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55 Best Reality TV Shows Of All Time Ranked

Reality television has existed for so long that it's not just a genre unto itself but a format where unscripted stories play out in a kind of documentary style. These can be competition shows like "American Idol" or "RuPaul's Drag Race," or they can be slice-of-life shows following around a chosen subject and cutting together particularly dramatic moments in order to craft a narrative. The reality show has become a monolithic and ubiquitous form of entertainment that won't be going anywhere anytime soon.

Our list of the greatest reality shows of all time attempts to select examples from every subgenre of reality television and highlight what makes them great. So, if you've been curious about diving into reality TV but were put off by the few you've encountered, this list should serve as an adequate guide to selecting which series you'd like to try. Then again, if you're an avid viewer of everything reality TV, we invite you to take a trip with us down memory lane and venture into a few obscure alleyways you may not have been familiar with.

Updated on June 13, 2022: Reality TV will never die, so be sure to check back here periodically, and we'll let you know about new series that are instant classics.

55. Keeping Up With the Kardashians

It would be difficult to discuss the history of reality television without at least mentioning the E! network's tentpole series "Keeping Up With the Kardashians." Starting in 2006, the series follows the lives of Kim Kardashian, her mother Kris Jenner, and sisters Kourtney, Khloe, Kylie, and Kendall as they build their modeling and entrepreneurial empire. The show lasted 20 seasons before transforming into the recent Hulu series "The Kardashians." The reason this series made the list over the new one is simply because of its incredible staying power. Honestly, when you think of "reality TV," it's the name "Kardashian" that comes to mind.

  • Starring: Khloé Kardashian, Kim Kardashian, Kourtney Kardashian
  • Network: E!
  • Year: 2006 – 2021
  • Rating: TV-14
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 20%

54. Daisy of Love

While VH1's dating series "Rock of Love" birthed this spinoff series, it isn't nearly as entertaining, so "Daisy of Love" made the list instead. Hosted by Riki Rachtman, the series is exactly what it sounds like: A contestant from "Rock of Love" named Daisy de la Hoya is given a chance to find her own heartthrob after being rejected by Bret Michaels. The guys they chose to vie for Daisy's love are various degrees of dysfunctional, and their inability to play well together gives the series a chaotic, unhinged feeling that's so addicting that you can't help but binge the entire thing in one hilarious weekend.

  • Starring: Riki Rachtman, Daisy de la Hoya, David Amerman
  • Network: VH1
  • Year: 2009
  • Rating: TV-14
  • IMDb Rating: 4.4/10

53. The Mole

For anyone who enjoyed "Survivor" but thought the game needed a few additional layers of complexity, there's "The Mole." Hosted by Anderson Cooper, "The Mole" is a spy series about a group of strangers who are brought together to compete in a series of games to win money. For every game they successfully complete, they bank a certain dollar amount. One of them, however, was hired by the show's producers to sabotage the games. This person is the titular Mole. Whoever makes it to the end of the season without being eliminated — the better you are at figuring out who the Mole might be, the more eliminations you'll survive — wins all the money the team collected. It requires you to pay attention but is definitely worth the effort.

  • Starring: Anderson Cooper, Heather Campbell Willison, Dorothy Hui
  • Network: ABC
  • Year: 2001 – 2008
  • Rating: TV-PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 40%

52. Undercover Boss

The concept behind "Undercover Boss" is simple: The head honcho of a company finds out what it's really like to work for their business by getting a disguise and going undercover as a new employee. By interacting with lower-level employees, the bosses get a good sense of who they're employing and what working conditions can be changed. The heart of the show is seeing them meet the employees who are struggling with various elements of their personal lives and discovering what they can do as their employer to alleviate some of that stress. There's a lot of fish out of water humor and buckets of tears.

  • Starring: Mark Keller, Brie Thiele, Stephen J. Cloobeck
  • Network: CBS
  • Year: 2010 – Present
  • Rating: TV-PG
  • IMDb Rating: 5.8/10

51. Ghost Adventures

The paranormal is a fascinating subject on a number of levels. More fascinating than the subject itself, however, are the people who decide to build a career out of investigating it. While there's no shortage of ghost-hunting shows on television, "Ghost Adventures" takes the cake thanks to the goofiness of its host Zak Bagans. Oscillating between spooky showman and silly goofball, you never quite know how seriously to take Mr. Bagans. Everywhere his team visits is reported to be the scariest place on Earth, and they're always about to do battle with the most evil beings in existence. He seems to really care about finding evidence of the supernatural, but his unscientific methods are often unintentionally hilarious.

