In my mind, there are four kinds of reality TV. There are the competition shows (“Top Model,” “The Apprentice” and “Project Runway”), personality/family shows (“Jersey Shore,” “Real Housewives” and “Sister Wives”), home improvement shows (pretty much everything on HGTV) and occupational shows (pretty much everything on TLC). Some of these shows are trashy, some are inspiring, and they are all, to some degree, entertaining.
Ace of Cakes - Food Network, (started) Jan. 6, Thurs at 10
Given the choice between “Ace of Cakes” and “Cake Boss,” choose “Ace of Cakes” every time. Duff, the owner of Charm City Cakes in Baltimore, is funny and his employees are clever, creative people. Their customers are clever, too, if the cakes they order are any indication. This is the kind of show that people watch because there is no chance they’ll be able to do any of this on their own. I can’t craft Fenway Park out of fondant and white cake, but Duff can, and he can do it well.
Teen Mom - MTV, (started) Jan. 11, Tues at 10
I am of two minds about Teen Mom. On one hand, I think this would be an effective and hilarious thing to show high school students to make sure they don’t knock each other up before they’re ready. On the other hand... actually, there is no other hand. “Teen Mom” is hysterical, because it follows a group of teenagers who had kids. Some are crazy, some are responsible, and they’re all teenagers. “Teen Mom” is one of those shows (like “Intervention” and “Hoarders”) whose sole purpose seems to be to make you feel better about your own life, and it does this really, really well.
American Idol 10 - Fox, Jan. 19, Wed at 8
Let’s ignore, for a moment, the fact that only two or three American Idol winners have actually had more than one album. Instead let’s focus on the amusement potential of watching the judges (Steven Tyler and J-Lo) desperately holding on to the last vestiges of their musical careers. There’s also humor potential in watching hilariously awful singers get voted on because America likes to mock people.
My Big Redneck Wedding - CMT, Jan. 21, Fri at 9:30
I don’t get CMT, but if you do you should check out this show, which promises to give a new definition of “hot mess.” Calling these weddings “country-style” is generous. Certainly this show would be found nowhere near WE or Lifetime, with all the other wedding shows. With wedding celebrations that include beer can canopies, squirrel stew and mud wrestling during the reception, these weddings couldn’t be called anything except “red neck.”
Face Off - SyFy, Jan. 26, Wed at 10
A competition show that pits special effects make-up artists against each other. Every week they are given challenges to test their make-up skill and creativity. Like any overly dramatic person, I love looking at special effects make-up and I love competition shows (see everything I have to say about “America’s Next Top Model” if you don’t believe me). SyFy (formerly SciFi) is new to the reality TV game, but this seems creative and inventive enough to be successful.
America’s Next Top Model 16 - The CW, Feb. 23, Wed at 8
Even though this is the 16th cycle, AMTM has only been around for eight years. In those eight years, Tyra Banks has treated audiences everywhere to spoiled tall girls built like gazelles and their shrill screeching voices whenever Tyra appears on screen to announce that she’s flying them to an exotic country. There’s also my personal favorite: crying in front of judges, crying on a photo shoot, crying on the phone with your soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend because you had sex with a male model in a hot tub in Milan... if you love crying models as much as I seem do, flip to the CW and give Tyra Banks the only thing she seems to desire: attention.
Sister Wives - TLC, March, Sun at 10
If you like “Big Love,” you’ll probably enjoy “Sister Wives.” Instead of Bill Paxton, TLC has given us real-life polygamist Kody Brown and his three (now four) “wives.” Legally, only one woman is his wife, and the others are “spiritual marriages.” This show is excellent for rousing my feminist sensibilities. I know that these women consented to join a plural family, and I believe that consenting adults should be able to do whatever they like with their lives... but come on. This guy is getting four times as much sex as the average man, but his wives have to remain faithful to him! Lame, but dramatic. And a little gross.
Too Fat for 15: Fighting Back - Style, March 7, Mon at 8
I’m not against weight-loss shows. I think they’re awesome... when the contestants are adults. In “Too Fat for 15,” all the contestants are teenagers, or younger. Fat Camps are one thing, capturing every moment on camera is quite another. Watch “The Biggest Loser” or “The Biggest Loser: Couples” instead--don’t give this show the ratings.
The Real World 25: Las Vegas - MTV, March 9, Wed at 10
I put this show on my list solely because it’s practically my age. The Real World has risen and fallen in terms of actual watch-ability and integrity, but I don't think it has ever stopped being entertaining. This year the Real World cast is getting plopped into Las Vegas, presumably for some Real World Ocean’s 11 action. All the same, if you’re bored on a Wednesday night (or any night, if you have Tivo), just pop on The Real World for a couple minutes and I swear your life will look so much better.