In high school, before streaming was what it is today and I had my own laptop, summer TV was just that — limited to the physical TV and airing exclusively in the summer season. The fact that these shows popped up when I had the most time to keep up with weekly episodes just made them more addictive, and while only one of them is still in my life today, I still equate all three of these shows with summertime.
Technically, the new season of Married at First Sight is also one of my summer watches this year, but the show has pretty small gaps in between seasons and runs what feels like year-round. Is anyone else totally invested in the Dallas season even though they have a feeling it’s going to be a trainwreck? Ah, well, that’s the beauty of summer shows — they don’t need much to keep us hooked.
1) The Next Food Network Star
I don’t keep up with this right now, but for two or three consecutive summers, I was obsessed. This Food Network competition series is basically what it sounds — finalists compete in cooking challenges with twists tied to being TV chefs in order to win their own Food Network series. Honestly, I think it’s the loss of Alton Brown as a judge that made my interest in Food Network Star fade. Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis still judge, but the visual imbalance of two main judges and not having Alton’s witty wackiness just bores me. The show has low-stakes drama with gratuitous food porn, and you never have to pay much attention to it if you’re just not in the mood to think too much. I’d inevitably form a weird crush on one of the long-haired, slightly greasy-looking chefs that I definitely wouldn’t be attracted in real life. That’s what seeing a man cooking can do to you!
2) The Bachelorette
This is the crack I just can’t quit. The very first glimpse I saw of The Bachelorette was in 2010 when Ali Fedotowsky went on her hometown dates, and somehow I started watching the following season of The Bachelor. Even though this season’s guys acting problematic both onscreen and off has worn me out, I normally prefer The Bachelorette infinitely more than the franchise’s other shows. I long for the simple sincerity of Ashley Hebert and Emily Maynard’s seasons, but I have faith in the last three Bachelorettes’ abilities to make their relationships work, and I’m a bit of a franchise cynic. I read spoilers and follow all of the insider podcasts, so I know producers’ tips and tricks, but I still get so invested and couldn’t explain why.
3) The Glee Project
Does anyone remember this gem? My sister and I inexplicably stopped watching Glee after its first season, but we still faithfully watched every episode of this two-season-long summer series. Although a good handful of these contestants guest-starred on the actual show, I think only two people are still somewhat well-known and relevant in the entertainment industry today. Alex Newell from Season 1, the second singer in this clip, is on Broadway in the musical Once On This Island, and he manages to sweep away every media performance I’ve seen of this song from the show. Blake Jenner, the Season 2 winner and not related to the famous Jenners, has worked in some big films like The Edge of Seventeen. If anyone knows where Damian the cute Irish guy and his beautiful blonde friend Cameron from the first season are today, please let me know.
I just loved the campiness of this show — the obviously pre-recorded vocals in “live” challenges, drama fueled by producers’ edits, highly quotable and hilarious judges, and Ryan Murphy’s newsboy hats. I’d probably find it way too cheesy to sit through today, but I think the first season in particular helped lighten up a bleak summer for me in 2011.