The 35 Best Reality Shows of All Time

 Reality shows.
Reality shows.

Ah, reality television. A stellar way to ignore the state of the world and focus on what's important: other people's drama. The genre has been around since the '70s, but didn't get popular until the '90s when MTV gifted us the powerhouse that was and forever will be The Real World. After that, we saw a boom of reality TV content. From Bunnies revealing what it's really like to live in the Playboy Mansion to belting your heart out for a golden ticket to Hollywood, networks couldn't get enough of the stuff.

And while reality TV is great and all, there's also a lot of it. From The Bachelor to Top Chef, we've got a wide variety of shows on this list for pretty much every person on earth. Without further ado, these are the best reality shows of all time—not in chronological order, don't yell at us if you think this is a ranking!—and where to find them. Some of them are lost in the abyss that is YouTube. Others just require a Hulu subscription. Either way, you're about to be entertained for hours on end.

When was it on? Let's go back...back to the beginning, when the show premiered in 2004 on MTV.

What's it about? The show follows the lives of eight high schoolers living in Laguna Beach, California, and it made Kristin Cavallari and Lauren Conrad the household names they are today.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Please binge-watch every season immediately, if only to hear Kristin iconically shout, "STEPH-ENNN!"

Where can I watch it? You can watch reruns on MTV, Netflix, or Paramount+.


When was it on? The show aired on MTV from 2006 to 2010.

What's it about? While the show uses the term "reality" loosely, The Hills is a follow-up to Laguna Beach and follows the lives of Lauren Conrad, Audrina Patridge, Whitney Port, Heidi Montag, and more L.A. young adults.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Seasons one through five are the best. After Conrad leaves in the middle of the fifth season, Kristin Cavallari becomes the main star of the series until the show concludes at the end of season six.

Where can I watch it? You can watch reruns on MTV, Netflix, or Paramount+.


When was it on? The series premiered on E! in 2007 and aired its 20th and final season in 2021 (before the Kardashian-Jenners started fresh on Hulu a year later).

What's it about? Do we really need to answer this?

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? For some great nostalgia and iconic lines ("Kim, would you stop taking pictures of yourself? Your sister's going to jail!"), the early seasons are the best.

Where can I watch it? Peacock is your best bet.


When was it on? Before the world shut down in March 2020, we received the gift of Netflix's Love Is Blind.

What's it about? Couples go through several rounds of dating without ever knowing what the other person looks like, culminating in a totally blind proposal. Once they finally meet each other in real life, they have only a couple of weeks to decide whether they want to follow through with a walk down the aisle.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Season one kicked off the whole phenomenon, so you should definitely start there, but for maximum drama, your next stops on this journey should be seasons  two and four.

Where can I watch it? Netflix.


When was it on? The show premiered in 2000 and has been running for 45 seasons (!!!) and counting.

What's it about? Contestants compete on an island with limited resources to survive. The winner receives a cash prize.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Here's a list of the first 44 seasons of Survivor ranked.

Where can I watch it? Netflix and Hulu carry a handful of seasons each, but only Paramount+ and CBS have all 600+ episodes available for your perusal.


When was it on? The show ran on MTV from 2009 to 2016 for six seasons. Spinoff shows include four seasons of Snooki & JWOWW (2012-2015) and six seasons of Jersey Shore: Family Vacation (2018), which is still on the air.

What's it about? Known as one of MTV's most-watched television shows, the first seasons of Jersey Shore followed eight roommates who spent their summer working and living together in Seaside Heights, New Jersey. Following seasons of the show included new locations like Miami, Florida, and Florence, Italy. The show gave us new lingo (GTL, anyone?) and probably helped self-tanner sales.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Season two in Miami is, without a doubt, one of the best of the six seasons. It gave us the anonymous letter to Samantha written by Snooki and JWoww, Angelina leaving for good, new relationships, and so much more.

Where can I watch it? MTV has every episode free if you sign in with your cable provider, or you can head on over to Hulu.


When was it on? The original series aired on Bravo for five seasons from 2003 to 2007. The reboot began on Netflix in 2018.

