As we kick off the summer of '14, you might notice that your noggin has a few thousand brain cells to spare. You could get rid of those by snorting a rainbow's worth of Jell-O shots or sticking your head in a microwave, or you could simply sit down in front of the television and watch some summer reality programs.
While many of the fall season's reality shows still cling to some modicum of respect by showcasing actual talents (The Voice, American Idol) and strategy (Survivor, The Amazing Race), summer's unscripted programs are typically last-ditch efforts to fill time on the schedule, and most of them have no shame.
But how do you tell them apart? I shall fall on that sword and sort through the pile for you with this handy guide to this summer's crop of reality series. And because your health is of the utmost importance, I'll even warn you of the brain damage you might incur if you watch them.
Airs: Tuesdays at 8pm on The CW
What it's about: The CW is billing Famous in 12 as "social experiment" featuring a fame-hungry family that's trying to get famous in 12 weeks with the help of the scum-suckers at TMZ. But it's actually flat-out embarrassing for everyone involved, and a cruel joke set up by the gossip website. TMZ editor and dark lord Harvey Levin tells a family whose members want to be the next Kardashians that talent isn't enough, and that they should engage in near-illegal activities by shocking paparazzi, encouraging a sad cycle of being rewarded for doing nothing but wasting oxygen. Sample line of dialogue: "Should I? Should I have sex on camera?"
What it will do to your brain: It will give you a total lobotomy. Not recommended for anyone who plans on living another two weeks.
Airs: Sundays starting June 22 at 9pm on ABC
What it's about: Rising Star is television's 472nd singing competition show! The gimmick with this one is that contestants are judged in real-time, by regular people at home, via an app. During the live broadcast, a wall full of video screens will rise out of the ground like a bat out of hell, and as viewers approve of the performance, their faces will appear on the screen and the screen will continue to rise until it crashes through the ceiling and injures 20 innocent bystanders. Or the singers will just move on to the next round.
Rising Star is a huge hit in its native Israel, but can it work in America, where it has to contend with multiple time zones? ABC is approaching that challenged by airing the show live everywhere except the West Coast, which will see a tape-delayed broadcast with live cut-ins to adjust for West Coast voting. In other words, it loses its central premise everywhere west of the Rockies. At best, it'll be a total disaster; at worst, it might start the next Civil War.
What it will do to your brain: Nothing worse than drinking an entire bottle of Jaegermeister and then sliding headfirst down the stairs.
Airs: Mondays starting August 4 at 8pm on ABC
What it's about: ABC used to recycle its Bachelor and Bachelorette rejects with Bachelor Pad, a trashy hook-up show that forced beefcakes and bimbos to participate in humiliating competitions. But Bachelor in Paradise is not Bachelor Pad, because it takes place in Mexico. That's about the only difference. Go ahead and drink the water, guys and gals!
What it will do to your brain: It will give your brain gonnorrhea.
Airs: On demand and on Fox.com because it's so terrible it's already canceled
What it's about: A gaggle of dim-witted American women are shipped off to England for a dating show where they believe they are vying for the heart of Prince Harry. But it's not Harry, it's just some ginger construction worker pretending to be the British Royal and stringing these wannabes along until everyone is pissed off. Some sample dialogue from catty contestants: "[Contestant's name] is not princess material."
What it will do to your brain: I Wanna Marry Harry will make your noodle leap out of your ears to its death. It is awful.
Airs: Tuesdays starting August 19 at 10pm in Syfy
What it's about: "Magicians need their own Chopped!" a Syfy executive angrily shouted toward the heavens one day. And thus Wizard Wars was born. Teams of amateur magicians are tasked with making a magic using a random object, and whoever comes up with the best
trick illusion moves on to battle professional practitioners of the dark arts for cash prizes. Hosted by Penn & Teller!
What it will do to your brain: It will totally blow your mind's mind! Maybe! But seriously, this action sounds watchable.
