TV Features

"The Masked Singer" Is Over: What's Next in Mind-Boggling Reality TV?

Imagine a show featuring Miley Cyrus teaching Nicolas Cage and Jenny McCarthy how to be vegan. Sounds like Fox network's next hit!

Miley Cyrus

Photo by Kobby Dagan (Shutterstock)

America's trust in television was broken long before NBC's The Masked Singer held up a mirror to our low standards for "expert judges" and our underlying fear of Teletubbies.

For the past two months, one of the top-rated shows on prime time has featured twelve has-been celebrities dressed as inbred Looney Toons. The singing competition is based on the Korean reality TV show with the same concept. Now that we know The Masked Singer will assault us with a second season next year, let's brace ourselves–the worst is yet to come.

Other hit Korean TV shows spotlight celebrities' moldy leftovers and strained parent-child relationships for the amusement of the masses. We're betting it's only a matter of time before one of these bizarre series debuts in the States.

1. Please Take Care of My Refrigerator

Ever want to see inside your favorite celebrity's refrigerator? Why would you? That's weird. Each episode of Please Take Care of My Refrigerator features eight of the country's best chefs and invites them into the guest star's kitchen, having them compete to create edible dishes using only the ingredients and old leftovers in the celebrity's refrigerators. They have 15 minutes. The celebrity then judges each dish and selects a winner. There is no apparent reward for winning, except for the chance to feed BTS' best boy, Jungkook.

For a US adaptation, we predict the E! network would milk this reality show for all its worth. Hosted by: Gordon Ramsay.

[ENG] Please Take Care of my Fridge BTS Cut_3rd Dish (Hot Braised Short Ribs)

2. Dad! Where Are We Going?

Riffing off the common assumption that celebrities must be terrible parents, each episode features five celebrity fathers traveling or camping with their children. Sometimes they try to "cook" and other times they pull their hair out. We predict CBS would be the first to adopt this on account of its eagerness to exploit any celebrity for prime-time ratings (yes, we're talking about The World's Best).

[ENG SUB] Dad!Where are you going?-Hoo's 9th b-day party 후9살생일축하

3. Human Condition

Six A-list actors are deprived of their phones, television, and the Internet as they live in a dorm for one week. But rather than being a simple Big Brother setup, each episode features a challenge imposing new restrictions, like not creating any trash or living on minimum wage. For a US version, we see this show on ABC. With moralizing shows like The Good Doctor and Grey's Anatomy but reality TV trash like The Bachelor, ABC would jump on the chance to teach celebrities about social issues like climate change while benefiting from their potential moral failures. Hosted by: Miley Cyrus

The Human Condition | 인간의 조건: Living on a Shoestring Budget – The First Episode (2014.12.03)

4. The Return of Superman

It's another show banking on male celebrities being incapable of caring for their children. This time, celebrity fathers are left alone with their kids for 48 hours without any help from wives, family members, or the legion of celebrity nannies who keep Hollywood afloat. American actors like Steven Yeun have also guest-starred as "Uncles" left to take care of other's children on their own. NBC, America's publicist for family values, would love this shit.

[The Return of Superman] Steven Yeun's special way to feed a

5. Unpretty Rapstar

It's worse than it sounds. This music competition features aspiring female rappers competing against each other American Idol-style. Hosted by any mildly successful rapper, the show features challenges like diss battles and filming a one-take music video for an original song they've written and arranged themselves while on the show. Considering Fox's love of reality shows that sound wrong, the network probably has its eye on adapting this bad boy already. Hosted by: Iggy Azalea.

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​THE REAL REEL | Better Things​

Sam Fox's depiction of single motherhood

BETTER THINGS Trailer SEASON 1 (2016) New Louis C.K. FX Comedy

Better Things focuses on having a sense of humor, the necessity of friendships, hard work, and most of all love and gratitude…you know the Better Things.