  • Starring: Zak Bagans, Aaron Goodwin, Billy Tolley
  • Network: Travel Channel, Discovery+
  • Year: 2008 – Present
  • Rating: TV-PG
  • IMDb Rating: 7.3/10

50. My Big Fat Fabulous Life

Instead of developing a series exploring the horrors of living as an overweight person in the modern day, "My Big Fat Fabulous Life," strives to showcase that your size doesn't have to dictate who you are. Whitney Way Thore, who rose to prominence thanks to a viral video of her dancing, has no intention of apologizing for the way she is. How others perceive her size has no bearing on the kind of life she wants to live. She dances, she dates, she lives life to the fullest, and all of it is documented in this TLC series.

  • Starring: Whitney Way Thore, Buddy Bell, Chase Severino
  • Network: TLC
  • Year: 2015 – Present
  • Rating: TV-14
  • IMDb Rating: 3.4/10

49. Below Deck

Ever wondered what it would be like to have so much money that you could buy your own enormous yacht and employ a bunch of people to make sure it runs a bit like a hotel? Well, "Below Deck" isn't about that. Instead, it's about the crew of an enormous yacht trying to make sure it runs a bit like a hotel. Of course, they have all the normal drama that comes along with any workplace, but throw in wealthy guests, exotic locations, and lots of booze, and you've got yourself a series so successful it spawns spinoffs and keeps going.

  • Starring: Lee Rosbach, Kate Chastain, Eddie Lucas
  • Network: Bravo
  • Year: 2013 – Present
  • Rating: TV-14
  • IMDb Rating: 7.4/10

48. The Simple Life

During the early years of the 21st century, reality television had yet to find its voice. Producers were throwing anything at the wall to see what would stick. Productions were often rushed, editing was disorienting, and the stories didn't hold much weight. This is why a show like "The Simple Life" is still referenced today. Although it suffered many of the production failings of other shows from the time, the concept of seeing two wealthy women — Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie — giving it a go in the "normal" world and working "normal" jobs was at least compelling enough to keep viewers watching. A lot of reality shows stand on the steady shoulders of this early pioneer.

  • Starring: Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, James DuMont
  • Network: Fox, E!
  • Year: 2003 – 2007
  • Rating: TV-14
  • IMDb Rating: 4.0/10

47. Hell's Kitchen

For a long time, cooking shows were a multi-camera setup with a single chef narrating their process to at-home viewers, educating them on the various techniques needed to produce professional cooking in their own home. Gordon Ramsay's "Hell's Kitchen" kicked that format to the curb and created a loud, dramatic competition show about chefs aspiring to be the best, with Ramsay barking orders and criticisms at them. Episodes go by in such a flash that you can barely process what just happened before diving into the next episode for another dose of high-octane cooking adrenaline.

46. Project Greenlight

For aspiring filmmakers in 2001 dreaming of one day getting to try their hand at making a legitimate Hollywood movie, "Project Greenlight" was appointment viewing. For the first time in recent memory, a film studio was going to giving a complete unknown the opportunity to step into the writer/director's chair. Season 1 looked for someone who could write and direct. Season 2 was about finding separate writers and directors. Season 3 did the same, but this time, the goal was to make a horror movie. Season 4 just wanted a director, but they got more than they bargained for. The series is an outstanding look behind the filmmaking process and all the drama that goes down when the cameras aren't rolling.

  • Starring: Chris Moore, Ben Affleck, Matt Damon
  • Network: HBO, Bravo
  • Year: 2001 – 2015 
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 88%

45. Flavor of Love

"Flavor of Love" is the culmination of a romantic saga for hype man Flavor Flav — one that began with heartbreak. After joining the cast of "The Surreal Life" in season three, Flav was smitten with actress Brigitte Nielsen. Their courtship spun into its own series, "Strange Love." When they failed to make it as a couple, Flav sought a new life partner, and that's where "Flavor of Love" comes in. A group of women compete to become Mrs. Flavor Flav in this cheap but fun ripoff of "The Bachelor." Whether Mr. Flav genuinely thought he would find his soul mate through this ridiculous process is unclear, but it sure makes for addicting television.

  • Starring: Flavor Flav, Ricky B. Head, Dion Graham
  • Network: VH1
  • Year: 2006 – 2008
  • Rating: TV-14
  • IMDb Rating: 4.5/10

44. Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County

It seems that every generation needs a series that lets them imagine what their lives would be like if they lived in dreamy California. For baby boomers, it was the Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello beach movies. For Generation X, there was "Beverly Hills 90210." Millennials got "The O.C." and "Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County." As the title suggests, the latter is an unscripted series following the lives of Orange County rich kids dealing with the drama of entering adulthood. The drama is so prevalent that sometimes it feels more like a reality show than anything resembling reality, but that's part of the appeal.