What's it about? This makeover series, originally titled Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (they dropped the "straight guy" part for the revival, which is all-inclusive), focuses on the Fab 5, a group of queer and gay men who offer up their individual skill sets—including fashion, food, personal grooming, interior design, and culture—to perform a makeover on a person in need.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Just watch the entire revival. If you can get through the first episode without crying, you are a stronger person than I.

Where can I watch it? The fourth and fifth seasons of the original series are available for purchase on Amazon Prime, and the revival is streaming now on Netflix.


When was it on? The show ran for 32 seasons on MTV (1992-2017).

What's it about? The show that started it all! The opening credits described the premise better than we could: "This is the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house, work together, and have their lives taped to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real." And oh, it got so real.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? The Real World: San Francisco is easily the most famous season, and the impact Pedro Zamora had on AIDS awareness in the 90s changed everything. It also features one of the best uses of Lisa Loeb's "Stay," possibly ever.

Where can I watch it? No streaming service currently carries all 32 seasons, but Netflix and Hulu each have a couple seasons in their catalogs, and Paramount+, linked below, has nearly two dozen.


When was it on? The Real Housewives of Orange County premiered in 2006, followed by New York City and Atlanta in 2008, New Jersey in 2009, Washington, D.C., and Beverly Hills in 2010, Miami in 2011, Potomac and Dallas in 2016, and Salt Lake City in 2020. The franchise has also spawned a spinoff series, dubbed Ultimate Girls Trip, as well as several international installments that began in Greece in 2011 and have since grown to span 19 countries, the latest of which are slated to kick off in Finland and Thailand in 2024.

What's it about? The simplest way to put it is "wealthy women doing things." It's better than it sounds.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Dip your feet in the water with Beverly Hills's first season, and then go from there.

Where can I watch it? Every American installment, plus Dubai, is available to stream on Peacock.


When was it on? The Bachelor began airing in 2002 on ABC and has stuck around for 27 seasons so far. It's also produced several spinoffs, including The Bachelorette (which debuted in 2003 and aired its 20th season in 2023), Bachelor PadBachelor in Paradise, and The Bachelor Winter Games.

What's it about? In The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, a single suitor has a pool of romantic interests to narrow down in search of their future spouse. The other three spinoffs, meanwhile, throw together a bigger mix of contestants from past seasons of those shows to look for love—in a game show setting, on a romantic beach, or on the ski slopes, respectively.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Season 17, Sean Lowe's season of The Bachelor, is a safe place to start, but you really can't lose with any of them.

Where can I watch it? Hulu and Amazon Prime both have a handful of seasons of The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Bachelor in Paradise available to stream, and Amazon also has all three seasons of Bachelor Pad. Winter Games, however, appears to have been lost to reality TV history.


When was it on? The show ran for six seasons on E!, from 2005 to 2010.

What's it about? The first five seasons focused on Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt, and Kendra Wilkinson, who were then-girlfriends of Hugh Hefner, founder of Playboy magazine. The show allowed viewers to look into the lives of Playmates from the female gaze, showing the day-to-day life of living in the Playboy Mansion.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Season one, without question!

Where can I watch it? The Girls Next Door isn't readily streaming on any major services, but you can watch episodes on Tubi, Crackle, and Pluto TV.


When was it on? The show ran for 10 seasons between 2005 and 2017.

What's it about? One of MTV's better reality shows, it documented the lives of wealthy teenagers planning birthday extravaganzas. While most of the episodes focused on the big 1-6, other episodes included lavish quinceañeras, one titled My Super Swag 18and a Super Sweet 21.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? A personal favorite is season two, since its seventh episode features a circa-2006 Rihanna cameo.

Where can I watch it? Paramount+ has every season except, inexplicably, the third, but Amazon Prime has you covered on that one.


When was it on? The show ran on Fox from 2002 to 2016 for 15 seasons and then was revived two years later on ABC, where it's racked up another six seasons and counting.

What's it about? In case you've been living under a rock, the show's premise sees aspiring singers auditioning for a panel of celebrity judges and competing to see who will be—you guessed it—the next American Idol.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Eh, all of them. It's hard not to be in awe of this amount of talent. But my personal favorite, forever, is the original, which launched Kelly Clarkson to stardom.

Where can I watch it? This is a case where it's OK just to get lost in a YouTube hole on the American Idol channel, but the most recent episodes are streaming on ABC, too.


