CRIME & PUNISHMENT NBC, premieres June 16, 10 p.m.
While this latest entry in the Law & Order franchise begins with the traditional chung-chung sound effect, the similarities end with the opening statement: ”The prosecutors you are about to see and the cases they try are real. Nothing has been reenacted.” Documentarian Bill Guttentag shadowed the San Diego district attorney’s office for six months and filmed 100 trials, the result of which is ”the most compelling kind of grab-you-by-the-throat TV I’ve ever seen,” says L&O czar Dick Wolf. ”It’s real life, only the defendants are even worse than you can imagine.” It’s hard to imagine anyone worse than Manuel Redondo, on trial for sexually abusing his girlfriend’s 4-year-old. It’s upsetting stuff (the girl testifies while holding a stuffed animal, though her face is blurred), but compelling enough to worry one L&O scribe. Says Wolf, ”[L&O exec producer] Michael Churnuchin looked at me, shook his head, and said, ‘How can I beat this?”’ — LR
MEET MY FOLKS NBC, premieres July 17, 8 p.m.
We’ve all seen this reality-TV premise before: A contestant is presented with multiple members of the opposite sex and has to decide which one to date. But NBC’s romance extravaganza has something Chains of Love, elimiDATE Deluxe, and The Bachelor didn’t — the folks factor. Here, the singleton doesn’t choose whom to take on a romantic vacation — his or her mom and dad do. ”This is every parent’s fantasy,” says coexec producer Scott Satin. And every lover’s nightmare. Each episode, three men arrive to live with a woman and her parents (or vice versa), and at the end of the weekend the ‘rents make the call about which candidate is relationship material. It’s sure to make for tense relations, not to mention some world-class sucking up. ”Parents and kids alike will be on the floor laughing,” promises Satin. ”It’s really the first comedy-reality show.” Apparently, Mr. Satin never saw a little something called Temptation Island. — DR
DOG EAT DOG NBC, premieres June 17, 9 p.m.
Worried about spending a summer without a new extreme-stunt game show? Don’t fret: The producers of Fear Factor and Weakest Link are advancing the form with this trash-talk tourney. Six contestants vying for a $25,000 prize vote on who must attempt challenges like ”The Fuse” (racing a spark up a 40-foot rope). Losers are ejected, while winners pick someone else to be booted. Dog is based on a more staid British show that prefers logic puzzles to bungee jumping. ”The challenges needed to be Americanized,” says exec producer Matt Kunitz. ”They have to be big and bold and wow.” How wow? One contestant nearly drowned in the set’s 300,000-gallon water tank. ”We figured out a way to build nudity into some of the stunts,” adds Kunitz (e.g., ”Strip Golf”). ”We have to make sure everyone [in the audience] is over 18 when we do that.” Wow? — Josh Wolk
THE DIARY AFFAIRS ABC, premieres late summer
Would a conservative Catholic salesman maintain feelings for his Vegas dream girl after learning — two weeks into their on-camera courtship — that she’s a stripper? Find out on Diary, which treats singles as guinea pigs in a dating laboratory. A man and a woman team up in an exotic place and follow orders written in the titular diary, which is updated daily. Over a three-episode arc, the couple works together — recapturing an escaped piglet, for example — and plays together (hot tubs!). Exec producer Vin Di Bona (America’s Funniest Home Videos) explains, ”We looked for people who were cognizant of their past, like Ed, who was always everybody’s friend but [rarely] anyone’s boyfriend.” The couples were allowed to be together only when cameras were rolling, adding a deliciously awkward element to the show. ”It makes for a lot more tension,” says Di Bona. ”Ultimately, it’s all about good television.” And by good, we hope he means so-bad-it’s-good.