  • Starring: Kristin Cavallari, Talan Torriero, Stephen Colletti
  • Network: MTV
  • Year: 2004 – 2006
  • Rating: TV-PG
  • IMDb Rating: 4.7/10

43. The Hills

What happens when the kids from "Laguna Beach" become adults who have to find careers in the "real world?" That's what the sequel series "The Hills" is about. The lives of these young people don't actually change a whole lot. They're still getting dressed up in fancy clothes, going to classy restaurants, and visiting beaches while being worked up over petty stuff that doesn't factor much in the grand scheme of things and engaging in silly squabbles ... but it's still just as entertaining. Also, the series signaled a real turning point in reality TV as it was during this show that production quality saw a seismic improvement.

  • Starring: Audrina Patridge, Heidi Montag, Lauren Conrad
  • Network: MTV
  • Year: 2006 – 2010
  • Rating: TV-PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 52%

42. The Carbonaro Effect

Hidden camera shows can be hysterically funny. Seeing ordinary people we identify with in unrealistic situations will always be appealing. However, these shows can also be a bit mean-spirited. Some of the situations people find themselves in are downright cruel. Thankfully, this hidden camera magic series is all about fun and positivity. As magician Michael Carbonaro toys with unsuspecting audience members' perception of how things are supposed to work by spontaneously performing mind-boggling illusions, they're left with a sense of awe regarding the world around them, and we're thrilled by their real, unfiltered reactions.

  • Starring: Michael Carbonaro, Keith Ham, William Tokarsky
  • Network: TruTV
  • Year: 2014 – Present
  • Rating: TV-14
  • IMDb Rating: 7.4/10

41. Terrace House

There are a lot of reality shows about people just trying to find love. It is a universal concept that the vast majority of audience members can immediately identify with. Sometimes, the show can be a competition, other times it can just document what it's like for people who are actively on the dating scene. With the Japanese series "Terrace House," it's more about finding genuine connections, even if that means walking away as friends. Its production quality is top-notch, and the level of drama is subdued enough that watching it can be almost relaxing as opposed to edge-of-your-seat intense.

  • Starring: You, Reina Triendl, Yoshimi Tokui
  • Network: Fuji Television, Netflix
  • Year: 2015 – 2016
  • Rating: TV-14
  • IMDb Rating: 8.1/10

40. Love Island U.K.

"Love Island" is the polar opposite of "Terrace House." While the show says the intention is for their cast to find love, the execution of the series says differently. This is not a show about young hopefuls looking for a soul mate. This show exists to get people in compromising situations where their baser instincts kick in and their minds are on anything other than love. The version of the show from the United Kingdom wins out simply because there's a ton of it, the cast makes no secret of their intentions, and it's just hilarious.

  • Starring: Iain Stirling, Caroline Flack, Laura Whitmore
  • Network: ITV2
  • Year: 2015 – Present
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • IMDb Rating: 5.1/10

39. Wife Swap

"Wife Swap" sounds much more risque than it actually is. The series is a fascinating look at what happens when a person is uprooted from their regular life and asked to adjust to someone else's way of doing things for a while. It sheds light on the idea that family units are wonderful, but sometimes they can be a bit too insular and detached from the rest of the world. For instance, the notorious "God Warrior" episode is about a woman who is so devoted to her faith that the concept of accepting anyone who doesn't align with her views is interpreted as a personal attack. The show can be an excellent reminder of the importance of maintaining an open mind.

  • Starring: John Schwab, Brian Lee, Robert Robinson
  • Network: ABC, Paramount Network
  • Year: 20004 – 2020
  • Rating: TV-PG
  • IMDb Rating: 4.5/10

38. Top Chef

"Top Chef" is a cooking show that transports the events from your standard studio kitchen into a massive soundstage. Instead of educating viewers on restaurant-style cooking techniques, "Top Chef" is all about the competition. These contestants are out to prove their worth and are dedicated to that singular goal. The series was so successful it spawned an onslaught of spinoffs like "Top Chef Master," "Top Chef Junior," "Top Chef Amateurs," and several more. The original, though, remains the best.

  • Starring: Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons
  • Network: Bravo
  • Year: 2006 – Present
  • Rating: TV-PG
  • IMDb Rating: 7.6/10

37. Impractical Jokers

An original take on hidden camera shows, "Impractical Jokers" makes the creative decision to put their hosts in uncomfortable positions rather than innocent people. Each episode consists of the hosts competing against each other in challenges requiring them to embarrass themselves in front of perfect strangers while everyone else watches from behind the scenes, laughing and making the situation worse. At the end of the episodes, whoever lost the most challenges has to suffer a punishment that is both grueling and hilarious to watch. The show has become such a success that the hosts regularly go on tour to share more stories with their adoring fans.

