Our look ahead to the Fall TV season continues with our preview of the upcoming season's reality programming. For scripted shows, check our Night-by-Night Guide to Fall TV.
Really, they're all survivors
As the summer winds down and kids start getting ready for school, the fall lineup of reality TV programming follows, with the networks rolling out a show for every night of the week. The crop of returning series this season is mostly predictable, with tried-and-true reality favorites such as Survivor, The Apprentice, America’s Next Top Model and The Amazing Race -- all of which are premiering a double-digit season. Shows featuring trainwrecks are also making a comeback, as evidenced by Hoarders and Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew.
The new series include Sarah Palin’s shamelessly self-promoting TLC special on the great state of Alaska, plus MTV’s intriguing take on documentary filmmaking, The World of Jenks. This season also debuts recession-themed programming, seen in the WE’s new series Downsized and the unemployed executives competing on The Apprentice. Take a look for yourself.
Ten key returning shows
The Amazing Race
CBS, Sundays at 8pm; special 90-minute premiere 9/26 at 8:30pm
The 17th season of CBS’ powerhouse series takes flight in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and then traverses eastward across the globe to finish in Los Angeles. As with seasons past, the racing couples must overcome detours, challenges, roadblocks and U-turns as they approach the finish line — and its $1 million jackpot. Among the racers are YouTube celebrity Kevin Wu, two pageant queens and some actor we’ve never heard of.
Why Watch? To see if an all-female team will finally win the jackpot, as is rumored.
America’s Next Top Model
The CW, Wednesdays at 8pm; premieres 9/8
Now in its 15th cycle, America’s Next Top Model returns to put more pretty girls through the fashion wringer, with its never-changing formula of uncomfortable photo shoots, awkward challenges and tear-filled makeovers. Of course, Tyra Banks and her gigantic ego also return, as does last cycle’s awesome new judge, Vogue editor-at-large Andre Leon Talley, who has injected new life into this dying dog.
Why Watch? To see who will still be in the running towards becoming America's Next Top Model.
NBC, Thursdays at 10pm; premieres 9/16
Boardroom backbiting, finger pointing and firings abound in the 10th season of Donald Trump’s The Apprentice, the first non-celebrity version of the series to air since 2007. Experienced professionals as well as recent college grads compose this season’s 16 contestants, all of whom have been struggling with unemployment as a result of the recent economic downturn. Trump adds a benevolent touch by helping eliminated contestants score meetings with business executives after they leave the show. What a guy!
Why Watch? Competition for the six-figure payout should be fiercer than usual.
Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew
VH1, Mondays at 9pm; premieres 10/11
The fourth season of Celebrity Rehab might not have landed Tila Tequila, as originally reported, but reality TV veteran, plastic surgery victim and general hot mess Janice Dickinson should more than fill the void. Party girl and Tiger Woods mistress Rachel Uchitel, child star and longtime addict Leif Garrett, Party of Five actor Jeremy London, and a bunch of other socialites and has-beens we haven’t heard of round out the cast.
Why Watch? To see if London will defend his tall tale of being kidnapped and forced to take drugs at gunpoint, which is what he told the cops who arrested him.
Dancing With the Stars
ABC, Mondays at 8pm; premieres 9/20
ABC’s hit series is back to occupy the Monday night void left by The Bachelorette. The C-listers masquerading as stars this season have not yet been announced, but are rumored to include recent Bachelorette Ali Fedotowsky, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman, Real Housewife of New Jersey Teresa Giudice and Jersey Shore’s Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino. The full lineup will be announced on August 30.
To see The Situation repeatedly show his abs.
Fox, Wednesdays at 8pm; premieres 9/22
Aficionados of Hell’s Kitchen won’t need to wait long to get their fix of Gordon Ramsay’s bleeped expletives and kitchen rampages, as Fox is set to premiere a new season of the cult favorite just six weeks after airing last season’s finale. Clearly, Ramsay takes a sadistic pleasure in turning the contestant chefs into bumbling messes prone to meltdowns and confrontations -- a pleasure rivaled only by the pleasure we feel watching him do it.
Ramsay’s a royal bastard of the first order, but that’s why we love him.
A&E, Mondays at 10pm; premieres 9/6
A&E’s top-rated show returns for a third season of trainwrecks we can’t look away from. The show’s 20 episodes examine the lives of 40 troubled hoarders, their useless junk, and the people who want them to just throw that shit away already! Like watching a sports game, Hoarders is that one show that has viewers alternating between yelling at their televisions and covering their eyes in horror. JUST THROW IT AWAY ALREADY!
