What We’re Watching: Reality Bites

In this month's TV roundup: the good, the bad and the why-bother (Love & Hip Hop, we're looking at you) of reality TV.

Documentary-style television programming has been around for decades — like PBS’s ’70s-era An American Family — but many refer to MTV’s The Real World as the show that created the model for contemporary reality shows. What started out as a good idea — an inside look at the complicated lives of a diverse group of ambitious 20-year-olds all living under one roof — morphed into something else completely.

The success of The Real World proved to television executives that interesting programming could be cheaply produced, tell good stories and attract audiences — not to mention advertisers. Some of the shows — The Amazing Race, Survivor — made for compelling TV.

Unfortunately, the success of the genre also spawned many horrible shows, like Big Brother, The Bad Girls Club and the infamous Flavor of Love. Talk about a good moneymaking idea gone bad. Complex ideas and story lines were replaced with plotting, scheming and mean-spirited “cast members” more interested in fighting, screwing and humiliating one another for the pleasure of audiences and advertisers. Personally, when it comes to reality TV, we love The Biggest Loser for all the right reasons (inspiring, uplifting) and The Real Housewives of Atlanta for all of the wrong reasons (um, far from uplifting).

With that in mind, this month’s TV roundup takes a look at the glut of reality television: the good, the bad and the why-bother.

The Family Crews

The Family Crews is our new favorite reality show. In its second season, the show follows the lives of actor Terry Crews and his wife and five children. It shows the complexities that arise when you’re trying to hold a family together while chasing Hollywood stardom. Terry’s wife, Rebecca, is itching to get back to her singing career after putting it on the back burner to take care of their expanding family, which included the birth of Terry and Rebecca’s first grandchild to their eldest daughter, Naomi Burton.

Azriel, Tera, Wynfrey and Isaiah Crews make up the assorted bunch, each with strong personalities and individual identities. Did we mention the grandparents — Big Terry and Patricia? In the tradition of Run’s House, it’s a family affair at the Crews’ house with lots of love, fun and compromise. The show airs on Sundays on BET at 8 p.m. EST.

Wreck Chasers

While channel surfing, we came across Wreck Chasers, a reality show about the race by tow truck operators to get to the scene of an accident in order to make money. The show takes place in Philly and features African-American and Latino business partners, who own and operate the 1 Unit Tow Team.