36. Mythbusters

There aren't a lot of popular shows on television that actively encourage their audiences to think critically. "Mythbusters" operated almost like "Bill Nye the Science Guy" for adults by conducting the kinds of amazing experiments Bill's PBS show would likely never allow. With the fun personality of the hosts and the huge scale of the experiments, the series definitely held your attention. Its premise, however, is what made it so special — taking long-held beliefs about how things work and putting them to the test. This was a team of people not content with accepting information at face value and instead dug deeper to find out the truth for themselves.

  • Starring: Jamie Hyneman, Adam Savage, Robert Lee
  • Network, Discovery Channel, Science Channel
  • Year: 2003 – 2018
  • Rating: TV-PG
  • IMDb Rating: 8.3/10

35. The Bachelor

Beginning in 2002, the ABC series "The Bachelor" has been going strong ever since. This could easily be considered the start of the reality TV competitive dating genre. Even if other shows existed beforehand, "The Bachelor" — with its premise of a man dating a series of women to find his one true love — perfected the formula so completely that it spawned an entire universe of spinoffs. "The Bachelorette" is essentially the same show with the genders reversed, "Bachelor in Paradise" gives contestants a second chance at love, "Bachelor Pad" was the same as "Paradise" but in a house, and there's a ton of region-specific brandings of the show as well.

  • Starring: Chris Harrison, Brad Womack, Sean Lowe
  • Network: ABC
  • Year: 2002 – Present
  • Rating: TV-14
  • IMDb Rating: 3.1/10

34. Jersey Shore

"Jersey Shore" burned intensely bright for three years before ending its run. Unlike other programs on this list, the premise can only go so far. The show sees a group of young men and women spending their summers partying as much as possible. There are little storylines that continue through the episodes, but the whole point is to watch the cast assault their bodies with alcohol and say/do ridiculous things every night. While the show proper may have ended early, much of the cast has stayed busy with other projects, and a few spinoffs have seen some success as well.

  • Starring: Paul "Pauly D" DelVecchio, Sammi "Sweetheart" Giancola, Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi
  • Network: MTV
  • Year: 2009 – 2012
  • Rating: TV-14
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 42%

33. Love Is Blind

After a few decades of reality television dating shows, the creators behind such programming continue to find ways of changing up the format in interesting ways. For example, "Love Is Blind" sets out to discover whether or not someone can truly fall in love with another person based solely on their voice and personality. A group of people meet each other behind a wall and attempt to connect through conversation. Of course, most of the cast resorts to superficial elements in their decision-making, but taking the journey leading up to that point is often riveting.

  • Starring: Nick Lachey, Vanessa Lachey, Shayne Jansen
  • Network: Netflix
  • Year: 2020 – Present
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 76%

32. Kitchen Nightmares

Watching an episode of "Kitchen Nightmares" is like riding a rollercoaster. At first, everything starts out fairly standard. We meet the proprietors of a restaurant and learn about their past and motivation in opening their business. Once you're lulled into a comfortable place, Gordon Ramsay comes in and investigates everything wrong with the business — terrible food, awful staff, disgusting kitchen. Then there are a bunch of intense arguments. Finally, though, Gordon rolls up his sleeves and does the work necessary to turn the business around, and you find yourself moved by the arc of the story.

31. The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

"The Real Housewives" franchise is like the next spiritual evolution following "Laguna Beach" and "The Hills." Each series (of which there are several) picks a geographic region where ludicrously wealthy live and cause drama. It isn't so much about seeing how the other half lives than it is about reminding us that all the money in the world can't fix your dysfunction without you doing the psychological work. For the intense amount of memes it has inspired and the mountain of hilarious clips it's produced, "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" beats out all the rest.

30. The Undateables

"The Undateables" is a wonderfully sweet series with an unfortunate title. It's in reference to the fact that the subjects of the reality series are often considered undateable by the world at large due to their divergent mental development. Still, they're just as human as anyone else and deserve to find fulfilling companionship. With the help of a dating service specializing in locating potential partners for individuals with disabilities, they meet potential life partners with the same hope and optimism any human being can identify with. The major difference between this and other dating shows is the sense that everyone involved cares deeply about their mission to find love.

