It's not August yet, but the dog days are surely upon us where television is concerned. Perhaps in an effort to make the new season that starts in September look better, the networks are bombarding us with cheapjack reality shows made with little money but lots of hostility.
It says something creepily unpleasant about broadcast-network executives that all three of the shows debuting over the next two days are based on the principle of public humiliation of the innocent. And if any of the shows become hits, it will say something creepily unpleasant about us.
Easily the worst of the bunch -- in fact, there's a good argument to be made that it's one of the most atrocious TV shows of all time -- is NBC's Breakthrough with Tony Robbins. Hosted by the I'm-OK-you're-a-pile-of-crap motivational guru himself, the show offers help to people with hard-luck stories in return for tearful self-debasement.
It's a couples version of the original sob-sister reality show, the 1950s era Queen for a Day, in which female contestants recited every tragic detail of their train-wreck lives (My kids were kicked out of school for setting fire to a teacher! My husband left me for a cocker spaniel!) for a studio audience, which rewarded the most piteous story with a new washing machine. Read my full review of Breakthrough with Tony Robbins, along with Fox MasterChef and The CW's Plane Jane, in Tuesday's Miami Herald.