More of our best of the decade coverage, which started on Tuesday. You can read the other posts at the link above. Here, we talk about a major category that came of age in the aughts: Reality shows.
While I would never call myself a reality TV junkie, it really bugs me when people make blanket statements like, "I hate reality TV," or, "Reality TV is the bane of my existence." The genre has grown so much in the past decade that it has become just like scripted television, in that there's good and there's bad. Even though we're splitting this up into two lists, "Reality," and "Trashy Reality," you won't see a single show that starts with, "Who Wants to Marry" on either list.
This list is dedicated not to the guilty pleasures, but to the shows that you wouldn't be embarrassed for your neighbors to know you watch: the classy reality, if you will. So without further ado, here is TV Squad's list of the best reality shows of the decade.
Okay, so maybe 'Robot Chicken' isn't quite your father's stop-motion show, but retailers around the nation are about to find out how today's brand of animation stacks up against favorites of the past as several offbeat animated series get the DVD treatment. But don't worry, if cartoons aren't your thing, we've also dug up some releases from other genres that will make some of the best gifts this side of the Island of Misfit Toys.
They've heard us, which is why The History Channel is bringing us more reality, starting with a spi-off of the aforementioned Truckers. Extreme Trucking will travel the world looking for the most treacherous roadways anywhere, and the brave men and women who drive them.
We can also look forward to traveling the US with Pickers, as people hunt for rare artifacts. And we'll get down and dirty with a 61-year old feud at a North Carolina NASCAR track with Madhouse. Even more unusual is Sliced, a series where objects are cut in half so we can see what they look like. Hey, if they cut a tree in half we can look at the history of it!
But, that's not stopping The (former) History Channel from launching its first paid iPhone and iPod Touch game with an application that allows users to command 18-wheelers across Arctic roads.
Fans of the show -- and of snowy truck driving in general -- can download a free, "lite" test version of the game now through Apple iTunes.
Set to return Sunday nights on May 31, new episodes of Ice Road Truckers take the show's cameras from the diamond mines and frozen highways of Canada's Northwest Territories north to the oil fields of Alaska.
Previous seasons featured rugged truck drivers (like Hugh "The Polar Bear" Rowland, right) braving subzero temperatures to drive rigs weighing thousands of tons over ice pathways smoothed out over frozen lakes.
(Sun., 9PM, HBO) series premiere
You've gotta hand it to 'Six Feet Under' creator Alan Ball for one of the season's most clever new drama premises: Vampires no longer thirst for human blood, thanks to Tru Blood, a synthetic drink available at the vamps' local supermarket.
That leaves the undead free to (try) to join the mainstream ... if curious, but suspicious humans will allow it. Bayou waitress Sookie (Anna Paquin) is certainly willing, especially when vamp hottie Bill walks into her bar.
But Bill and his kind have a new concern: while vampires are off human blood, humans have discovered that drinking vampire blood makes for a great high, meaning the hunters have now become the hunted.
Family and the workplace -- two constants in everyday American society. They are the places where we spend most of our lives. Sometimes we spend more time at one over complaints of the other. Other times, we barely want to spend time at either location.
Because these are so important to many people across this country, it made sense that television would delve into both of these environments during the Reality Revolution. However, since a 60-minute show about a senior technical analyst sitting in his four square-foot cube was not likely to draw in the audience, the reality shows that were created focused on those families and workplaces that were a tad more unique. Thusly, shows were created around well-to-do families, celebrity families, or families with multiple children, while workplace shows dealt in tattoos, motorcycles, hair styling, and house-flipping.
Coming in later than the game operas and relationship shows, these family and workplace programs ushered in a new phase of the Reality Revolution and set the stage for the future of reality programming.
After making Deadliest Catch a huge hit for the Discovery Channel back in 2006, and still going strong, Thom Beers' Original Productions struck gold again with The History Channel's adrenaline rush Ice Road Truckers. Catch chronicles the real-life adventures of Alaskan crab fishers, considered one of the most dangerous jobs in the world, while Truckers is about one of the most dangerous jobs on land, driving big rigs in the Northern Canadian provinces over frozen lakes.
Now, according to Zap2It, Beers has inked an aggressive deal with NBC for three new shows. The network has given a 10-episode commitment to all three and guaranteed they will run at least two in prime time. So what are they about? Apparently, it didn't matter because Beers is working with the network now to figure out the subjects for all three.
One of my favorite series this summer has been Ice Road Truckers on the History Channel. If you haven't seen it, a quick synopsis: truck drivers in northern Canada haul critical supplies hundreds of miles across frozen lakes to diamond mines owned by DeBeers and other corporations.
Ice Road Truckers is the kind of reality show I can dig, because it features real people with an extraordinary occupation. There's some drama, but it's never contrived or played up for the cameras. I stopped watching Dog the Bounty Hunter because I got sick of egregious musical cues dictating when I was supposed to feel something, and Ice Road Truckers is mercifully void of such manipulation. The fact that these men are driving heavy rigs with only a few inches of ice between themselves and the water is dramatic enough.
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