Airs: Oops, it doesn't. Shortly after I started working on this story, Fox pulled the show from its schedule because the most recent episode drew only 1.2 million viewers and a 0.4 rating in the 18-49 demo
What it's about: Executive-produced by Steve Carell and based on the Australian series Slide Show, improv comedians
do did their off-the-cuff stuff while trying not to get distracted by a set full of Wipeout-esque obstacles... with mildly amusing consequences! "Distractions" included a slanted floor, a padded wrecking ball that could swing through a scene, or spontaneous rocketing into the air due to contestants being attached to a bungee harness. You know, comedy!
What it will do to your brain: Probably just put it to sleep.
Airs: Tuesdays starting July 22 at 8pm on NBC
What it's about: Adam Richman (Man v. Food) hosts this game show that pits amateur cooks against professional chefs to see who can do a better job of preparing the amateur's specialty dish. Have you ever seen Throwdown with Bobby Flay on the Food Network? It's basically that, except instead of exploring the interesting backgrounds of the guest chefs and competing on their home turf, the cook-off takes place on a stale studio set (probably) with a bunch of flashing lights and an imprisoned audience. It's from the creator of Baggage, possibly the worst show ever made ever.
What it will do to your brain: It will make your brain look for a new head to live in because what kind of person would watch a network cooking show when the cable specialists do it so much better?
Airs: Wednesdays starting July 30 at 8pm on The CW
What it's about: More Penn & Teller, and more magic. This U.K. import features the comedigicians performing some of their own trickery before a studio audience. But the highlight of each episode involves a guest magician performing mind-bogglers as Penn & Teller try to guess their secrets. If the guest fools the duo, he/she gets to open for Penn & Teller's famous show in Las Vegas. This isn't a new series; it's a rebroadcast of the U.K. show.
What it will do to your brain: Enlighten it, actually. One of the few bright spots in this otherwise dreary list of summer reality shows.
Airs: Thursdays starting July 31 at 8pm on ABC
What it's about: Imagine The Amazing Race, Survivor, and your local Dungeons & Dragons club panini-machined together into a cheesy television sandwich. The Quest unleashes a dozen contestants in a fake fantasy world full of state-of-the-art projections, prosthetics, animatronics, and other products of overactive imaginations and forces them to battle (fake) dragons, (fake) orcs, and other (fake) threats to "the realm." It's like Game of Thrones: Home Edition. Sample line of dialogue: "My wife says I'm already a hero, it's time to let the rest of the world see that." Okay, buddy.
What it will do to your brain: The Quest might give your brain giggle fits. I can't wait to see this.
Airs: Fridays starting August 1 at 8pm on The CW
What it's about: You have not been hypnotized. This is the third magician series on this list, and three make a bonafide trend, so I hereby declare that we're living in the Summer of the Magician! Just keep practicing the disappearing-quarter trick, Poindexter, and hot Tammy will go to the prom with you! Masters of Illusion is the most boring of all the upcoming magic shows, a redo of the show of the same name that previously aired on PAX TV and MyNetwork TV. There's little to it: Magicians do a magic show on television. Big whoop. Hosted by Dean "Superman" Cain.
What it will do to your brain: Make it feel the pain of attending a magic show without the medication of a two-drink minimum. You'll have to get tanked on your own hooch.
Airs: Saturdays at 9pm on ABC
What it's about: Picture a network executive watching Syfy's Face Off and ABC's Dancing WIth the Stars and Fox's American Idol all at the same time while he's just high enough to think it's a great idea to blend them into one giant supershow. B-list celebs like Jon Lovitz, Lisa Rinna, and Sebastian Bach do glorified karaoke after visiting the makeup and wardrobe trailers so they can rock out or smooth-jazz like a musical icon. After each performance, celebrity judges—including former pop star Debbie Gibson and SNL impersonation wizard Darrell Hammond—offer all-too-kind ratings and everyone claps. It's actually kind of fun for about 30 minutes, so I'm not sure why ABC relegated this to Saturday nights during the summer.
What it will do to your brain: Just some minor hemorrhaging.
Which of these shows, if any, will you be watching this summer?
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