ABC and Fox are trotting out three new unscripted series this week. One reality show has spoiled siblings dodging gainful employment, while another tackles troubled teenagers who slog through boot camp in Oregon. Finally, ABC's news department -- yes, news department -- delves into the world of online dating.
The Princes of Malibu
Sunday at 8:30 p.m. on Fox
The tagline you'll never see: Pop's loaded -- and we're lazy.
The basics: The stepsons of music producer David Foster are accustomed to partying hard, sleeping late and enjoying their stepdad's wealth, with flashy cars and unlimited funds. But Foster wants Brandon, 24, and Brody, 21, to be responsible, to get jobs or get out of the mansion. Their mother, Linda Thompson, a former Miss Tennessee who dated Elvis and was previously married to Olympian Bruce Jenner, lovingly defends her sons' slacker lifestyle. The boys, Jenner's sons, display no ambition, and the show promises no prizes for the princes, so their only incentive to shape up -- or camp it up -- is for the ever-present cameras.
The lowdown: Fox is pulling a fast one with "Princes." These royal slackers do have jobs -- they're actually the show's co-creators. Faced with Foster's ultimatum to find work, they approached pal and executive producer Brant Pinvidic with the idea for this show. So just like "The Simple Life," another Fox program that caters to the rich and famous (or infamous), there's little "reality" in this reality show. The six-episode series replaces reruns of a second "Simpsons" episode on Sundays, but it seems unlikely that the Jenner boys can maintain the laugh level guaranteed by sassy sibs Bart and Lisa.
Reality check: The boys' adventures may not amuse those who groaned at the exaggerated "Simple Life" exploits, but it's fun to watch their apparent cluelessness: In the first episode, singer Chaka Khan is irate and late for an appointment with Foster, thanks to the roadblock formed by the boys' carwash. Brandon and Brody's reaction: "Chaka who?" But this family's semi-comic reality is more watchable than some sitcom families' values.
-- Kathy Blumenstock
Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC
The tagline you'll never see: Spawn of "Supernanny."
The basics: Drug addicts and runaways are among the nine out-of-control kids sent by their fed-up parents to a "therapeutic wilderness camp" in Oregon. At least that's what one counselor calls it -- essentially, this is a boot camp where it's early to bed and early to rise with back-breaking hikes in between. The goal: Set these kids straight as they learn to live with the harsh realities of camp life.
The lowdown: "Nanny 911" begot "Supernanny" begot "Brat Camp." The modest popularity of these shows seems to make ABC think there's an audience out there who enjoys watching children behave badly. ABC puts this sometimes-hard-to-take reality show in the time slot previously occupied by the summer's surprise feel-good hit, "Dancing With the Stars," but the two shows couldn't be more different.
Reality check: The first episode, which introduces the troubled teenagers, resembles a "My Kid Is Out of Control!" episode of "Jerry Springer." But the series quickly finds its groove as the kids arrive at camp. The problems these youngsters face are genuine, and it appears none of them is mugging for the camera. The camp counselors, who go by names such as "Cougar" and "Glacier Mountain Lion," come out looking like the real heroes here, as they take a tough-love approach with these hard-to-handle kids.
-- John Maynard
Thursdays at 9 p.m. on ABC
The tagline you'll never see: Desperate mousepads.
The basics: ABC News takes on the hard-hitting issue of . . . Internet dating. Tens of millions of Americans have used an online service in their search for a mate, making it the multibillion-dollar industry it is today. This five-part series follows 12 Internet-savvy Manhattan women who hope to point-and-click their way to a husband. The subjects include Amy, a 28-year-old real estate broker who "wants to make babies," and Lisa, a 36-year-old gynecologist who's fond of lying about her occupation and name on the first date. Cameras closely follow the gals as they engage in this 21st-century mating ritual.
The lowdown: Terence Wrong, who produced the terrific "24/7" series for ABC News that profiled politicians, hospitals and the police, sexes it up a bit with his latest series. Though critically acclaimed, his past efforts for ABC News have failed to deliver much of an audience during their summer runs. "Hooking Up" carries more viewership potential, but it also faces tough competition in its time slot: CBS's "CSI" repeats this summer are doing just fine, often winning the week in the Nielsen ratings race.
Reality check: Despite the ABC News name, "Hooking Up" comes across as a polished version of "Blind Date" or any number of syndicated dating shows. Its emphasis is less about how these women select potential mates online and more about the dates themselves. While it does capture some genuine dating moments -- the thrill of making a connection, the agony of a dud -- the participants seem all too aware that the cameras are rolling.
-- John Maynard