Get Out Alive With Bear Grylls (NBC, Monday at 9:00pm)
Our airwaves this summer are filled with these survival reality shows, all of which lose some juice when one remembers that there are camera crews with these contestants. This one, however, was less bad than some of the others. Grylls is never far away and pops into the situation when the need arises. Additionally, the teams must work together, not against each other, to survive. The one aspect of the show that had my cynical side snickering is that Grylls, and only Grylls, decides who stays and who goes at the end of every show. As survival per se is not really an issue, my guess is that those who make good television will get to stay.
Dangerman: The Incredible Mr. Goodwin (BBC America, Monday at 10:00pm)
Jonathan Goodwin is an escapologist. In this show, he does one stunt after another in which we are meant to gasp at his bravery and/or stupidity. Come on, people. This is edited footage of stunts we have all seen before. The first show in a while I could not force myself to the end of. I turned it off about halfway through.
God, Guns and Automobiles (History, Monday at 10:00pm)
I have lost count of the number of simply horrific reality shows I have sat through for this column. This one is, by far, the most offensive. A car salesman out of Butler, Missouri spends his life shouting and telling everyone who listen how wonderful he is before blowing up cars. Why blow up a car? Because “that’s what Americans do.” I spent a half hour of my life silently weeping that a channel the likes of the History Channel, formerly one of my favorites, has stooped to this level.
Kentucky Bidders (TruTV, Monday at 10:30pm)
A father and son run an auction house in Kentucky and spend a half hour fighting. In other words, this is a bog standard reality show.
Drunk History (Comedy Central, Tuesday at 10:00pm)
This is one of those shows that you will either think is hilarious or you will think is mildly offensive. The producers get people falling down drunk and have them tell us stories from history. Comedians then act out what the drunks are saying. I was amused by the concept and was enjoying the first sketch, until the guy telling the story vomited. The second guy literally fell out of his chair. While the stories told by the drunks are funny, I struggled with the idea of people getting so out of their minds in the furtherance of comedy. All I can say is, you need to watch a sketch and decide for yourself.
Property Envy (Bravo, Tuesday at 10:00pm)
Three panel members and a host sit around discussing high end properties that are for sale around the US. Because this is an inherently dull subject, the four try to liven things up with banter and jokes. The jokes are adolescent and, frankly, embarrassing to listen to. For example, one “game” involves the panel guessing whose property has more square footage, Bieber's or Seacrest's. The host’s question was, “Who has the bigger package?” Seriously?
Ain’t That America (MTV2, Tuesday at 11:30pm)
Another show with a host and panel laughing at videos that have gone viral. The videos are so revolting and the four talking heads are so juvenile that this one got all of five minutes of my life before I hit the delete button in disgust.
The American Baking Competition (CBS, Wednesday at 9:00pm)
Although I reviewed the pilot of this show, Josie asked me to review the finale. So, we take a break from all things new and review one thing ending.
The final three contestants were Francine, Darlene and Brian. The first thing they had to make was something incorporating peanuts. This was followed by the “technical bake” in which they had to make Boston Cream Pie doughnuts. Deep fried doughnuts filled with custard? I could feel my arteries hardening just watching.
The final was called the showstopper. The contestants had to make 72 miniature desserts, 24 each of meringue, pastry and cake that celebrated the 4th of July. Wow! They baked for five hours and each of them created truly stunning dishes. I’m just glad that I wasn’t responsible for picking the winner.
There was the usual competition show drama. Francine cried because the judges didn’t like her peanut cake and Darlene cried because she was mourning her father. We get to see the judges deliberate on the winner, but only briefly. As I had not watched this show, I was not invested at all in who would eventually win, but I enjoyed all the drama. Brian was the winner, by the way. A good choice.
Josie -- instead of giving me the five dollars and a goldfish, please procure the appropriate offering for Sam T. Cat. I deem him worthy of such a gift.
Wheeler Dealers (Velocity, Wednesday at 9:00pm)
Two guys buy and restore “iconic” cars to sell for a profit. I was only able to watch snippets online as my cable company does not offer this newish channel. What I saw was fine if you are interested in the restoration of cars. I am not.
Wonders of Life (Science, Wednesday at 9:00pm)
A series, hosted by Brian Cox, that asks, “What is life?” and then attempts to answer it. Really interesting section on energy and how life is the direct result of it. What I liked about the episode I saw was that it assumed a level of intelligence that was refreshing and that it didn’t condescend. I enjoyed the first hour but, finally, the science was all a bit much for me.
The Bridge (FX, Wednesday at 10:00pm)
Josie wrote an excellent review of the pilot to which I have nothing to add except to reiterate how much I loved it. One of the few shows for which my DVR now holds a series record.
Camp (NBC, Wednesday at 10:00pm)
I am actually embarrassed to admit it, but this show made me smile. It is too broad; the plot is too tired; the characters are all cliche. Yet, there is something about this show that struck a nerve with me. Perhaps it is the fact that I spent ten summers of my life as a camper and counselor, but whoever wrote this pilot got the feeling of camp exactly right. It made me nostalgic. Will I keep with it? Probably for another episode, but I have a feeling that this show and I are going to be like a summer romance. Hot and fun, but over quickly.
