TV Talk: Western Pa. natives compete on reality TV

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Auditor Connor Trott, a former Pine-Richland High School student and Duquesne University grad, acquitted himself well this week in early episodes of CBS’s dating competition series “Love Island,” which airs at 9 p.m. nightly (with some exceptions) on KDKA-TV.

The 23-year-old from Gibsonia came off as shy, old-fashioned and not a player. He quickly coupled with blonde Mackenzie Dipman and then regretted a too-quick first kiss and asked to hold her hand.

An international format hit, the American “Love Island” is now in its second season, delayed due to the covid-19 pandemic. Production began this month with cast members sequestered in a bubble at a boutique Las Vegas hotel, not on an island as in season one.

The show features a collection of sexy, single twentysomethings who must couple-up every few days. Those who fail to couple up risk ejection from the competition. Contestants also play to viewers at home, who rate the cast members and couples through an online “Love Island” app. The winning couple will take home a $100,000 grand prize.

In early episodes, “Love Island” proves easier-to-like than some dating competitions, helped immensely by writer Matthew Hoffman’s narration that winks at reality show clichés and sets a welcome, cheeky tone. (Sometimes he almost sounds like Josh Gad’s Olaf from the “Frozen” movies.)

When one contestant says he’s from Virginia, Hoffman chimes in, “Virginia is for lovers and California is for whoever shows up.”

An embrace of silly humor paired with contestants who came off as relatively decent humans in early episodes makes “Love Island” an entertaining enough offering, especially on rerun-filled broadcast TV this time of year. Trott’s earnestness adds to the show’s appeal.

“Being from Pittsburgh it’s not – love the city, love being from Pittsburgh, never have any intentions of leaving in the future – but it’s no New York City, it’s no L.A., where maybe opportunities similar to this one or the like come up a little bit more often,” Trott told producers in a video interview prior to the start of filming. “So I’m excited to meet new people from cities across the U.S. and meet people that took the same jump at this opportunity that I did.”

Trott isn’t the only current reality TV star with Western Pennsylvania ties.

Shaler native Ian Terry, who now resides in Houston, Tex., is back in CBS’s “Big Brother” house as part of an all-stars season. Terry previously won the show’s 14th season in 2012.

And ABC’s “The Bachelor” franchise may return to Western Pennsylvania. Reality TV scoop-getter “Reality Steve” tweeted last week (https://twitter.com/RealitySteve/status/1296873378792591360?s=20) that the ABC show will film its upcoming season starring Matt James at Nemacolin Woodlands this fall.

“The Bachelorette” previously visited the Laurel Highlands resort for Joelle “Jojo” Fletcher’s season that aired in 2016. The current season of “The Bachelorette” is filming at a Palm Springs, Calif., resort, observing covid-19 production guidelines. It makes sense that the show would return to Nemacolin, a location franchise producers are familiar with that could be adapted to pandemic production realities.

Representatives for Nemacolin and Warner Bros., which producers “The Bachelor” for ABC, did not respond to requests for confirmation that the resort will be used as a filming location.

‘Paranormal Hotel’

Travel Channel’s been leaning into ghost stories for a couple of years now and whether you’re a true believer or watch to turn these shows into a drinking game (“Drink every time a ghost hunter thinks he recorded a voice even though it just sounds like static!”), Travel Channel’s “Paranormal Hotel,” narrated by Dan Aykroyd (“Ghostbusters”), may be the silliest one yet.

While the show does interview real people who believe they have had encounters with ghosts, the program then stages re-creations of the described events. Peg Knickerbocker, owner of the Knickerbocker Hotel in Linesville, Crawford County, (http://www.knickerbockerlinesville.com/) is featured in this weekend’s episode (10 p.m. Saturday). She said she was interviewed in a Buffalo hotel for the show while re-creations of haunted encounters at her hotel were filmed in Canada, not in her actual establishment. Exterior shots of the hotel don’t match the hotel’s actual exterior either.

In a phone interview earlier this month, Knickerbocker said she first had a ghostly encounter in the hotel in 1978 (she heard, “Peggy, help me” as if someone standing next to her spoke, but no one else was in the room). She bought the hotel in 2005 and says she intended to open it as a bed and breakfast before covid-19 hit; now everything is on hold.

Over the years the Knickerbocker hosted a lecture by paranormal investigator Lorraine Warren (the model for the character played by Vera Farmiga in “The Conjuring” movies) and the hotel has previously been featured on “Paranormal State,” “My Ghost Story” and in the recent documentary “There’s No Such Thing as Ghosts?”

“We’re not a ‘boo’ and scary place,” she says. “It’s very serendipitous how my life has been and how things turned out from 1978 to now. I was always meant to have this building. I’ve been asked to be the caretaker.”

‘Class Action Park’

Love theme parks? Love the ‘80s? You’ll probably enjoy “Class Action Park,” even if you weren’t a regular visitor to New Jersey’s Action Park in its 1980s heyday.

Now streaming on HBO Max, this 90-minute documentary directed by Chris Charles Scott and Seth Porges explores the legacy of the park, its rides designed by non-engineers and the damage a lack of attention to safety did to one family who lost a loved one to a fatal injury sustained on an Action Park ride.

“Class Action Park” deftly walks a fine line between nostalgia for “an ‘80s movie that was real life” and a cautionary tale of the consequences for norm-breaking.

Kept/canceled/revisited

VH1 renewed “RuPaul’s Drag Race” for a 13th season and “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” for a sixth with new editions of “Untucked” to accompany both.

Starz has begun production on an artificial intelligence-themed, 10-episode third season of executive producer Steven Soderbergh’s “The Girlfriend Experience.”

Comedy Central rescinded a four-season renewal for “Tosh.0” with its upcoming 12th season (premiering Sept. 15) as its last. TruTV did the same with “I’m Sorry,” canceling the show after two seasons even though production on season three had begun just before the pandemic shut down filming.

Netflix canceled filmed-in-Pittsburgh teen coming-of-age series “I Am Not Okay with This” and “The Society” after one season each. Showtime did the same to “Penny Dreadful: City of Angels.”

HBO Max will reunite “The West Wing” cast for a staged reading of season three’s “Hartsfield’s Landing” to encourage voting. No premiere date has been set.

The CW is developing a live-action adaptation of animated show “The Powerpuff Girls,” created by Charleroi native Craig McCracken.

Channel surfing

National Geographic Channel debuts “Being the Queen” (9 p.m. Monday), a one-hour special on the quieter, private moments of Queen Elizabeth II as told by members of her inner circle. … British and Australian versions of “Lego Masters” will be available in the near future on free, ad-supported streaming service Tubi, which already streams Australian, Mexican and Canadian editions of “MasterChef.” … The CW will simulcast MTV’s “VMAs” (8 p.m. Sunday). … CNN Films explores the human toll of false information in “After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News” (10 p.m. Saturday).

TV Q&A

I’ll be writing a weekly TV Q&A column that will appear at TribLive.com on Wednesday and in print in Sunday’s Tribune-Review. Please send your burning TV questions – about local TV, broadcast, cable or streaming – to rowen@triblive.com.

Follow @RobOwenTV on Twitter or Facebook.

You can reach TV writer Rob Owen at rowen@triblive.com or via Twitter or Facebook.

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