  • Starring: Sally Phillips, Brent Zillwood, Gareth Cooper
  • Network: Channel 4
  • Year: 2010 – Present
  • Rating: TV-14
  • IMDb Rating: 7.0/10

29. MasterChef

Gordon Ramsay could have an entire network of his own, one that broadcasts nothing but shows starring him, and it would probably never run out of episodes to air. And the best of the bunch would without a doubt be "MasterChef." Beginning life as a series from the U.K., "MasterChef" is a cooking competition series allowing talented home cooks to prove their skills in an enormous kitchen filled with all the supplies they could ever need. They complete challenges in the hopes of impressing expert judges in order to win the coveted "MasterChef" trophy. If sports aren't your thing and you really like food, "MasterChef" is probably for you.

  • Starring: Gordon Ramsay, Joe Bastianich, Aaron Sanchez
  • Network: Fox
  • Year: 2010 – Present
  • Rating: TV-14
  • IMDb Rating: 7.2/10

28. The Biggest Loser

Competition can be a great motivator, especially when losing weight. That's what makes the premise of "The Biggest Loser" work so well. While other reality shows focus on interpersonal conflicts as the main driving force — and accusations of being "fake" abound — no one can claim that the contestants on "The Biggest Loser" aren't there for the right reasons. Thus, the reason we watch the show is to watch a group of people put in the effort to improve their health and lives. Of course, there's drama and nonsense that threatens to distract from the important narrative, but it never takes away from the powerful impact of witnessing a person truly transform.

  • Starring: Bob Harper, Alison Sweeney, Jillian Michaels
  • Network: NBC, USA Network
  • Year: 2004 – Present
  • Rating: TV-PG
  • IMDb Rating: 5.4/10

27. Big Brother

Based on a reality show from the Netherlands, "Big Brother" takes "The Real World" and "Survivor" and mashes them together in a premise that's ripe for a geyser of conflict. The idea is that a group of strangers live in an isolated house together with no contact with the outside world, and the audience at home watches everything unfold. The guests of the house are forced to compete in challenges that determine whether or not they'll get to stay. It has lasted for over two decades because this is a formula that just doesn't get old.

  • Starring: Julie Chen Moonves, Clayton Halsey, Phil Proctor
  • Network: CBS
  • Year: 2000 – Present
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • IMDb Rating: 5.4/10

26. Welcome to Plathville

Following around a famous family with cameras is interesting in a voyeuristic sense (getting to see how celebrities live), but documenting the insular world of a very sheltered American family is fascinating. "Welcome to Plathville" records the simple lives of the Plaths, a conservative family with a lot of pent-up aggression boiling under the surface of every interaction. As the young Plaths mature, they begin to realize that the restrictions put on them by their parents did not adequately prepare them for the world, and watching them slowly discover their individual personalities separate from their mom and dad is riveting.

  • Starring: Moria Plath, Micah Plath, Olivia Plath
  • Network: TLC
  • Year: 2019 – Present
  • Rating: TV-PG
  • IMDb Score: 5.2/10

25. Love After Lockup

"Love After Lockup" is an insightful show for two major reasons. The most obvious reason is witnessing the kind of strain that incarceration can put on a relationship. (Some of the subjects in the series were already involved with the inmates getting released from prison and struggling to remain committed to their significant other while maintaining their own lives.) The other is how often people will seek out romance with incarcerated individuals simply because they know that person's options are limited. It's an interesting look at the lengths people will go to in an attempt to find and keep love.

  • Starring: Lizzie Kommes, Scott Davey, Garrett Tanner
  • Network: WeTV
  • Year: 2018 – Present
  • Rating: TV-14
  • IMDb Rating: 6.4/10

24. Comic Book Men

You don't need to be a fan of comic books or the work of Kevin Smith to enjoy the AMC series "Comic Book Men." The focus isn't so much on the comics and merchandise that passes through Jay & Silent Bob's Secret Stash in New Jersey, it's about the people working at the store and the people popping in to locate a nostalgic treasure or sell a long-loved piece of merchandise. Funny, endearing, and just plain cozy, "Comic Book Men" is a reality show for those of us who just want to unwind and forget about drama for a little while.

23. America's Next Top Model

Supermodel Tyra Banks helped create and serves as the host of this long-running reality competition series about aspiring models striving to make a living in front of the camera. Other than the usual bickering personalities, the series offers glimpses into the cutthroat modeling industry previously unseen by the public. If this show is to be believed, the life of a model is kind of agonizing. You don't just stand around and let people take pictures of you. Thanks to this series, we can see that the life of a model is far more complex, grueling, and terrifying than most of us probably assumed.