Inside: Secret America (National Geographic, Wednesday at 10:00pm)
A series that promises to explore the most controversial issues in America. The pilot was about synthetic drugs that mimic the effects of marijuana, cocaine and meth, but are still legal. Truly terrifying was the depiction of ‘bath salts,’ a designer drug that has horrible effects on the poor people who ingest this stuff. Very well done documentary that was able to get incredible access to the people involved, but heartbreaking.
R&B Divas: LA (TVOne, Wednesday at 10:00pm)
Another show that I was only to watch a piece of as my cable company does not carry this channel. It seems like every other reality show out there, but with something new and different -- divas. That’s me being sarcastic, by the way.
Moone Boy (Hulu, Streaming)
A charming, quirky comedy about Martin Moone and his imaginary friend Sean. Set in the West of Ireland, Martin deals with bullies, his older sisters, his parents and life in general, all with Sean as the voice in his head giving him bad advice. While it didn’t make me laugh out loud, I certainly smiled through all of it and added it to my ever expanding list of series to catch up with.
Orange is the New Black (Netflix, Streaming)
Piper Chapman is sent to federal prison for a minor crime she committed ten years ago. The pilot tells us, through a series of flashbacks, how she got there and introduces us to the women with whom she will be spending the next fifteen months. There is humor and pathos, but overall there is a sense of heart and a sense of place that is compelling. Add this to your must-see list.
Summer Camp (USA, Thursday at 8:00pm)
Sixteen pretty adults compete in a reality/competition based on a typical camp color war. The usual range of personality types and manufactured drama. I fast forwarded through most of it and would still be able to tell you exactly what happened. The elimination was simply dreadful. Two on the losing side (the women) are sent to the men’s camp and the men decide which one gets sent home after listening to the women try to convince them that they should stay. Honestly, shows like this should be banned.
Sharknado (Syfy, Thursday at 9:00pm)
Simply horrible, I cannot express it any better than TVLine did. I missed all the Twitter stuff as I watched it a couple of days later. Sounds as though that was the best part! Sadly, the last thing Cory Monteith reportedly tweeted was about this movie. That just makes his death all the more sad.
Hollywood Game Night (NBC, Thursday at 10:00pm)
If you are looking for mindless fun on a Thursday night, you could do a lot worse than this. Six celebrities and two civilians team up to play parlor games with Jane Lynch as host. The games are what you would expect, but watching the six players ad lib and riff is very funny. The level of celebrity is a notch above, which helps. These are not people who need the work, so they are not trying too hard which is a blessed relief. Truly, a fun hour. Not life altering, but fun.
Packages from Planet X (Disney XD, Saturday at 8:30am)
“From outer space, mysterious packages meant for alien hands come to me! Dan Zembrosky. And, only I can open them. Sometimes they work; sometimes they hurt; but, they always blow my mind.” Three friends spend their time unmasking aliens. Typical Saturday morning fare, but fun.
Camp Lakebottom (Disney XD, Saturday at 9:30am)
“Camp Lakebottom where the zombies drool. Camp Lakebottom where the spooks are cool.” Three kids, because they are deemed to be losers by the cool kids at Camp Sunnysmiles across the lake, are sent to Camp Lakebottom where the counselors are a zombie, a sasquatch, you get the picture. Standard camp v. camp Saturday morning fare, but a bit frenetic for me.
Beware the Batman (Cartoon Network, Saturday at 10:00am)
A Saturday morning cartoon that gets a PG rating for violence. I mention this because the two cartoons I reviewed above had their fair share of things blowing up, things knocking down our heroes, and monsters -- all with a G rating. This cartoon, however, is CGI instead of drawn and the violence does feel a bit more real. It is standard superhero stuff, but I don’t know enough about Batman to comment on his characterization or that of Alfred. It wasn’t wildly exciting, but it was not bad.
Bounty Hunters (CMT, Saturday at 10:00pm)
Oh my! The success of bounty hunter shows has gone to this station’s head and TPTB have created an animated version. Jeff (Jeff Foxworthy), Larry (Larry the Cable Guy) and Bill (Bill Engvall) are so much better than this. The women are caricatures; some jokes are juvenile (fart jokes -- really?); some jokes are offensive; some are just retreads (“you know you’re a redneck if…”). And, all of this happened in the first four minutes at which point I hit the delete button.
Hillbillies for Hire (CMT, Sunday at 8:00pm)
Two self-professed hillbillies pull pranks on their friends and family. As I am not a fan of people who are proud to be stupid, nor am I a fan of practical jokes, I was not a fan of this show.
Adam Richman’s Fandemonium (Travel Channel, Sunday at 10:00pm)
A show in which our host travels around the US looking for the best tailgate parties. The pilot took him to the Daytona 500 that, I must say, looks like one hell of a party. He talks to the people who go every year, parties with them and eats their food. I enjoyed it because the host was lovely to the people he met and was enthusiastic about what he was doing. Not a long term show, but good enough.