Why Watch? To feel better about your own life. Seriously, things could be way worse.
Little People, Big World
TLC, Mondays at 8pm; premieres 9/6
Hot off the heels of its summer finale, Little People, Big World returns for a sixth season of pint-sized people and their regular-sized troubles. The new season follows family patriarch Matt Roloff as he recovers from a health scare that has him hell-bent on living life to the fullest. Family escapades involving skydiving, monster trucking, camping, beekeeping and even installing a “life-sized” Noah’s Ark on the family farm follow.
Because this is really a show that exists.
The Real Housewives of Atlanta
Bravo, Mondays at 9pm; premieres 10/4
The Southern Belles return for a third season of gossiping, shopping, scheming and socializing in Bravo’s hit series, which has added two new housewives to the lineup. Ex-model Cynthia Bailey and entertainment attorney Phaedra Parks join old favorites NeNe, Kim, Kandi and Sheree for continued loitering in the hot Southern sun. Career and relationship troubles abound throughout the season, as the housewives try to balance their newfound reality TV notoriety with the demands of being a pampered socialite.
Because you don’t want to be tardy to the party.
CBS, Wednesdays at 8pm; premieres 9/15
The latest incarnation of CBS’ Survivor is a self-proclaimed “battle of the ages” that pits the wizened, older contestants (aged 40 and up) against their younger, bikini-bodied and drama-prone counterparts (under 30). Set in Nicaragua, this season divides the group of 20 into two tribes that will compete against each other to decide — once and for all! — whether age and experience win out over youth and agility. Contestants in this 21st season include sportscaster Jimmy Johnson and an amputee.
Why Watch? Because you’re a die-hard fan of the show and will watch no matter what.
Five interesting newcomers
WE, Saturdays at 9pm; premieres 11/6
WE throws its hat into the pool of “recession programming” with Downsized, an eight-part series that follows a once-rich, now-poor blended family of nine as they struggle to make ends meet by clipping coupons, shopping at second-hand stores and forgoing all the extravagant luxuries they once enjoyed with abandon. The Bruce family is featured in the first season.
Why Watch? Because we could all use a few tips to help us downsize.
Sarah Palin's Alaska
TLC, Sundays at 9pm; premieres 11/14
The former vice-presidential candidate takes us on a National Geographic-esque journey across her home state, the “real America,” which is that frozen tundra 500 miles away from the “fake America” where the rest of us live. Over the course of the series’ eight episodes, Palin will showcase the great state of Alaska’s mountain peaks, fisheries, views of Russia and good-hearted regular folk who make this country so wonderful. Kate Gosselin and her spawn also make an appearance as Palin’s campground neighbors, which will surely show the beauty of the great majestic state.
Why Watch? To see Palin fail at stringing even the most basic sentences together. It just never gets old.
Teach: Tony Danza
A&E, Fridays at 10pm; premieres 10/1
Tony Danza shows high-schoolers who the boss is in his reality role as a first-year English teacher at a Philadelphia public school. The seven-episode series follows Danza as he fulfills his dream of working in education, showing the assorted challenges and triumphs involved in creating lesson plans, grading papers, meeting parents, organizing fundraisers and maneuvering through heartfelt moments with students while a camera crew stands by to capture it all.
Why Watch? To see if Danza can speak English, let alone teach it.
Top Chef: Just Desserts
Bravo, Wednesdays at 10pm; special premiere 9/15 at 11pm
Save room for this sugary spin-off, which takes food porn to the next level by featuring fudge, frost and flambe. Hosted by Top Chef judge Gail Simmons, the series follows 12 pastry chefs -- including someone known as “Mr. Chocolate” -- as they compete for $100,000 (courtesy of Godiva Chocolatier), a feature in Food & Wine magazine and a car. Drool-worthy creations will surely follow.
To see the episode with the “edible fashion” challenge.
The World of Jenks
MTV, Mondays at 10pm; premieres 9/13
Award-winning filmmaker and wunderkind Andrew Jenks takes his unique documentary style to MTV in this new series that examines the personal stories of a wide assortment of individuals, from a recording artist to a homeless teen to an adult living with autism. The 24-year-old Jenks immerses himself in these people’s lives, allowing the cameras to roll for 24 continuous hours, which creates some mighty compelling television along the way.
Why Watch? To see the episode where he shadows a pro cheerleader.
What do you think?
What reality shows are you most looking forward to this fall? Let us know below.