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REALITY CHECK: 'Jockeys,' 'RuPaul's Drag Race,' more
February 5, 2009  | By Diane Werts
 
There's a reason I put "reality" TV in quotes: Most of it isn't. Scripted shows tend to have more relationship to the real world than The Real World.

But some non-scripted shows rise above the others, because even bad genres have better offerings. Here are a few new series worth at least a look:

spike toughest cowboy.jpgToughest Cowboy (Thursday at 11 p.m. ET, Spike) -- Forty real-life rodeo athletes compete for 12 spots in "the most dangerous rodeo tour ever." Since I'm a sucker for rodeo (living 12 years in Texas puts it in your blood), this one's fun, watching guys ride saddle broncs and bulls, overseen by judges like eight-time champion bull rider Don Gay. What Toughest Cowboy isn't is slick, even though it's produced by Survivorkingpin Mark Burnett. Rodeo guys are laconic, and their drama leans away from love lives toward lack of health insurance. They bring their dogs with 'em. But the show (which premiered last week) does deliver the promised "bone-crunching, body-slamming, death-defying action." And it's hosted by a woman whose name is Brandi (of course it is), wearing a Daisy Duke-tied midriff-baring shirt. Which means it's got more "real" in its (probably broken) pinky finger than most "reality" shows.


jockeys animal planet.jpgJockeys (premiering Friday at 9 p.m. ET, Animal Planet) -- Ignore that on-air promo boasting it's from the producers of Laguna Beach. The people on this show have actual jobs. And apparently authentic lives -- at least as authentic as they can be while taking place before constantly rolling cameras. Followed through the monthlong Oak Tree meet at Santa Anita outside L.A. are seven jockeys -- a mix of weary veterans, cocky newbies and, here's the handy part, two hot (also hard-working) women. They've got spouses/lovers and kids and house payments and hazardous jobs that make for an "emotional roller coaster" since jockeys are hardly paid unless they win. The show is slickly put together -- plenty of quick-cut montages and thumping music -- but it's also crammed with information about a sport and occupation unfamiliar to most of us these days. Jockeys even has heart. Plus grit to burn.

rupaul drag race logo.jpgRuPaul's Drag Race(Monday at 10 p.m. ET, LOGO) -- It's raining men! Men dressed as women! The title 6-feet-7 drag queen is in search of "America's next drag superstar," and s/he's putting nine top competitors through their high-heeled paces. In Monday's series premiere, designer Bob Mackie was the guest judge of a challenge to concoct fab-u-lous outfits from items found at -- horrors! -- the dollar store. At least this "reality" show admits from the get-go that everything's fake. And do these entertainers ever know how to work it, chile. By definition, they're drama queens with a capital Q. And doesn't host RuPaul look smart in a (man's) suit?


Click series links to find repeat airtimes and online episodes.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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