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Reality TV an unstoppable force

Networks have a full slate for the midseason, including MTV's 'Teen Mom 2,' 'Kourtney & Kim Take New York' on E! and the CW's 'Shedding for the Wedding.'

January 09, 2011|By Yvonne Villarreal, Los Angeles Times

The cast of "Jersey Shore" schooled Barbara Walters on the intricacies of "smushing" last month, pretty much confirming once and for all the power of reality TV. That the party-loving crew made her "10 Most Fascinating People of 2010" special only reinforces the matter.

Reality proved its stamina last season even as some of its fictional counterparts stumbled. While returning series such as "Glee" and "Modern Family" continued to be hits with viewers, life for most new scripted shows proved brutish and short-lived. ABC canned "My Generation" and "The Whole Truth." NBC outlawed Jimmy Smits' new drama and its J.J. Abrams series "Undercovers." Fox pulled the plug on "Running Wilde," and, in a cruel move, it cut "Lone Star" after just two episodes.

"Networks only had a handful of really successful programs," said Brad Adgate, director of research at Horizon Media, of the 2010 fall season. "It was pretty lackluster."

When all else fails, reality TV is the go-to solution, Adgate said.

"It's always the Band-Aid," he said. "It's cheap. Viewers are likely to tune in. And it's a quick turnaround."

Reality vets "Survivor," "The Amazing Race" and "Dancing with the Stars" proved they still had legs. And despite the heap of scripted shows on the schedule for midseason, networks are making significant room for their reality siblings.

ABC sees the return of "The Bachelor" and the winter version of "Wipeout." NBC, meanwhile, is bringing back "The Marriage Ref," "The Apprentice" and "The Biggest Loser." And "American Idol" fanatics wait with bated breath to see how the new additions to the judges panel will affect Fox's hit series.

Here's a look at some of the other reality programs slated to premiere this season:

"Shedding for the Wedding": In this CW reality competition series, hosted by Jenny Craig spokeswoman and newly svelte Sara Rue, 10 overweight couples attempt to battle the bulge in hopes of winning a dream wedding. They'll be meeting with personal trainers and wedding planners. Think "Biggest Loser" meets "Bridezillas." Each episode will feature a physical challenge resulting in the winning couple getting wedding-themed prizes (invitations, cake, rings, etc). The couple that loses the least amount of combined weight that week will be eliminated. Premieres Feb. 23.

"America's Next Great Restaurant": What kind of world would this be without McDonald's … or Spago? NBC is searching for the next big thing in the eatery world. In the upcoming reality series, contestants compete to get backing to turn their restaurant idea into a chain that launches in three U.S. cities. Among the judges/investors participating are Food Network star and celebrity chef Bobby Flay; Australian celebrity chef Curtis Stone; chef, restaurateur and Nestle and Splenda spokeswoman Lorena Garcia; and Chipotle founder Steve Ells. March 16.

"Teen Mom 2": It's the show that made tabloid stars out of its first batch of young mothers. While the original four continue to film, MTV will document a new group of teens struggling with motherhood. The series will catch up with Chelsea, Jenelle, Kailyn and Leah — all of whom appeared on the second season of "16 and Pregnant." Premieres Jan. 11.

"Kourtney & Kim Take New York": In yet another offshoot of their E! hit "Keeping Up with the Kardashians," Kim and Kourtney arrive in NYC to as they prepare to open their third DASH boutique. Amid all that, viewers will also watch as Kourtney makes her acting debut on ABC's "One Life to Live" and Kim unveils her singing chops when she records a single. Premieres Jan. 23.

"Secret Millionaire": Watch as millionaires ditch their privileged lifestyles and go undercover in America's poorest neighborhoods. Living on minimum wage, their mission is to find individuals who continually sacrifice to help those in need. At the end of their stay, they reveal their identity and give away hundreds of thousands of dollars of their own money. The ABC series, like "Undercover Boss," originated in the U.K. March 6.

"Wedding Wars": Continuing its foray into the wedding TV circuit, VH1 presents this competition series in which engaged couples vie against one another for a dream wedding. The lovers will face wedding-themed challenges in each episode. March.

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