Back in January, we included reality TV warhorses Survivor and The Amazing Race on our list of reality franchises that needed to be benched. At the time, both shows deserved to make that list as they were each coming off career-worst seasons filled with boring characters (Brandon Hantz anybody?), unimaginative challenges (setting up beach umbrellas... really?!) and a general lack of tension. Rather than watch these once-great shows continue to stumble downhill, we felt it best for all concerned that they take a prolonged break and return when they had some fresh ideas up their sleeves. But surprise, surprise: ever since Survivor: One World and the 20th Amazing Race premiered in February, both shows have been back on their game. In fact, we actually find ourselves anticipating -- rather than dreading -- each new episode (for now, at least -- there's still plenty of time life for these seasons to go south, after all). Here are the notable changes we think have improved both shows:
Rob Mariano, best known as Boston Rob, is cashing in on his Survivor/Amazing Race fame with a new show that won't force him to share the spotlight with other dirty and starving people. He and some guy who made a monster truck (yes, really) are going to be doing a History Channel show called Around the World in 80 Ways. The duo will have to travel around the globe via various modes of transportation without ever using any of them more than once (we look forward to the dirigible). Between this and seeing Colby Donaldson happily handling weaponry on Top Shot, it made us think of what kinds of series we'd like to see from other Survivor alums, given their unique qualifications.
Yes, I realize how ridiculous that headline sounds. Yes, I am too old to be watching Real World/Road Rules Challenge. Yes, I stopped watching The Real World years ago and only have the vaguest idea who half of the contestants are. Yes, the Challenge has its flaws -- way too many off-challenge physical altercations, too many drunken hook-ups and a really boring host. But still, I think other (aging) reality shows could actually learn a lot from this series.
Being in the audience for a Survivor finale is infinitely more exciting than sitting at home watching it on TV. While you lose the option of fast-forwarding through all the boring parts and condensing the entire three-hour insanity into one small hour, you get to hear the live reactions and see the families in person. Which means, that while sitting at the Ed Sullivan Theater, I got a very close look at Coach's "lady friend" and I still didn't notice any bizarre abnormalities that would seemingly force her to limit herself to the self-proclaimed dragon slayer.
It also meant that I got to watch all of the castaways' dads dance in the aisle during a commercial break game, and that I got to see Cirie and Parvati (both from Micronesia) in the audience. As a bonus, it was entertaining to hear every groan, gasp, laugh and boo from people who have been loyally watching this show for ages. It really gave me a better sense of the actual Survivor fan, more so than what I normally get from sitting on my couch at home. The shouts for JT were so loud throughout the entire three hours, but there was a little bit of anger towards him when he voted out the other audience favorite, Taj. (Or Tag, as his parchment said.) But, his landslide win and fan favorite prize got big applause from the audience.
We knew that those dads from Teen Mom 3 would be back on the list in no time.
Our hero of the week is Tim Gunn, for being classy while telling several bitter Project Runway contestants off for daring to say the show was fixed. We actually really like him when he's angry.
Lesson of the week: If you are going to pretend to be someone else online, don't pretend to be a celebrity.
We're hoping those ladies from the Real Housewives of New Jersey really upped their energy for the upcoming reunion because their stupid back-and-forth fighting about next to nothing really didn't merit them even one spot on our list this week.
It was a rough week to be a kid.
Special shout-out to our reality hero of the week: Bebe Wood from The New Normal, who did a guest video appearance on the RuPaul's Drag Race finale and reprised her Little Edie impression. She's just freaking adorable. The rest of these people... decidedly not adorable.
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