TV tonight: The Voice, DWTS; plus Paycheck to Paycheck on HBO

Katrina Gilbert and her family live paycheck to paycheck

WASHINGTON, March 17, 2014–Tonight’s major broadcast network lineup includes new episodes of the usual Monday night fan favorites along with the return of “Dancing With The Stars.” This 18th season of “DWTS” includes the usual list of could have been and want to be stars along with a new twist on the rules.

Rather than be with the same partner throughout the entire competition, at some point in the season viewers will have the option to vote for a change in the pairings match up. Part of the attraction of “DWTS” is watching the bond develop between the competitors and their professional partner and coach.

The possibility of a mid-season change of partners is probably designed to give the viewer a sense of empowerment, but as we all know, there is a reason for the rule “dance with the one that brought you.”

Competitive reality shows are constantly evolving in an effort to remain compelling. The latest rule change on “DWTS” is just another example of what the major networks do in an attempt to keep their shows relevant and keep their ratings up.

Taking away the endearing process wherein the contestants and their coaches get to know and appreciate each other is a step that will invite criticism and stir up fans on social networking sites. Kudos to ABC for coming up with a rule change controversial enough to keep fans buzzing, and watching.

“Dancing With the Stars” airs at 8 p.m. on ABC.

HBO’s latest series “Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life & Times of Katrina Gilbert” also premieres tonight. The show will deliver a sobering dose of reality TV about the endless challenges facing the millions of working-poor mothers in this country.

According to a press release:

“From Maria Shiver’s groundbreaking multi-platform project “The Shriver Report: A Woman’s Nation Pushes Back from the Brink,” PAYCHECK TO PAYCHECK: THE LIFE & TIMES OF KATRINA GILBERT tells the moving story of a year in the life of one mother whose daily struggles illuminate the challenges faced by more than 42 million American women and the 28 million children who depend on them.”

Blissfully absent in the series is the contrived nonsense that makes most reality shows a pain to watch. There is no need to contrive anything. There is no narrator filling the air with fluff or pointing out the obvious. There’s just Katrina and her week-to-week struggle to keep her children fed, housed and healthy in an unforgiving world.

We see what it is like to live with the constant weight of the possibility of one misstep or unexpected car repair derailing a hard working mother’s constant battle to keep her head above water.

“Paycheck to Paycheck” is understandably slow and bleak at times, but so is life. Despite the formidable challenges facing Katrina, she never looks back or gives up. She obviously wants the best for her children, and the patients in the extended care facility where she works are the lucky recipients of Katrina’s positive attitude.

This may be the only true reality show on TV, and should probably be required viewing for every elected leader, most of whom these days seem clueless and unconcerned about the increasingly hard-pressed constituents they supposedly represent. It is one thing to read a stale list of statistics and another all together to apply the faces of a family to those depressing numbers.

“Paycheck to Paycheck: The Life & Times of Katrina Gilbert” airs at 9 p.m. on HBO.

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I was born and educated in Southwest Virginia, traveled with my job all over America in my twenties and early thirties then came back to the mountains to raise my daughter. I’ve been employed as everything from a quality control technician in industrial construction, to a mail processing plant manager, to postmaster of a small town. I’ve been to forty nine of the fifty states, as well as many other countries. Traveling will always be a passion I indulge, and something I’ll call upon often in my writing. I come from a long line of story tellers, and will shamelessly exploit a family tree resplendent with colorful and unique characters, both past and present. In short my perspective will reflect the pride and familiarity I have of my Appalachian heritage. My stories will be a reflection of the values I believe we hold dearest here, all embellished with a healthy dose of Southern Appalachian flare.