After last week’s glut of premieres, which ranged from historical fantasy dramas to medical thrillers to comedy hybrids, television seems to be taking a break from high-minded shows to focus on some silly reality fodder. Tonight, AMC, Bravo, A&E, GSN, and Oxygen will all air season and series premieres of unscripted shows. Some are OK enough to be worth a viewing, and some should be avoided at all costs. Here’s a guide to all of tonight’s reality premieres.
Two of the premieres are returning programs: Bravo’s Below Deck and A&E’s Storage Wars. Storage Wars, which is entering its fifth season, is a surprising success for its specific audience but likely won’t entertain if you’re not already a fan of watching people peek inside a storage locker. Both premiere at 9 PM, so if you have that hour to kill, your better bet is to go with Below Deck. I can honestly say it’s the best yacht-focused reality show airing on Tuesday nights. It’s Bravo’s way of focusing on the middle class (the workers on a cruise) while sticking to their guns of celebrating the rich (the cruises take place on mega-yachts). Everyone is attractive, stereotypical, and such a cookie-cutter TV character that it’s a wonder the show wasn’t just marketed as a scripted dramedy. But there’s admittedly a magnetic appeal about the absurdity of the whole thing.
The rest of the unscripted shows premiering are all new and range in levels of desperation. First up is Game Show Network’s Idiot Test, which is based on a popular trivia app. Pairs of contestants face off in front of a giant touch screen to answer simplistic-looking, but surprisingly tricky, questions for cash. It’s another trivia game show, yes, but I actually got pretty invested in the competition while watching, if only because it’s one of the few game shows I am 100 percent confident that I would win. It’s not must-watch television — what game show is? — but if you’re bored at 8 PM on a Tuesday, it’s a fun distraction.
At nine is 4th and Loud, AMC’s new unscripted series that follows around an arena football team owned by KISS’ Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. The goal of the team, according to AMC’s official show description, is to “give arena football a rock and roll makeover.” If this doesn’t sound like a desperate-for-approval reality show, then I don’t know what is. If nothing else, it’s definitely emblematic of AMC’s recent brand confusion and the sad reality that the network is at a loss for what to do without its big, critically acclaimed dramas to fall back on. 4th and Loud isn’t going to make up for Mad Men‘s upcoming end.
Oxygen’s Sisterhood of Hip-Hop provides nothing we haven’t seen before in hip-hop-centric reality shows, or even just reality shows in general. The show follows a group of women rap artists as they try to make it in music while juggling their personal lives and working to get along with each other and struggling to exist in a man’s world and all of the same trite nonsense that is packed into shows like these.
Meanwhile, on Bravo, there’s The Singles Project, which at least has a vaguely new idea behind it. Simplistically, it’s a dating show but more complexly, it’s a relationship experiment in real time. It’s a very intriguing concept, even for those who are usually bored by dating reality programs. After each episode, viewers can help out the contestants by making suggestions via social media ranging from what to wear to who to date — sort of like a real life, creepy version of The Sims. Each episode is shot and aired within the same week. It’s the most promising of tonight’s unscripted TV extravaganza, with some major potential to become completely addictive.
Out of all the unscripted shows premiering tonight, Cement Heads wins the award for strangest premise: a reality show about a family in the “highly competitive world” of concrete construction. It sounds excruciatingly boring, but if the pilot is any indication, Cement Heads is less about the business and more about the chaos of being thrown into a reality show. The show frequently breaks the fourth wall, the production crew plays an on-screen role in the filming, and everything becomes an interesting overlap. The concrete stuff, though? Not so great.