Summer being the newest dumping ground for reality tv (aka "original programming," but who are they kidding with the moniker?), I have been watching a few of the offerings, on a cursory basis at best. The, umm, highlights(?) are as follows:
Pirate Master: It's Survivor on the not so high seas. Actually, it's just Survivor, only less elegant. I have watched three episodes and still can't tell the players apart (who knew those silly colored "buffs" were actually so important??), nor do I care to. It's ridiculous. Everyone who becomes the captain of the ship instantly goes on an incredibly unbelievable autocratic power trip (one even adopted, inexplicably, an English accent for the occasion) and the crew instantly hates them. The "challenges" all turn out to be foot races that, guess what?, are lost by the out of shape. And there's lots and lots of black eyeliner on board, apparently. But not a lot of clothes, typically. And still it's boring.
National Bingo: I loathe this show utterly. It is inane in the extreme, randomly hosted by one of the guys from Extreme Makeover: Home Edition who is not Ty Pennington (the host also has a UK accent of some kind), with an Indian guy dressed up like a referee who declares in heavily accented form of his own "Nooooo Bingo!" at odd moments and players who wear fanny packs on stage. I am really at a loss with this one.
The Search for the Next Food Network Star: Remember the winner of the last Food Network Star search? No? Well, why not? Guy something-greek (that's really his first name) had a cooking show for like 10 seconds before they turned him into the host of a kitchen gadget show (which was canceled), and now he hosts a show about diners and drive-ins across the US in which his role is basically saying "That is some KILLER meatloaf, man!" So, as you can see, the stakes are high for these season. Or something. But so far the thing I like most about this somewhat cheesily produced offering is one of the judges, who is the VP of marketing or something for FN who says things like "when you answer back about every comment we give you, it's really off putting, Rory." Love it!
However, the show suffers from too much self-congratulation. They don't miss a chance to remind us that competitors are vying to enter into the pantheon of some of the "most exciting personalities on television today." If people keep saying you're exciting does that make it true? Not in the case of Dinner Impossible! So far, my favorite moment was when they catered someone's wedding in 6 hours. She was a vegetarian and explicitly told them she didn't want just a lot of side dishes. So what did one team do? Exactly that, only they made their vegetarian polenta with chicken stock and wrapped their figs in bacon! And she was there, sighing, "I was really disappointed. It was just a bunch of side dishes for the orange team." Look, over there, it's a main dish!
Top Chef: Admittedly, Top Chef is a cheap Project Runway knock-off. But it may be coming into its own in season three in Miami. Queer Eye's Ted Allen has joined the judges for some much needed humor, Padma Lakshmi is back as the oddly dressed gamine host with actually insightful comments about food, and the first guest judge was Anthony Bourdain. And the first challenges had the chefs to be cooking with the leftovers on a refreshment table from some event they didn't attend and then cooking with two proteins from a list that included frog's legs, alligator tails, sea urchins, wild boar, eel, rattle snake, and gooey duck (which i can't spell but which looks like this huge, phallic cross between a sea slug and an elephant's trunk which grows underground in mudflats--yummy!). And the worst cook, as in the least skilled cook, got eliminated. So things could be good this season.
Real World Las Vegas Reunion: I am flabbergasted that someone came up with this idea. Bring back the sexiest, raunchiest, contentious cast we've ever had and put them together again, in the same suite for two more weeks, and see what happens. What happens, at least so far, is more of the same, with some new variations: former go-go dancer threesome participant Brynn is married with two kids, so she is the tame one. Irulan and Alton have broken up but are still all kinds of conflicted and yelling. Arissa broke up with both of them and is still bitter about it while trying (and failing) to be zen-like, her new M.O. Steven is no longer sleeping with Trishelle and Trishelle is blonde. And Frank, boring, sad sack Frank of yore has been replaced with party harder Frank, who makes out with women he admits he doesn't know the names of, throws glasses and bottles on the floor routinely, and is basically all drunk, all the time. In two episodes, two people have already threatened to or left outright. Rock on, MTV! You have done it again...the same.