Reality television gets a bad rap. Many wonder how so many nobodies with questionable talent can become some of the most famous people in the world (hey, Honey Boo Boo!). And then they wonder, “How can I do the same?” Well, we don’t have the answer to that question, but what we do have is a roundup of the best reality-TV shows hitting the tube this fall. Whether you’re a dancing fanatic, a Demi Lovatic or obsessed with JWOWW’s ample assets, there’s a little something for everyone. The Epcot Center of the tube, if you will. Check out our picks below and then tell us what you’ll be watching this fall.
Can you believe Adam Levine, Christina Aguilera, Cee-Lo Green and Blake Shelton have been blindly auditioning contestants in our living rooms for three seasons now? We can barely remember a time before we had to choose between Team Adam and Team Christina. Thankfully, the bickering foursome is back to in their swiveling chairs on a quest to find The Voice (duh!). And it’s not secret that NBC is hoping to deliver a ratings smackdown to Fox’s The X Factor in the process. Our opinion: We love Xtina, but our money’s on Britney. Premiering September 10, 11, 12 at 8 on NBC, airing Mondays and Tuesdays at 8.
What the Critics Say: “The Voice promises big changes this year – hopefully they live up to it in a major way because it would be a shame to see the series over-saturate the brand and not make adjustments to ensure its longevity like [American] Idol has somehow managed to do.” –– Assignment X
The X Factor
Britney. Spears. Need we say more? Clearly, we don’t, but we will anyway. It’s been years since we’ve heard Brit Brit speak more than a few sentences, let alone offer up her opinion. Simon Cowell tells People.com, “[She] is a fascinating person because you just don’t know anything about her … she’s very unpredictable … she has taken this very seriously and she’s surprisingly quite mean.” Any show where a “mean” Britney Spears joins forces with hair-chameleon Demi Lovato has us hooked. Premiering September 12, airing Wednesdays and Thursdays at 8 p.m. on Fox.
What the Critics Say: “Curiosity is enough to drive The X Factor to a ratings win tonight. If Britney can help the troubled show find its footing, don’t be surprised if she breaks out a rendition of ‘Oops! … I Did It Again’ and maybe even cracks a smile. –– Boston Herald
Remember the time you had an idea for a super cool product, but didn’t have enough money to make it happen? Shark Tank takes everyday people with great –– and sometimes not so great –– ideas and gives them a forum to pitch their products to a group of “sharks,” successful businessmen and women with fat wallets, who will invest in their companies. Sounds extremely nerdy and boring, but Shark Tank is anything but. It was nominated in the non-competition reality show category at this year’s Primetime Emmys and features Dallas Mavericks owner –– and noted hothead –– Mark Cuban. Cancel your Friday night plans and dive in. Premiering September 14, airing Fridays at 8 p.m. on ABC; moving to 9 p.m. on November 2.
What the Critics Say: “The tension between the Sharks is palpable. The entrepreneurs more confident. The deals less formulaic. In many ways Shark Tank has become the American Idol of the small business startup.” — Forbes
Basketball Wives L.A.
Season 2 of the VH1 hit didn’t just make the list because it’s one our own shows, it also has the potential to be one of the most drama-filled series this season. When we last left the ladies, Jackie Christie was on the outs with, well, everyone. Luckily, time heals all wounds, and Malaysia Pargo is willing to extend an olive branch. But will the other wives take her lead? Premiered September 10, airing Mondays at 8 p.m. on VH1.
What the Critics Say: “Between ‘Miss Jackie’ trying to become a part of the crew again, the new big booty video vixen Brooke Bailey stepping her way onto the scene, and old troubles reigniting, this season will definitely be drama-filled.” — GlobalGrind
TLC was on a roll this summer with its two breakout hits, Abby & Brittany (conjoined twins: two heads, one body!) and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (it’s the world’s most entertaining redneck family!). With Breaking Amish, the network delves into the lives of adolescents beginning their journey into rumspringa –– a time of exploration when Amish youth decide whether or not to join the church. The previews promise bikinis, mechanical bull riding and hookups, which makes us think this will be a perfect replacement for Jersey Shore. Premiered September 9, airing Sundays at 10 p.m. on TLC.
What the Critics Say: “We’re really not sure whether we’re gawking at a bizarre social experiment or watching five people make a decision harder than anything the rest of us may ever have to make.” –– The New York Daily News
Back for it’s 25th(!) season, Survivor isn’t straying from its formula of taking unbelievably attractive people and throwing them on an island with the bare essentials. Three familiar faces will return this season (including this writer’s favorite contestant, Jonathan Penner) to compete for the $1 million prize. And if returning faves weren’t enough, CBS went ahead and threw in one of our rich girl idols, Lisa Whelchel, who played Blair Warner on the ’80s comedy Facts Of Life. Apparently, Tootie and Mrs. Garrett were unavailable. Premiering September 19, airing Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on CBS.
What the Critics Say: “The location means an opportunity for challenges that can take place out in deep water — something the show has lacked since back in season 16 (Survivor: Micronesia — Fans vs. Favorites).” –– EW.com
Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars
While all of the vocal competition shows duke it out, ABC’s Dancing with the Stars: All-Stars should be able to samba away from the pack. This season, our favorite former contestants will salsa, foxtrot and swing their way to the most coveted trophy in all of reality television, the mirror ball. Joey Fatone, Kirstie Alley, Bristol Palin and Sabrina Bryant (chosen by fans) will all dance for your votes (again) when the show returns. Premiering September 24, airing Mondays and Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.
What the Critics Say: “Putting together pre-season rankings on Dancing With the Stars is usually as easy as separating the Michael Boltons from the Nicole Scherezingers. But the show’s upcoming All-Star season presents a far more rigorous challenge: 11 of the 13 celebrities in the cast managed to make the finals their first time around, and six of them marched all the way to Mirrorball glory. In other words, the talent pool is as closely matched as it is deep.” –– TVLine
Yeeeaaahhh, buddy! Poofs, deep V-neck Ts, a pregnant Snooki and rehabbed Mike “The Situation” are all returning to Seaside for one last hurrah before Jersey Shore bows out after six seasons. The Shore may never be the same, but we’ll always have gym, tanning and laundry.Premiering October 4, airing Thursdays at 10 p.m. on MTV.
What the Critics Say: “Waaaahhh!” –– VH1 Celebrity
[Photos: CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, VH1, TLC, MTV]