When was it on? The show ran for five seasons on Fox (2003–2005) and E! (2006–2007).

What's it about? It's the show that blessed us with Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton, and we have never been the same since. The show followed the two socialites as they were taken from the comfort of their lives in Beverly Hills and put into rural environments and given manual jobs, all to comedic effect.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Season two, the "Road Trip" season, is end-to-end hilarious.

Where can I watch it? All episodes are available for purchase on Amazon.


When was it on? Million Dollar Listing Los Angeles premiered in 2006, followed by Million Dollar Listing New York in 2012 and a single season each of Million Dollar Listing Miami in 2014 and Million Dollar Listing San Francisco in 2015.

What's it about? Bravo shows us the lives and careers of some of the best real estate agents in the most expensive cities in the world. It's what you always wanted HGTV's House Hunters to be.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Former fashion model-turned-real estate agent Steve Gold joined the New York cast in season six. You'll thank me later.

Where can I watch it? Peacock's got 'em all.


When was it on? The most legendary and iconic of reality shows premiered in 2003. The first six seasons (a.k.a. "cycles") aired on UPN, then the following 16 cycles aired on The CW, until the series was canceled in October 2015. It was revived by VH1 a year later, but the revival only lasted two more cycles, bringing the total to 24.

What's it about? Tyra Banks hosted a competition for aspiring models to compete for the title of "America's Next Top Model" and the opportunity to begin their career in the fashion industry.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Cycle six. Trust us.

Where can I watch it? Hulu has 11 seasons, and Amazon Prime has 22 for purchase.


When was it on? The U.K. phenomenon has had 10 seasons since 2015, and the show has since been mimicked in Australia, Finland, Germany, Poland, Sweden, and the United States.

What's it about? If we're being honest, it's basically a bunch of hot people (with accents!) living in a villa together under constant surveillance trying to "couple up" and be the winning pair (chosen by the public) to win £50,000.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Season three is hands-down the best, but buckle up, since each season averages 30-plus episodes.

Where can I watch it? Get ready to crack on (you'll understand soon) with your Hulu account, because they have all 10 seasons ready to binge.


When was it on? Project Runway aired on Bravo for its first five seasons beginning in 2004, followed by Lifetime for the next 11 seasons (as well as seven seasons of Project Runway: All-Stars). It returned to Bravo for the 17th season in 2019 and most recently aired season 20 in 2023.

What's it about? Aspiring designers compete in various weekly design challenges for a chance to break into the fashion industry.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Seasons two, four, or 12. Take your pick.

Where can I watch it? Amazon has the first 16 seasons, and Peacock has all 20.


When was it on? The show premiered on MTV in 2014 and has nine seasons.

What's it about? Twenty singles have 12 weeks to find their deemed “perfect match,” based on a series of algorithmic tests they completed before coming on to the show. If everyone finds their perfect match, the group will leave with $1 million. The show’s eighth season featured their first group of sexually fluid singles ever.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Season six is a personal favorite—it was the first time they didn't film in a tropical setting—but any season is a good place to start.

Where can I watch it? MTV has six of the show's seasons, while Paramount+ has seven.


When was it on? Flavor of Love ran for three seasons from 2006-2008 on VH1; I Love New York ran for two seasons from 2007-2008 on VH1.

What's it about? If you've ever used that GIF of Tiffany "New York" Pollard indignantly saying "BEYONCE?" you can give your thanks to Flavor of Love. After falling in love with Brigitte Nielsen on The Surreal Life, Flavor Flav seemingly decided that since reality TV found him love once, it was worth another try. Pollard, after coming in second place twice on Flavor of Love, was gifted her own spinoff, I Love New York. Neither series was successful in their goals of finding love, though.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Season one, for sure.

Where can I watch it? Flavor of Love is available for streaming on Hulu, and I Love New York is on VH1's website.


When was it on? The show premiered on Bravo in 2006 and has aired 20 seasons, spawning multiple international spinoffs and other offshoots focused on desserts, amateurs, kid chefs, and more.

What's it about? The original Top Chef features professional chefs competing against each other in various culinary challenges for prizes while being judged by a panel of food and wine industry experts. It's the Olympics of TV food competitions.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? All of them, but if you're really short on time, start with Top Chef: Las Vegas or Top Chef: Chicago.

