What We’re Watching This Fall

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Dust off your remote and fire up the Tivo — new TV is finally back! Here’s a look at some of the Asians who will be gracing (or disgracing) reality TV this season.

Margaret Cho, The Cho Show: Love her or loathe her, the pioneer of Asian American entertainers is back on television with a semi-scripted look at her decidedly bizarre life. It’s a “reality-sitcom,” making this a hyphenated and sometimes ham-fisted take on the usual flavor of reality TV. But if you think that any iteration of I Love New York approaches realism, Cho will look like a PBS documentary. The show does amass credibility in the form of her oft-imitated parents, whose candid comments and sheer embarrassment lend a sweet note of truth and humor. Who doesn’t love watching a Korean mother learn how to say “bitch” without moving her lips from a professional ventriloquist? (Thursdays at 10, VH1)

Sheena Sakai, America’s Next Top Model: On a show known for its diversity of adversity (retinitis pigmentosa, teen pregnancy, various levels of naiveté and stupidity), it’s nice to see racial diversity as well. In its 11th cycle, the show has its third Asian American contestant, a Hawaiian “hostess/go-go dancer” who assures us that she has “brung it.” As long as you stay fierce girl, y’all are fine with Tyra. (Wednesdays at 8, CW)

Ken Hoang, Survivor: Gabon: Four seasons after introducing race-based tribes, CBS’s reality warhorse is down to just one Asian contestant. But don’t write the show off yet — Hoang is a professional video game player who is as scrawny and dorky as one could hope for. Pitting his strategic gaming knowledge against his competitors’ brawn, Hoang is, according to show host Jeff Probst, a “true nerd” and “one of [Probst’s] favorite people who has been on the show in a long time.” Lusting for gawkiness and comparisons between wilderness and Smash Brothers? Look no further. (Thursdays at 8, premiering September 25, CBS)

Shazia Kirmani and Wisit Prapong, Top Design: The red-headed stepchild in Bravo’s successful family of formulaic reality competitions, Top Design cannot boast the popularity of Project Runway or Top Chef. Nevertheless, the show can be commended for continuing Bravo’s tradition of diversity with two Asian American contestants in the new season. Watching designers shop for vases and tell carpenters what cabinetry to build may not be quite as compelling as fashion shows or Padma Lakshmi, but maybe a new host will shake things up. Please, no “Oriental” lantern accents. (Wednesdays at 10, Bravo)

Hazuki Kato
, The Janice Dickinson Modeling Agency: In past seasons, Janice has called for “global beauty”; it took her long enough to realize that Asia is a part of the globe, too. If you need reason to like Kato beyond “she’s from Japan,” check out this excerpt from an interview on Oxygen’s website:
Q: Where are you at right now?
A: “on the airplane. Sky!”

I’m willing to put money down that she was throwing up at least one peace sign while giving that answer. (Tuesdays at 10, Oxygen)

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