helps, even when he seems to be at his whits end.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Home Sweet Home Review

The best way to learn about someone who is different from us is to spend a day in their shoes. Though the outcome is not 100% guaranteed, the hope is that we see that person behind the stereotypes and the labels.

NBC‘s new reality show, Home Sweet Home premiered last Friday. Created by writer/producer Ava Duvernay, it is a sort of gentler version of Wife Swap. Each episode follows two families who switch lives and homes for four days. While in the other’s house, they live as that family does and meet their loved ones. At the the end of that period, they meet for a meal and get to know those who they have temporarily shared their lives with.

The participants in the first episode are a heteronormative Caucasian Greek Orthodox couple and an African-American LGBTQ couple.

Though the show could border on schmaltzy or the typical overly dramatic reality television formula, it doesn’t. It has a nice balance of tension and the predictable narrative that the audience has come to expect for the genre. What I found appealing was that it spoke to the humanity in all of us. The connection between the two families was the thing that drew me in. Despite their differences, they not only got along, but they became friends. The hook that will keep me watching was a statement by the father. He realized that it is possible to raise children that are happy and successful without forcing the traditional cis gender two parent structure down our throats.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Home Sweet Home airs on NBC on Friday night at 8PM.

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Flashback Friday: Chrisley Knows Best (2014-Present)

There is something curious about reality television. We know that the term “reality” is a misnomer. For all it claims of being true to life, it is just as scripted as any fictional program. But yet, we leave our skepticism at the door, expecting everything that occurs on screen to be released to the public as it was filmed.

Chrisley Knows Best has been on the air since 2014. The series follows wealthy businessman Todd Chrisley and his family as they go about their business. If his wife, his children, and his mother were to ask about his worse qualities, they would say that he is controlling, quick to get upset, and unwilling to see another’s perspective.

A play off of the 1950’s sitcom, Father Knows Best, this show is best described as a low rent version of The Osbournes. Within the parameters of “reality shows“, this program is the worst of the worst. It is brainless, foolish, and I personally find that there is nothing entertaining about this family. It has been on the air for quite a few years, so obviously, there is an audience for it. But I am not part of that audience.

Do I recommend it? No.

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The Comey Rule Review

Politics is a strange push pull of personal needs vs. the needs of those who voted for you. It would be easy to say that you became a politician to serve the nation and your constituents. The harder aspect of the job is ignoring your gut instincts for prestige and press.

The Comey Rule premiered last year. Based on former FBI Director James Comey‘s 2019 book, A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership, Jeff Daniels steps in the role of the man whose held the fate of the 2016 Presidential election in his hands. The 4 part miniseries follows two different and important narratives in recent political history: the Hillary Clinton email scandal and the four year tenure of you know who in the Oval Office.

The discovery that Clinton used personal servers for government business sends Comey and his staff on a year long search to discover if anything untoward was located within her emails. When they come to the conclusion that it was just a mistake by the former Senator/Secretary of State/First Lady and her staff, Comey is torn as to how to proceed. He could keep it within bureau, or make a public statement. His wife, Patrice (Jennifer Ehle) and those who work under him advise Comey to not say anything to the press or or public. But, as we all know, he chose to bring this information into the light.

When a certain reality show star and businessman is elected President (played by a fantastic Brendan Gleeson), Comey does his best to do his job. But when it becomes clear that the new leader of the free world is underqualified, he knows that this man is different than any other who has held the role.

I loved this series. Combining news clips with scenes based from the real James Comey’s book, it is tense, dramatic, and reveals an aspect of the 2016 election that only a few at the time were privy to. If nothing else, it is a reminder of how important the separation of powers is and how democracy if not tended to as it ought to, can quickly disintergrate.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Comey Rule is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Throwback Thursday: The Bachelor (1999)

Love, in theory, should be simple. You find the right person, you settle down with them, and hopefully live happily ever after. But we all know that love is never simple.

In the 1999 film, The Bachelor (not to be confused with the reality show of the same name), James Shannon III (Chris O’Donnell) will soon be celebrating his 30th birthday. Though he has been with his girlfriend Anne Arden (Renée Zellweger) for a while, Jimmy is not quite ready to propose. When he finally gets down on on knee, it does not go as planned.

Needing space and time to think, Anne goes out of town for work. Just as she leaves, Jimmy receives an ultimatum from his recently deceased grandfather (the late Sir Peter Ustinov). Unless there is a ring on his finger by 6:05 pm on his birthday, he will receive nothing from his grandfather’s will. Scheduled to blow out the candles in 24 hours, he desperately tries to contact Anne. But she is incommunicado. Feeling desperate, Jimmy starts to contact his old girlfriends.

On a scale of 1-10, I would say that The Bachelor is 4. The plot is fairly predictable as a romantic comedy. Though O’Donnell and Zellweger have reasonably chemistry, there is nothing new or fresh about this film. The hapless male who needs a kick to the proverbial butt to prove to his significant other that he is serious about their relationship is nothing new. Its all rather generic and to be honest, boring.

Do I recommend it? Not really.

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Throwback Thursday: Confessions of Matchmaker (2007)

It would be nice to say that love finds us without any effort. But for every person whose soulmate just walks into their life, there is another person who needs a little help.

Confessions of a Matchmaker aired on A&E in 2007. Set in Buffalo, NY, the audience follows matchmaker Patti Novak as she helps her clients find their perfect partner. Her no-nonsense attitude allows those who have hired her to work past their issues and if all goes well, there is a possibility of a bright future for the couple.

What I liked about this show is that unlike other reality dating shows, it was not as slick or pretty looking. Patti was willing to help those who came to her, but she did not coddle them. She also dropped them if she felt that they were unwilling to do the work needed to walk into the sunset.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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