The past year may have robbed awards season of much of its luster, but MTV is doing its part to keep things interesting. For the first time ever, the Viacom-owned network is expanding its annual Movie & TV Awards to include a second night focused exclusively on unscripted entertainment, a move that's set to see the show pay tribute to Tiger King, Love Is Blind, 90 Day Fiancé, and the other reality TV shows that got us through (and are still getting us through) COVID.
As with any awards show, the nominees list for the MTV Movie & TV Awards: Unscripted includes quite a few surprises and snubs. Bling Empire over Selling Sunset for Best Docu-Reality Show? Netflix’s Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel being ignored in the Best Real-Life Mystery or Crime Series category? And no love for Summer House, whatsoever? It’s downright blasphemy.
But these aren’t the only shows and categories that deserve to be featured tonight. Consider this a frivolous addendum to MTV’s celebration of reality TV, or the unruly half-sibling of the legitimate awards show.
Reality television thrives on unspoken sexual tension, and Bobby and Giada in Italy has that in spades. The four-part Discovery+ original tracks Food Network stars (and long-rumored hookup buddies) Bobby Flay and Giada De Laurentiis as they galavant across Rome and Tuscany soaking up history, revisiting their favorite haunts, and savoring the local cuisine. It’s slightly implied that they are also savoring each other off-screen, but who’s really to say?
Sexual tension aside, Discovery+ has crafted a fascinating, bingeable travelogue that deserves far more attention than it got when it debuted in January. Just don’t watch on an empty stomach.
Give Jas Leverette, dog trainer extraordinaire and the subject of Netflix’s Canine Intervention all the awards. Each episode, Jas rehabilitates a different dog with behavioral issues and teaches owners how to bring out the loving, docile pooch inside. It’s practically impossible to watch Canine Intervention without tissues, but the docuseries’ premiere is particularly affecting, as a three-legged pit bull named Lady Macbeth is given one last chance after repeated biting incidents.
Yes, Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Salt Lake City was nominated for Best New Unscripted Series at the MTV Movie & TV Awards, but we’d like to propose another nomination: Best Off-Screen Drama. In late March, star Jen Shah was arrested by the FBI for her alleged involvement in a telemarketing scam (she has pleaded not guilty), setting the Bravo world on fire. In the days that followed, things only got messier as Shah’s co-stars and Andy Cohen began weighing in on the scandal, and rumors surfaced that the Shah Ski Chalet featured on RHOSLC was actually a rental.
This controversy is currently playing out off-camera, but Page Six reports that Bravo plans to include footage of Shah’s arrest and subsequent hearings in the show’s forthcoming second season, so fans will get a taste of the drama soon enough.
Giannina and Damian’s rocky engagement came to a dramatic end in the Love is Blind finale, when Damian said the three dreaded words -- “I do not” -- at the altar. He insisted that he wasn’t ready to marry Giannina, at which point she (rightly) stormed off and tore through the wedding venue’s parking lot like a tornado.
For reasons beyond comprehension, the two reunited after the finale taped (they confirmed that they were back together during Netflix’s Love Is Blind reunion special) , and they managed to make it work until late 2020, when Damian all but disappeared from Giannina’s Instagram.
In the crowded food-and-travel landscape, Eater’s Guide to the World and Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi, both on Hulu, stand out for their mouthwatering presentation of global cuisine. Both series serve as love letters to food, the local cultures that have perfected it, and, in a year that decimated the restaurant industry, the act of dining itself. Practically every episode of these Hulu docuseries feature delicious-looking dishes, but Eater’s “Planting Roots in Tijuana, Mexico” and Taste the Nation’s “The Gullah Way” are especially droolworthy.
Are there many shows competing for the Not-So-MTV Movie & TV Awards’ Best Midnight Volleyball nod? No. But does that mean this category should fall by the wayside? Absolutely not.
The Vow, HBO’s deep dive into the NXIVM cult, may have been a structural mess with shady aims, but it excelled as a presentation of midnight volleyball. Why was NXIVM leader Keith Raniere so obsessed with marathon volleyball sessions? Did no one at the community center where this was taking place say, “Hey, time to pack it up guys, it’s 3 AM?” Did Keith have different headbands, or was he wearing the same one every time? These are the questions that The Vow Part 2 must answer.
That said, honorable mention in the Best Midnight Volleyball category goes to Nick Jonas in Saturday Night Live’s “Murder Show” sketch.
So much has been written about Hannah Ferrier’s medication on Below Deck Mediterranean Season 5 that it’s not worth rehashing, but suffice it to say that Malia White handled the situation poorly. Malia can scream about maritime law until she’s blue in the face, but at the end of the day, she knew exactly what would happen if she turned in Hannah for having undeclared Valium and a CBD pen in her room. Cut to: Captain Sandy firing the beloved chief steward, Malia snagging a bunk with her boyfriend, and Hannah disembarking with a knife in her back.
There’s no doubt that Selling Sunset villain Christine Quinn, nominee for Best Fight at the legit MTV Movie & TV Awards, also deserves the award for Best One-Liner(s). Because everything that comes out of Christine’s mouth is hilariously bitchy in a way that Regina George could only dream of, there’s no shortage of potential zingers for her awards reel. Still, here are a few highlights:
Cardi Tries was nominated for Best New Unscripted Series at the 2021 MTV Movie & TV Awards, but it’s worth clarifying exactly why Facebook Watch’s delightful Cardi B docuseries deserves that honor. In every episode, the rap superstar tries her hand at a new activity, from ballet (taught by the one and only Debbie Allen) to ranching to stunt driving. Cardi isn’t exactly great at any of these new pastimes, but that’s what makes Cardi Tries so fun. Who doesn’t want to watch Cardi read Everyone Poops to a nursery school classroom?
More than a decade into its run, RuPaul’s Drag Race dished up its best season in years thanks to its captivating queens, fierce rivalries, and unforgettable performances. With the launch of Paramount+, the service formerly known as CBS All Access, more seasons of Drag Race are available to stream than ever before, ensuring that fans new and old can continue binge-watching for months to come. Yaaas, henny!
MTV Movie & TV Awards: Unscripted airs Monday May 17th at 9:00 PM ET on MTV, VH1, Logo, and CMT.
Claire Spellberg Lustig is the TV Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.