Reality TV shows continue to be some of the most popular programming on TV, and you probably already have a long list of must see reality TV shows you never miss. But here are a few standouts you may not have heard of, let alone seen, that are worth checking out.
1. Chopped (The Food Network)
The Food Network has several great cooking contest shows, including “Chopped,” where `wp_posts`.siteID = 23880 AND four chefs compete in three rounds to be the last chef standing. They create an appetizer, entrée and dessert in each respective rounds. And here’s the twist–they have no idea what ingredients they’ll have to use till they open their mystery basket at the beginning of the round.
Whoever comes up with these competitor baskets is downright evil. They’ve featured special holiday-themed shows where the chefs have to incorporate Halloween candy corn or Peeps marshmallow treats into meat main entrees. Or use crazy ingredients like a whole chicken in a can, goat brains, or durian, that notoriously stinky fruit. As if those ingredients were bad enough, they have two or three other mismatched ingredients in the basket they have to combine into one dish in 30 minutes. Expect bloody fingers, fires, and chefs skidding across the floor with pans of boiling water.
“Chopped” has some funny moments, like the contestant who had a crush on chef judge Amanda Freitag, and some touching moments, when the winner offered to give part of his prize money to the runner up so she could visit her dying grandmother in France who taught her to cook. There wasn’t a dry eye during that one.
New episodes air Tuesdays on the Food Network and reruns play all the time.
2. Sweet Home Alabama (CMT)
“The Bachelor” And “The Bachelorette” are two of the hottest shows on TV, but CMT does their own version of a dating show, called “Sweet Home Alabama.” What’s the twist in the country version? Well, they like to split up the competing bachelors or bachelorettes into half country and half city folks, and see who can win the heart of the southern gal or guy looking for love.
There’s a certain old-fashioned charm to the show you don’t find in the big network versions, and for the most part, these seem to be real people, not Barbie and Ken dolls just looking for fame on TV.
You also get some great conflict between cowboys and city slickers, and some breakthrough moments in the two cultures learning to understand and respect each other. One of the most interesting relationships of Season 3 involved country boy Bubba and New Yorker Shaun, who had been incredibly insulting to the country guys in the beginning. But a curious thing happened about halfway through–Shaun had a change of heart and realized how rude he had been to the cowboys, apologized, and became good friends with them, especially Bubba. He embraced southern culture and even had Bubba teach him how to rope a cow. And Shaun admitted that his previous view of the south had been all wrong.
Maybe the folks in Washington could take a few lessons from these guys in how red states and blue states can learn to live together.
Bubba also became friends with New Jersey urbanite Dustin, who wrote a song and made a video tribute to him with a few of the cowboys from the show. Whoever casts this show deserves a healthy raise and promotion, because they put together an incredible group of real and funny people, as evidenced by the video below.
“Sweet Home Alabama 4″ currently airs on CMT.
3. Face Off (Syfy)
Syfy‘s makeup artist competition, “Face Off,” beats all the reality TV competition hands down. Not only do viewers get a fascinating look behind the scenes at creating special effects makeup, but this is the coolest bunch of contestants on any reality TV show on any channel.
First of all, being special effects makeup artists, you can pretty much figure a lot of the cast are going to be a little quirky. Or a lot quirky. But the show avoids all the bad drama that most reality shows rely on for ratings, focusing on the time spent creating the makeups with very little footage shown from their living quarters for the season. And better yet, these people actually help each other out when they’re in a bind, showing a level of sportsmanship that is all too absent not only in reality TV but in the real world.
In other words, they act like adults.
Then you have the judges: creature designer Neville Page, Oscar-winning makeup artist Ve Neill, and Glenn Hetrick, who’s styled Lady Gaga. If you compare the judges to the original “American Idol” panel, Page would be the Paula, Neil would be the Randy and Hetrick would be the Simon, hands down. But here’s the thing–unlike Simon Cowell, Hetrick doesn’t deliver his scathing critiques out of the need to impress people with his wit and expertise. Hetrick–and all the judges–genuinely care about guiding these aspiring makeup artists, and give them the tough critiques they need to get better. It can get ugly at times, even though Neil often prefaces bad news with a motherly, “Oh, honey…”
That’s when these contestants know they’re about to take a beating, but for their own good.
Some of the collaborations end in disaster both professionally and personally, but many contestants form a deep bond with each other and become emotional during eliminations. One of the toughest moments to watch last season was when BFF’s Lacey and Alana teamed up and ended up the bottom look of the week. Lacey broke down and sobbed like a little girl when the judges said Alana was going home and she was staying.
This show is quite the rollercoaster ride and Season 6 debuts January 14 on Syfy.
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