This week on TV: Reality check

Reality TV can be incredibly grating, as most producers seem to take it for granted that what we most want to see is aggressive people bickering with each other.

Reality check (photo credit: Courtesy)
Reality check
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Reality television can be incredibly grating, as most producers of the genre seem to take it for granted that what we most want to see is aggressive people bickering with each other.
But it can aspire to be much more, and a new series from Channel 1, Passages, which will air beginning July 2 at 7:20 p.m. (and in HD on Channel 511) sounds extremely promising.
Hosted by Adi Meiri, the show follows five people who have made surprising transitions in their lives, often in response to stress or tragedy.
The five-episode series will focus on a different person each week. A former high-powered hi-tech executive who conducts workshops on a kibbutz is the focus of one episode. In another, a high-school principal reveals his past as a troubled kid who was kicked out of every school he attended; a woman who was in three serious traffic accidents in less than two years helps people who have been injured; a woman born with serious heart defects manages a program that teaches art; and an Israeli-Arab born abroad who suffered a health crisis has become a serious filmmaker.
Through footage of them living their lives and interviews, they reflect on how they have changed their own lives.
YES and HOT continue to battle each other for your business on all fronts. While once YES was the clear leader for anyone who liked the best in American and British television, HOT has been coming up from behind. Mad Men, Orange is the New Black, and Orphan Black have all aired on HOT recently. Orange is the New Black is still airing on HOT VOD, and I can’t pass up the opportunity to recommend this show again. Other than the wonderful comedy and moving drama, this series says more about race and class in the US than any other television show or movie I can think of.
For YES, June has been a lean month, but things are looking up in July. First of all, Tyrant, the new series about a Middle-Eastern dictatorship, starts on June 28 on YES Oh at 10:15 p.m. and is available on YES VOD (there will a review next week).
But several other high-quality series are returning for their second seasons starting next month. Ray Donovan, which starred Liev Schreiber as a fixer for the Hollywood elite, starts broadcasting on YES Oh on July 15 at 10 p.m., and will be available on YES HD and YES VOD.
The series has been described as The Sopranos with an Irish family in Hollywood. Ray’s backstory involves an abusive priest and a street-tough, gangster father, played by Jon Voight, who is one of the most malevolent characters seen on screen since John Huston played Noah Cross in Chinatown.
Voight won a Golden Globe for this performance, proving once again that television is the best place to see great actors over 40 these days – Bruce Dern, Ellen Burstyn, Sally Field, Jessica Lange, Richard Dreyfuss and many others are turning up more on television, and in better roles, than they do in the movies. There was a huge amount of plot in the first season, including several situations involving movie stars who were hiding their sexual orientation or who had committed crimes. It may be hard to come in for the second season if you haven’t seen any of the first, so catch up with at least some of the episodes that YES Oh is rebroadcasting in the coming weeks, or read a recap. If you liked The Sopranos, then you check out Ray Donovan.
The second season of Masters of Sex is coming up on July 22 at 10:55 p.m. on YES Oh, YES HD and YES VOD, and its first season will be rebroadcast ahead of that date. Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon and The Queen) plays William Masters and Lizzy Caplan plays Virginia Johnson in this show about these pioneers of sexuality research. This show may strike today’s viewers as bizarre, since so much of what we now take for granted about sex was new information back then, but Caplan’s incredibly appealing performance makes for good television.