'Big Brother,' 'Honey Boo Boo,' 'Duck Dynasty': Reality shows revive the family dinner

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There's something magical about sitting down around a big table, sharing a meal, sharing stories, maybe having an argument or two, but experiencing a rare solidarity that's hard to achieve in other settings.

For many families where members are scattered at dinnertime, or for families separated by circumstances, the family dinner may not happen every night, but only on Sunday or a holiday or other special occasion.

And for some folks, friends make up the fellowship of the dinner table.

For all these realities, there's reality TV there to reflect them.

Returning on Wednesday, July 17, for Season 2, TLC's "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo," features child beauty pageant participant Alana "Honey Boo Boo" Thompson and her family in rural Georgia. In between pageants, Honey Boo Boo and her family - parents June ("Mama") and Mike ("Sugar Bear"), and her three older sisters - sit down to family dinners on a weekly family food budget of $80.

So along with the help of coupons and other strategies, June's thrifty meals often feature "roadkill" - free venison from deer killed by cars. Or if there isn't any roadkill, Mama may make "sketti," the family word for spaghetti, served with meat and an unusual sauce made from microwaved tub margarine and ketchup. In one scene, Alana is watching her mother cook and learns when "sketti" is done by seeing if a flung strand sticks to the cabinet doors (if it does, it's done).

TLC even features a regular video segment on the show's official website called "Cooking With Mama June." Recipes included are pork-chop casserole with canned cream of mushroom soup, milk, green beans (canned or fresh) and boneless pork chops, served with rice.

There's also "mashed potato multi-meal," June's version of a shepherd's pie. It involves browning the hamburger, mixing large dollops of butter and milk in with the mashed potatoes (fresh or from a bag), and layering those with canned corn and shredded cheese in a pan.

If "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" isn't your style, you can gather around with Louisiana's duck-call-making Robertsons of A&E Network's reality hit "Duck Dynasty," who begin each meal with a heartfelt prayer.

There probably aren't as many prayers - and probably a lot more scheming and strategizing - when the housemates of CBS' "Big Brother," airing Wednesdays, come together for a home-cooked "house dinner."

Fans of MTV's now-ended reality hit "Jersey Shore" sometimes got to see the rambunctious roommates at the New Jersey seashore house eat big Italian dinners. That tradition continues on MTV's spinoff "The Show With Vinny," which launched in early May.

Former "Jersey Shore" roommate Vinny Guadagnino welcomes celebrities to his Staten Island, N.Y., house for home-cooked Italian eats and candid conversation with his family and friends.
Photo/Video credit: TLC