Reality TV: what to watch this week, from real housewives to top chef

Editor’s note: Welcome to our new section, Reality AF. Every Monday, Terry Terrones will check in and talk about the state of reality TV, as well as providing a list of the top 5 events not to miss this week.


If there was a Mount Rushmore reality show, Survivor and Excellent chef would certainly deserve to engrave the faces of Jeff Probst and Padma Lakshmi on it, but without the current mullet of JP. The final seasons of both series illustrate this perfectly.

Survivor—Last Wednesday, the Jeff Probst-animated series, which premiered in 2000, wrapped up its 42nd season with a bang. All the adversity, determination, mental toughness, and fun challenges viewers would be willing to partake in were on full display. It was an epic season. This did not happen by accident.

Survivor evolved considerably during its 22 years of existence. Some of its tweaks have been brilliant (Hidden Immunity Idols first appeared in Season 11) while others have failed (The Medallion of Power in Season 21). That said, over the past two seasons a lot of the tweaks applied to the game have worked.

The prisoner’s dilemma where candidates risk their vote, the game being shortened to 26 days, audience participation through puzzles, the hidden immunity idol Beware which has serious consequences, and the revelation of the winner and the discussion after the show immediately after are all big hits. However, the main reason for of the survivor The latest spurt of relevance is how it has embraced diversity.

In November 2020, CBS announced that at least 50% of contestants on its reality shows would be minorities. This commitment bears fruit in of the survivor last two seasons, which have been diversified in race but also in age and gender. The final three contestants last week were a 37-year-old contest trainer, a 58-year-old retired firefighter and a 24-year-old Canadian seminary student.

Embracing diversity led to seasons 41 and 42 of Survivor being one of the most memorable in its history, and gave the franchise a boost that could see it last well beyond 50 seasons, if Jeff Probst and his safari shirt collection are ready.

Excellent chef—Last Thursday, the Padma Lakshmi-hosted series, which premiered in 2006, also peaked. After exploring Houston, Excellent chef traveled to Tucson, Arizona for its penultimate episode which celebrated Mexican cuisine. The final four this season consisted of Buddha Lo (Asian), Damarr Brown (African American), Sarah Welch (White) and Evelyn Garcia (Hispanic) in what was perhaps the best judging panel of the season.

Whereas Excellent chef never went through a “look at our hot young cast” phase like Survivor done for a few years, the series has also evolved over time. Initially, the show looked a lot like the rest of the culinary industry: a boys’ club.

But in 2008, the Bravo franchise began to become more inclusive, expanding its roster to include more women and minorities. This year Excellent chef also had its first female winner, fan favorite Stephanie Izard. The last two seasons have been particularly diverse, with 22 of the 30 minority candidates and 50% of women in the cast.

Why is all this diversity so important? Because it means something to be represented on TV. Seeing people like you going through the same struggles but also sharing the same dreams as all other cultures is unifying. It’s a reminder that no matter who we are, we have more in common than we think. On a personal note, it’s also inspiring. As a man in his 50s, it’s great to see a guy like retired firefighter Mike have a legitimate shot at winning. Survivor. As a Mexican American, it was so fun to watch Evelyn, my favorite this season, take such a simple dish like chile rellenos and elevate it to a winning plate in Excellent leader.

Diversity is important, and reality shows like Survivor and Excellent chef illustrate how important it is, but that it can also lead to creativity and fun.


5 reality shows to watch this week

1. Sailboat under the bridge (Bravo, May 30)

Why you should watch it: Two words, one name: Gary King. I’ll write more about The Kissing Bandit in an upcoming Reality AF post, but you have to trust me. This charming South African who looks like Tarzan is a guy you’ll either love to hate or hate to love. Sometimes both in the same episode.

2. Chopped: desperately looking for a sous chef (Food Network, premieres May 31)

Why you should watch it: Aside from the corny name taken straight from the title of a 1985 film starring Madonna, you’ll want to watch this spin-off for its premise: a five-round tournament has 16 chefs competing for jobs with the judges. Maneet Chauhan, Scott Conant and Chris Santos.

3. The Real Housewives of Dubai (Bravo, premieres June 1)

Why you should watch it: The 57th edition of Housewives franchise premieres tonight. While it’s unlikely that any of the women on the show will be real wives, I’ll always be watching the drama and hoping someone falls into a bush, countess style. I’ll settle for this while I wait PATIENTLY The Real Housewives of Denver.

4. Excellent chef (Bravo, Season Finale June 2)

Why you should watch it: You didn’t read what I wrote above!? It’s the season finale, only watch it to absorb Padma’s shine, to try and figure out what Gail is wearing (someone needs a stylist) and for Tom to say a dish was under-seasoned.

5. The floor is lava (Netflix, season premiere June 3)

Why you should watch it: The second season of this obstacle course series is back. Look for a huge, slippery volcano. So funny!

Terry Terrones is a member of the Television Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association, licensed drone pilot and aspiring hand model.
When he’s not applying Survivor, you can find it hiking in the mountains of Colorado. You can follow him on Twitter @terryterrones.

For all the latest TV news, reviews, lists and features, follow @Paste_TV.

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