  • Starring: Tyra Banks, Adrianne Curry, Yoanna House
  • Network: UPN, The CW, VH1
  • Year: 2003 – 2018
  • Rating: TV-PG
  • IMDb Rating: 5.6/10

22. 90 Day Fiance

"90 Day Fiance" brings the audience into the reality of what it's like to find love with someone from another country and bring them to the United States of America legally through marriage. Not only is the process itself arduous, but the culture shock is often dramatic. Add to that the question of whether or not your future spouse is interested in you or becoming an American citizen, and you've got a potent recipe for conflict. The show is so popular that it birthed several spinoffs, including "90 Day Fiance: Pillow Talk" where people who've already appeared on the show watch the latest episodes and provide their own commentary.

  • Starring: Natalie Podiakova, Mike Youngquist, Nicole Nafziger
  • Network: TLC
  • Year: 2014 – Present
  • Rating: TV-14
  • IMDb Rating: 6.3/10

21. Love on the Spectrum

"Love on the Spectrum" is similar to "The Undateables" in that the series sees matchmakers assisting adults with disabilities in their quest to find love. The individuals in this series have been diagnosed with various forms of autism, making it difficult for them to connect with other people. Seeing people wrestle with everyday conversations and societal norms that we take for granted not only makes you root for their success but reevaluate your own perspectives. The show started in Australia but spawned a spinoff in the United States that features a crossover with "Born This Way."

20. American Idol

What makes "American Idol" more than a game show is the length of time the contestants participate. Hopefuls audition for a chance to show America their singing abilities before competing against each other every week. Viewers who turn in for every episode are taken on a journey with the aspiring performers that you never got from "Star Search." Although the majority of winners fade away into obscurity, a few like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood have managed to stick around. Not that the longevity of the winner's career matters much — it's watching them make it to the end that keeps audiences coming back.

  • Starring: Ryan Seacrest, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson
  • Network: Fox, ABC
  • Year: 2002 – Present
  • Rating: TV-PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 68%

19. Married at First Sight

In "Married at First Sight" three experts match strangers together based on their compatibility. These matches meet for the first time on their wedding day where they are expected to get married based on nothing more than trust in the people who put them together. They then live together as a married couple for several weeks before deciding whether or not they want to stay married or get divorced. What works about the show is seeing how dedicated the participants can be to making something work because they've tried everything else and gotten nowhere.

  • Starring: Pepper Scwartz, Calvin Roberson, Viviana Coles
  • Network: FYI, Lifetime
  • Year: 2014 – Present
  • Rating: TV-14
  • IMDb Rating: 6.1/10

18. Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta

Like the "Real Housewives" franchise, "Love & Hip Hop" is all about people living and working in an elite world that most audience members could only imagine themselves in. Each spinoff is also geographically specific. Everything began with "Love & Hip Hop: New York," but the second series, "Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta," beats out the rest due to the entertainment value. While each series loves to zone in on the drama and intrigue, the "Atlanta" cast is simply more engaging than any of the others.

17. Little Women: LA

The "Little Women" franchise of shows could easily fit in the "Real Housewives" and "Love & Hip Hop" mold of reality television. It depicts women spending time together at nice restaurants and parties with lots of drama going on, but the fact that they have dwarfism adds a pseudo-educational element to the series, one lacking from similar shows. Not only do we get all the arguments and backstabbing seen in other series, we're also informed on what it's like to live in a world that doesn't necessarily cater to adults your size while seeking the same kind of happiness everyone else is.

  • Starring: Terra Jolé, Mimi Faust, Tonya Reneé Banks
  • Network: Lifetime
  • Year: 2014 – 2019
  • Rating: TV-14
  • IMDb Rating: 5.3/10

16. The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Millan

Pets can often legitimately feel like members of the family. That becomes difficult, however, when the pet decides they want to control their house. That's where Cesar Millan comes in. If someone's dog is being overly aggressive, he knows how to naturally subdue them in such a way that keeps the dog safe and happy. Very passionate about what he does, Millan specializes in improving a pet's behavior so that the family their living with can feel whole again. It's pretty sappy and formulaic, but it'll get you feeling something nearly every time.

  • Starring: Cesar Millan, Daddy, Paul Dini
  • Network: National Geographic Channel, Nat Geo Wild
  • Year: 2004 – 2012
  • Rating: TV-G
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 7.9/10

15. Teen Mom OG

A continuation of the show "16 and Pregnant," "Teen Mom OG" shows what happens when young women become mothers before they've even had a chance to graduate high school. Some of them have the kind of support group of family and friends that most mothers could only dream of while others have to work extremely hard to raise a baby and continue their education. There is a reality to this unscripted series that others lack. At no point do you get the feeling that these situations are contrived or forced in any way. Although the show led to more spinoffs, the original is still the best.

