Big reality TV week: 'Are You Tougher than a Boy Scout?' and 'L.A. Shrinks' begin

Monday, 04 March 2013 03:13 PM Written by 

tougher than a boy scoutWith February sweeps over and many broadcast network shows in reruns, cable networks are debuting a slew of new reality series this week.

Just last week National Geographic Channel announced it would sneak its controversial "Are You Tougher Than a Boy Scout?" (8 tonight) onto its schedule this week. Why do I say sneak? Because networks generally announce show launches more than a week in advance, allowing time for more advance publicity and getting screeners out to critics. Announce a show at the last minute and that's a lot less likely to happen.

With the Boy Scouts under fire for their discriminatory policies that ban gay scouts and gay leaders, National Geographic Channel is getting heat from assorted advocacy groups for airing this show because it promotes the anti-gay BSA.

There's nothing anti-gay in the show beyond its existence as a blatant ad for the BSA. Rather, the show is a fairly dull reality competition between middle-age former scouts (or middle-age non-scouts) and a passel of current scouts as they compete in tasks in the Sequoia National Forest.

Producers lather on the propulsive music to try to create a sense of excitement but it can't disguise that viewers are essentially watching people play camp games (canoe jousting!), which, while fun to participate in, aren't necessarily a blast to watch. 

And while the scouts don't always win, the show seems designed to humiliate the older guys and burnish the image of the scouts; the scouts not only compete, they also pick which oldsters get kicked out of the competition at various points through the hour.

Read about "L.A. Shrinks" after the jump. ...

LA shrinks

On Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. Bravo debuts "Dukes of Melrose," which follows Hollywood boutique owners Christos Garkinos and Cameron Silver in their everyday lives.

But first, Bravo's "L.A. Shrinks" (10 tonight) may be this year's best new bad comedy series.

Whether the real-life people featured intend to be comedy stars is an open question but one of the three shrinks featured is so over-the-top she's like a cartoon version of a therapist. Or she would fit in just fine as a character on the 2007-09 Starz series "Head Case."

The improbably named Dr. Venus Nicolino, who has a PhD in clinical psychology, even sounds like "Head Case's" buttinsky Dr. Elizabeth Goode (Alexandra Wentworth) during a counseling session when a woman complains her fiancee's penis is too large.

"How big would you describe his penis? 8 inches? 10 inches? A foot?" Dr. Nicolino asks a little too curiously. Later she assigns the couple homework: Record their lovemaking and bring it to her to watch next week. (Why anyone would agree to have their therapy sessions taped for a reality show is beyond me.)

Dr. Nicolino is just one of three shrinks regularly featured as "L.A. Shrinks" adopts a similar formula to other Bravo shows like "Million Dollar Listing." The other two are down-to-earth family and marriage therapist Eris Huemer and psychologist Dr. Gregory Carson, who specializes in anger management. His first patient is a screamer who turns the tables on him -- in a scene that has producers' fingerprints all over it -- asking him questions that draw out the information that he plans to marry his partner who he's been in a monogamish relationship with for 23 years.

"L.A. Shrinks" is another Bravo guilty pleasure show. When the cast members aren't saying outrageous things, it can get kind of dull, but most of the time the dialogue is crazy enough to keep viewers entertained.

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