Watching Pamela Adlon's Better Things makes me feel like I am marching in the Women's March all over again… except really I'm just watching Sam Fox (the lead character played by Adlon) go about her day, working, mothering, and navigating the mind field of being a woman. Adlon gives us realistic insight into what it might be like to be a woman over 40, have a career in Hollywood, and be the single parent to three girls, all the while resisting the allure of Hollywood cosmetic surgery, which her line of work makes a strong case for almost every hour of every day. The FX website, calls the show a "semi-autobiographical series" which after a little digging around proved to be more true than not. This realistic bent is likely why the show has a laundry list of awards attached to its name, because it's so freaking believable. Clearly the bones of this show are a reflection of Adlon's real life experience. Adlon not only stars in the show, but also directs and executive produces it. You likely will never notice that she is juggling three different roles, as her performance is effortless. At the end of each episode, you want to hug her (and I hate hugs) and say YEAH GIRL! I FEEL YOU!

Much like the show, Adlon's parents are divorced, her father is Jewish, and her mother (who converted to Judaism) is British. Adlon's character, Sam Fox lives just across the street from her single, spacey, and nothing short of hilarious British mother. It is not uncommon on the show to see her mother pruning trees topless, or stopping by Sam's house for a nightcap wearing only a 1920's bralette and underwear. Other key relationships on the show are of course Sam's relationships with her daughters, each of whom is extremely different from the other. While her oldest daughter Max fills the role of femme, spoiled, teenager, her middle daughter Frankie appears gender neutral/possibly trans. The beautiful part about the story line with Frankie is that they barely touch on Frankie's appearance. She is just Sam's daughter in the first season…not "the trans kid."

The other stars of the show are Sam's colleagues and girlfriends. While this is not a "mommy and daddy family," the father role so to speak, is not missing; it's simply occupied by other characters, mostly women. It is a true joy to watch the intricacies of so many female relationships play out. It's also a true joy to watch a single mother be caught off guard by her teen and tween daughters, and rarely have a well thought out, "television-mom" response. The show avoids well-rehearsed (and unrealistic) perfectly timed sarcastic quips (think Gilmore Girls, which I love and respect, but this show is different). It's not that Sam is not sarcastic, it's just that Adlon does a great job of portraying realistic parenting moments, the one's where you're in the car with your kid and they suddenly bring up a big question about sex, drugs, or death and you have 4 seconds to come up with some "parental" response. (This is why my kids now believe you can have a conversation with dead people…I just didn't have the time to read an article about how to talk to kids about death between 39th street and home…so now we talk to dead people…it's fine).

The show also tackles seemingly "big" topics like abortion, divorce, and teenage sex. Again, it does an amazing job of showing the realities of modern families…the kinds where a bunch of single/divorced/married/re-married/ people are sitting around Sam's house drinking wine and talking, and Sam's oldest teenage daughter Max happens to be there. Max becomes privy to conversations about abortion, relationships, and other topics adults tend to avoid discussing around teens. It's awkward and unrefined… but the viewer is compelled to see that in reality, Max is the perfect age to be hearing these topics discussed by older people who have actual life lessons to share. It is rare that we get to see the benefit of multigenerational communities on television as it's usually the "kid plot" verses the "adult plot," but if you were raised by a single parent, you know that you often spend much time around a different kind of family… a family that is created out of friends of the parent that is currently parenting you.

Our society (and thus our media) is often so focused on the negative affects of divorce, we rarely discuss the benefits of being raised outside a nuclear model. In fact, just the phrase "benefits of non-nuclear model" sounds like an oxymoron… but of course nothing is all good or all bad… not marriage, not divorce, and not nuclear family-hood. The children in Sam Fox's life have issues, challenges, hardships, ect… but they also have opportunities and perspective, insight, and community. Sam Fox curses in front of her children, tells them things about adulthood that likely they don't need to hear, and doesn't pretend to have hall her ducks in a row…but she has a minivan full of appreciation. Even with all of the work and none of the time, you get the sense that Sam appreciates her role as a mother. The viewer never doubts that Sam wanted to have kids…she mothers as thoughtfully and purposefully as she can, and she loves her girls with gusto. Sam Fox's depiction of single motherhood focuses on having a sense of humor, the necessity of friendships, hard work, and most of all love and gratitude…you know the Better Things in life.

By Rachel Hall, Rachel has a Masters in Cultural Gender Studies, and a BA in Communication & Culture, is a Certified Life Coach, and can often be found hiding in her laundry room from her two children. More about her on her website.

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