  • Starring: Amber Portwood, Catelynn Lowell, Maci Bookout
  • Network: MTV
  • Year: 2009 – 2021
  • Rating: TV-PG
  • IMDb Rating: 3.5/10

14. The Osbournes

When you think about it, the fact that Ozzy Osbourne had a hit television series on MTV at the start of the 21st century is pretty wild. The former lead singer of Black Sabbath wasn't making music that got heavy rotation at the time, the generation of kids watching the series were likely unfamiliar with his work, only dedicated fans knew who his wife Sharon was, and his children weren't famous either. Still, their dynamic was so bizarre that the world couldn't help but watch every second of it. The series was loud, obnoxious, and absolutely hilarious. We may not have gotten the slice-of-life reality shows previously mentioned on this list if it wasn't for "The Osbournes" blazing the trail.

  • Starring: Ozzy Osbourne, Sharon Osbourne, Jack Osbourne
  • Network: MTV
  • Year: 2002 – 2005
  • Rating: TV-MA
  • IMDb Rating: 5.5/10

13. Intervention

"Intervention" is a series that isn't concerned with being dumb, disposable entertainment. They're not trying to engage with the audience's desire for wish fulfillment by showing them how fabulous their lives could be if they had enough money. "Intervention" — a show about families trying to help their loved ones struggling with addiction — is about healing. This is a series that makes the viewer uncomfortable. It doesn't do this to shock them and convince them this is edgy and important. The uncomfortable feeling that comes with watching the show is the agony human beings must go through in order to admit their mistakes and change their lives for the better. 

  • Starring: Candy Finnigan, Jeff VanVonderen, Ken Seeley
  • Network: A&E
  • Year: 2005 – Present
  • Rating: TV-14
  • IMDb Rating: 7.9/10

If you or anyone you know is struggling with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

12. Little People, Big World

Like "Little Women: LA," "Little People, Big World" shows us what it's like for little people to make their way in a society that wasn't exactly designed for them. Where this show differs in a major way, however, is the fact that a family is the subject of the series. We're not following around friends and frenemies — these are family members who work to support each other as best they can. Drama seeps in, of course, and the family has some pretty major differences, but rooting the show in a group of people who will always be connected regardless of where they go in life invests the viewer in what's happening a bit more.

  • Starring: Matthew Roloff, Amy Roloff, Jeremy Roloff
  • Network: TLC
  • Year: 2006 – Present
  • Rating: TV-PG
  • IMDb Rating: 6.2/10

11. Shark Tank

"Shark Tank" celebrates entrepreneurs by giving them the chance to go on national television and pitch their product or service to a team of wealthy investors. The folks they're pitching to are referred to as the sharks — each one a successful industrialist hoping to find the next big product to invest in so they can make even more money. Watching a single episode makes the viewer believe they could come up with an idea and get a deal from the sharks. But watching several episodes makes it clear that the people on this show worked very, very hard to get there, and finding an investor takes a lot more than a good idea and a solid pitch.

10. The Amazing Race

"The Amazing Race" is an excellent series for anyone interested in traveling the world. Contestants are grouped into teams of two and given clues on how to proceed in their journey. They then maneuver their way into foreign countries, complete challenges, and work with locals to get to their next destination. While other reality shows remain sedentary, focusing on isolation as a key factor in how the participants interact, there's a propulsive quality to "The Amazing Race" that keeps you invested until reaching the finish line.

  • Starring: Phil Keoghan, Joyce Agu, Uchenna Agu
  • Network: CBS
  • Year: 2001 – Present
  • Rating: TV-PG
  • IMDb Rating: 7.8/10

9. The Great British Baking Show

Unlike many baking/cooking competition shows from the United States, the U.K.'s "Great British Baking Show" doesn't place its contestants in high-stress situations in the hopes of watching them break. Instead, it gives them a challenge just to find out how well they bake. Yes, the pressure gets to the bakers every now and again. Sure, things don't always work out. However, that's not what keeps you watching. Seeing capable people bake gorgeous dishes in a serene setting with amusing hosts is what it's all about. There was a network shift that resulted in some personnel changes, but the series retains its quiet, wonderful charm all the way through.

  • Starring: Paul Hollywood, Mary Berry, Mel Giedroyc
  • Network: BBC Two, BBC One, Channel 4
  • Year: 2010 – Present
  • Rating: TV-PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 80%

8. Project Runway

While "America's Next Top Model" took us inside the modeling world, "Project Runway" showed us what it's like to design the clothes the models are showcasing. The premise involves a bunch of designers coming together to compete in challenges, hoping to make it through to the end where they can showcase their own signature designs on the runway. Of course, there are buckets of drama — getting artists together is bound to result in some disagreement — but the real joy is seeing how each designer interprets the tasks given to them. At its core, this is a series about celebrating creativity and point of view.

