Big Brother is broken, fall reality TV isn't

Also: Dancing with the Stars' cast, and RuPaul's Drag Race's new all-stars

Dear newsletter friends,

Happy Friday! Let’s start with this show, which I give my highest recommendation to.

It’s on a network (MTV) and has a title (16 and Recovering) that may make you wince, but I promise it’s nothing like MTV regularly airs, nor is it anything like 16 and Pregnant (though MTV hopes it will have an effect on teenagers, like 16 and Pregnant did.)

The show has tough subject matter, yet is also completely full of hope and optimism, about addiction and education and community and connection.

Read my full review and see why I loved it so much. And you can also watch the show, free.

Dancing with the Stars and Drag Race casts

Here’s Dancing with the Stars’ new cast. ABC is ridiculously good at casting non-stars who people still talk about.

And here are the drag queens returning to compete on All Stars 6, and the queens who will be on RuPaul’s Drag Race season 13, at least according to unofficial investigations. The regular show just finished taping, and All Stars just began production.

While Drag Race likely won’t air until spring (that’s typical, filming in the summer/fall), DWTS premieres in two weeks.

That premiere date—and a bunch of others—is on my new…

While it’s missing Survivor, and has some weird start dates, a lot of the fall looks like last year, from Halloween Baking Championship to Shark Tank.

Big Brother’s problem; Life Below Zero’s spin-off

If you’re watching Big Brother, you might be asking, like I did, Is Big Brother’s format broken?

Of course, the answer is “duh.” And I’m not just saying that because of the eviction of the two people I was most looking forward to seeing again.

Let’s explore Big Brother’s problems in-depth.

From isolation in a soundstage house to isolation in the Alaska wilderness—how’s that for a segue?—it’s time for a new season of Life Below Zero, starting Monday.

I interviewed its showrunner about the creation and casting of a spin-off, Next Generation, and also how Life Below Zero was filmed mid-pandemic.

I've been critical of reality shows filming now, because it seems like such unnecessary risk. But if any show is going to be filmed now, one with a three- or four-person crew isolated in the middle of Alaska for 2.5 months seems ideal. What really surprised—and impressed—me was that, despite the isolation, the crew still took all the usual precautions, like distancing and having the cast mic themselves. Many more details here.

Oh, also in the story, you can watch the first five minutes of LBZ: Next Generation, which follows an entirely new cast.

Real Housewives reunions, haunted hotels, and more

A few stray things:

That’s all I have for you this week! I hope you have a great long weekend, if Monday is a holiday. And I hope that, whatever your schedule, you find some great reality TV to watch.


🌄 This is Reality in Focus issue 210, first sent 4 September 2020, and it still can’t believe Dancing with the Stars fired Tom Bergeron.

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📷 Photo of a road in Gelderland, The Netherlands, by Joyce G.