Summer Reality TV – 2019 Review

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“They” say that summer is the time for baseball, but for me and the wife, it is Competition Reality TV season. The networks typically don’t spend a lot of money to have a large audience, and casual TV watchers love a good talent show. Since next week is typically the start of Pilot Season (I will have a review next week on all the new shows already flagged on the DVR), I needed to use this space to vent/congratulate all the winners and losers from some of this summer’s Competition Reality TV season.

**** SPOILER ALERT ****

American Ninja Warrior – Season 11

This was quite the season of ANW. Last year, the introduction of the Mega Wall allowed competitors the chance to win $10,000 in their City Qualifiers. But this year, NBC decided to add more wrinkles to the City Qualifiers:

  • 3 chances at the Mega Wall, with varying prize money.
  • The Power Tower for the Top 2 Ninjas! The Power Tower introduced two prizes:
    1. If you won in your City’s Qualifying Round, then you get a Speed Pass which guarantees your spot in the National Finals.
    2. If you won in your City’s Final Round, then you get a Safety Pass to use in the National Finals if you fall.

In this season, two female competitors finished their City Finals course: Jessie “Flex” Labreck (@flexlabreck) & Michelle Warnky (@MichelleWarnky). There were also a record number of Stage 2 finishers: 21. Plus the city of Chicago looked nearly unstoppable. But the news will really only talk about Drew Dreschel (@RealLifeNinja_)This year, he stood atop Mt. Midoriyama!

Drew Dreschel on top of Mt. Midoriyama
Credit to PEOPLE.com

Drew gets to start his new family with an extra $1 million, which isn’t too bad, considering he fell on Stage 1. Drew benefited from the Safety Pass he won, allowing him to re-run either Stage 1 or Stage 2 in the National Finals. Sadly, some may say his victory will have an asterisk. I did that night. But when you look back at his accomplishments this season, he truly was the Real Life Ninja.

Another strong performance came from Daniel Gil (@kingdomninja_). He finished Stages 1 to 3 without a Safety Pass, but inevitably came in second this year. These two will be the ones to beat next year.

America’s Got Talent – Season 14

Welcome to AGT our new host and judges! This season, Terry Crews took over hosting duties from Tyra Banks, and Julianne Hough & Gabrielle Union replaced Heidi Klum & Mel B. Other than those changes, the showed was very similar to previous iterations.

The comedians should have won, a dog act went too far, and the Golden Buzzer made dreams – good luck not getting chills from this video:

Credit to Len Ken for making me cry for 25 straight minutes

Your winner this year was Kodi Lee, someone who’s voice is just unbelievable. Kodi happens to be on the spectrum and be blind, so when you factor in all the trials and tribulations he faces, it is a great moment that he sings like an angel. His stint in Vegas will put Michael Buble to shame, and I for one am really happy he’s the winner this year.

Another standout performance came from Ryan Niemiller aka The Cripple Threat. Ryan was born with a birth defect, and right out of the gate his self-deprecating humor brought the judges and audience to tears of joy. Heck, Gabrielle Union promised to put him in a movie, so be on the lookout for one of the next great talents to come out of AGT.

Bring the Funny – Season 1

Oof, this one missed the mark. NBC clearly thought AGT, but only for comedy, will be a hit, but not for me. The host was great and the judges were funny, but after watching years of competition shows, I felt the finals didn’t have the right acts.

The first season’s winner was a Sketch Comedy group known as The Valleyfolk. They beat out veteran Stand Up comics like Ali Siddiq and Tacarra Williams, and maybe that irked me more than it should. This show was also prerecorded, so there didn’t appear to be real Table Stakes. I also don’t remember the show actually announcing the prize until the finals.

All in all, we wanted Last Comic Standing, but we got bad SNL Audition Tapes.

So You Think You Can Dance – Season 16

Truth be told, this is the Wife’s show, and occasionally I’ll be doing something else and it happens to be on – I swear. I can’t dance, and know for a fact I can’t, but from a competition standpoint this show has a great concept.

There are thousands of aspiring dancers, there are actual coaches, the winners (and losers) have long careers in other dancing shows, and what they do is impossible to most of America. It’s a great concept.

However, this year, it almost seemed that 1 pairing was heads and shoulders above the rest, and the clear front runner. And by the end of the summer, these two ended up finishing 1 & 2: Bailey and Mariah. Now, I’m told there’s usually 1 male and 1 female winner, but this summer they only chose 1 winner overall, so the couple that was beating everyone ended up being each other’s last competition. In the end, America voted for SYTYCD’s first B-Boy – Bailey Munoz. Congrats!

And more!

Even shows like Masterchef and Ink Masters put on a solid summer of TV. I never thought calling someone a Doughnut would feel like a racial slur, but somehow Gordon Ramsey did it. And a “Battle of the Sexes” Ink Masters made for great tattoos and drama. Next summer Japan hosts the Summer Olympics – the first great Competition Reality TV show – so I predict another great summer of TV.

Pilot Season is next work for the Networks. My DVR is already queued up with nearly 20 new shows, so be on the look out for my reviews.