  • Starring: Heidi Klum, Tim Gunn, Nina Garcia
  • Network: Bravo, Lifetime
  • Year: 2004 – Present
  • Rating: TV-PG
  • IMDb Rating: 7.4/10

7. Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath

The Church of Scientology is well-known for being a secretive religions that's the center of some pretty insidious stories while still managing to boast a lot of famous members. Once upon a time, one of those famous members was television star Leah Remini. Viewers may remember her from her days in "Saved by the Bell" and "King of Queens," while others likely recognize her from co-hosting "The Talk." A member of Scientology since her teenage years, Remini has left the religion, and her series "Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath" delves into the personal stories of other Scientologists and their shocking interactions with the church. It is a harrowing watch that attempts to remind the viewer that not everything about this institution is as it seems.

6. Queer Eye

"Queer Eye," the second iteration of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy," is very similar to its predecessor. Gay men use their expertise in various areas — cooking, fashion, interior design, etc. — to improve the lives of others. The "makeover" premise is a simple one that's been done before, but it's the compassion and spirit of inclusivity that make this particular take work so well. It stands out because these individuals aren't trying to chastise anyone or look down on their lifestyle. They genuinely seem interested in bringing people together through positivity and understanding. It's an uplifting series, and there are shockingly few of those.

  • Starring: Antoni Porowski, Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France
  • Network: Netflix
  • Year: 2018 – Present
  • Rating: TV-14
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

5. Catfish: The TV Show

"Catfish" began life as a feature-length documentary about Nev Schulman falling in love with a woman online and discovering that she wasn't who she said she was. It was an intense and heartbreaking watch that held you in suspense the entire time. "Catfish: The TV Show" sees Schulman using his personal experience to help others who may be in a similar situation. Regardless of how many episodes you've seen, the endings almost always surprise you. Either you didn't expect the reveal, or the person's motivations just completely throw you for a loop.

  • Starring: Nev Schulman, Max Joseph, Kamie Crawford
  • Network: MTV
  • Year: 2012 – Present
  • Rating: TV-14
  • IMDb Rating: 7.0/10

4. Born This Way

"Born This Way" follows the lives of a group of adults diagnosed with Down syndrome. Like any other slice-of-life show, they have hopes and dreams they're actively working towards. The difference here is that their diagnosis makes it difficult to achieve those goals. So, while one of them is able to find love and enter a committed relationship, a few others struggle. Although they can have jobs, the work they do often doesn't pay much, or the workload can be stressful. Still, your heart is with them every step of the way. It's a delightful and inspiring show that opens your heart and makes you reevaluate your own priorities. Also, it has a nice crossover with "Love on the Spectrum."

3. Survivor

"Survivor" is probably the series that ushered in the modern age of reality television. Released in 2000 (one of the earliest on this list), this show about strangers living together in a remote area and having to work together to survive — while also plotting against each other in order to win a million dollars — was such a massive success that it's continued for over two decades. Shortly after it hit, an avalanche of reality television followed. It took a few years for the TV landscape to find its groove with unscripted programming, but "Survivor" was always there to enjoy the ride, whether it was taking contestants to China, Brazil, or Panama.

2. RuPaul's Drag Race

If modeling was a world the vast majority of Americans knew very little about, then the domain of the drag queen must have been a complete mystery. Bringing the drag lifestyle out of obscurity and celebrating it in front of everyone is just one element that makes "RuPaul's Drag Race" so spectacular. It's like "America's Next Top Model" with drag queens — but so much better. On a purely visual side, the series is dazzling with its bright sets and colorful outfits. The sheer entertainment value of witnessing these charismatic personalities together is unparalleled, and the normalizing of a marginalized culture is the cherry on this bright, glamourous sundae.

1. The Real World

Originally released in 1992, "The Real World" set the stage for shows like "Survivor," "Big Brother," and "Jersey Shore." As the intro states, "This is the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house and have their lives taped to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real." The show did not shy away from frank conversations about racism, homophobia, and sex. It normalized discussions about those topics in a way that made the audience feel more comfortable and open to the idea of having those conversations themselves, and that's how society progresses. Although later seasons cared more about fights and relationships, those first few seasons were a fascinating social experiment that changed television forever.

  • Starring: Janelle Casanave, Alton Williams II, Arissa Hill
  • Network: MTV, Facebook Watch, Paramount+
  • Year: 1992 – Present
  • Rating: TV-14
  • IMDb Rating: 5.9/10