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Reality TV keeps networks dancing

A reality TV bonanza: 'Dancing With the Stars' debuts, 'AGT' names a winner, 'Big Brother' nears season finale

Reality fare keeps broadcast networks going. It's cheaper to produce than scripted series, displays surprising durability and freshens the summer schedule.

"Dancing With the Stars," ABC’s most-watched series, starts its 23rd season at 8 p.m. Monday. The network is banking on Olympians Ryan Lochte and Laurie Hernandez to reel in viewers along with longtime favorites Maureen McCormick and Marilu Henner.

"America's Got Talent," the most-watched series this summer, presents its Top 10 acts at 8 p.m. Tuesday. Then the season 11 winner will be named in a two-hour finale at 8 p.m. Wednesday.

“Survivor” starts its 33rd season with a 90-minute episode at 8 p.m. Sept. 21. The 20 castaways will be split into a millennials-Gen X battle.

Also on Sept. 21, CBS concludes the 18th season of “Big Brother.” This coming week the network will serve episodes at 8 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. “Big Brother” keeps bringing young adults to CBS, and the network starts a digital version, “Big Brother: Over the Top,” on Sept. 28.

The key to these long-running series is shrewd casting that attracts viewers and keeps them coming back. “DWTS” is particularly adept, and fans are wondering how disgraced swimmer Lochte will get along with dance partner Cheryl Burke. A hopeful sign: She did wonders for Rob Kardashian.

There’s intrigue about the dance skills of former presidential candidate Rick Perry, former NFL star Calvin Johnson and rapper Vanilla Ice. Even if they’re bad, they could make good TV.

Six-time champ Derek Hough will be paired with “Taxi” star Henner, who’s known these days for her remarkable memory. Fiery pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy will foxtrot with TV host Amber Rose. Brother Val Chmerkovskiy may be luckier: He’s paired with gymnast Hernandez.

Casting invigorated reality series this summer. Judge Simon Cowell, talented singers and Orlando juggler Viktor Kee energized “AGT.” (Local tie-ins keep reality series in the headlines.) Paul and Paulie bolstered “Big Brother,” and so did resilient Victor.

Reality TV is often written off as inferior, yet it helps broadcasting remain a survivor. Given the many uncertainties in today’s media, that is no small feat.

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