Where can I watch it? Every season is available to stream on Peacock.


When was it on? The show has run for 22 seasons on TLC since 2007.

What's it about? It follows the day-to-day routine at Kleinfeld Bridal, one of the most notable bridal salons in the world, as brides choose a dress for their big day. It's makeover meets self-care.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Just find a marathon on TLC. You don't need to watch this one by season.

Where can I watch it? If you feel like creating your own marathon, HBO Max has all 22 seasons.


When was it on? Shark Tank began its run on ABC in 2009 and has aired 15 seasons since.

What's it about? Aspiring entrepreneurs get a chance to pitch deep-pocketed investors, or "sharks," for the opportunity to invest in their companies.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Another "catch it on a marathon" one—you can even start from whatever episode's on this week.

Where can I watch it? Every season is available for streaming on Hulu.


When was it on? The show has run for 15 seasons, beginning in 2009.

What's it about? Drag queens compete to see who is best—whether thats in lip-syncing or who "sashays away" the most creatively.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? If you can get through the "Vaseline" filter of season one, feel free to start from the beginning, as the series becomes more self-referential as it goes on. Or start with season four and bounce around from there.

Where can I watch it? Every season is available to stream on Paramount+.


When was it on? The show first aired in the U.K. in 2010, with the first four seasons airing on BBC Two. It then moved to BBC One for the next three seasons, and later on, starting with the seventh season, moved to Channel 4. On the other side of the pond, most episodes aired on PBS starting in 2012.

What's it about? The most charming show on television, this devastatingly British competition series follows amateur bakers as they compete against each other in a series of rounds with different themes, hoping to impress a group of judges with their baking skills.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Season one on Netflix is season five in the U.K., but really, with this show, you can start wherever. A personal favorite is the third "collection" (a fancy way of saying "season") on Netflix.

Where can I watch it? In the U.S., you can find most of the seasons on Netflix.


When was it on? Love & Hip Hop: New York first started airing in 2011, followed in 2012 by Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta and Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood in 2014. Love & Hip Hop: Miami is the most recent, premiering in 2018.

What's it about? The series follows the lives of hip-hop and R&B musicians, performers, managers, and producers living in, well, New York, Atlanta, Hollywood, and Miami. You can thank this show for giving us Cardi B.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? New York, season four, because of the love triangle between Peter Gunz, Tara, and Amina. Also, Atlanta, season one, and Hollywood, season two.

Where can I watch it? Most episodes are available on BET+, Paramount+, and VH1.


When was it on? The show has aired on Bravo for 10 seasons so far, starting in 2013. Below Deck: Mediterranean began its run in 2016, followed by additional Sailing Yacht, Down Under, and Adventure spinoffs.

What's it about? Below Deck and its many offshoots follow young yacht crews of multimillion-dollar charter boats as they juggle their jobs serving guests and, of course, plenty of interpersonal communication issues. Imagine being young, hot, and trapped at sea.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Every season has its shining moments, but without question, start at season three of the original series, and try to resist buying a mermaid suit.

Where can I watch it? Every season is available to stream on Peacock.


When was it on? Vanderpump Rules started its run in 2013 and has aired for 10 seasons so far, with the 11th on the horizon in early 2024.

What's it about? It follows the trials, tribulations, and tequila-drinking of the employees of Lisa Vanderpump's restaurant, SUR.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? SEASON ONE EPISODE ONE, AND YOU ARE SO WELCOME.

Where can I watch it? The entire series is available on Peacock.


When was it on? The original show, 90 Day Fiancépremiered in 2014 and has aired 10 seasons. The first spinoff, subtitled Happily Ever After?, began airing in 2016 and has aired seven seasons, while Before the 90 Days premiered in 2017 and has aired six seasons. There's also What Now?, which provides updates on 90 Day Fiancé alums, and The Other Way, in which Americans are seeking to move abroad.

What's it about? The OG 90 Day Fiancé follows couples who are in the K-1 visa process, meant for American citizens and their foreign fiancés. They have 90 days to decide if they're going to get married before the vise expires; if they don't, the non-American will have to leave the country.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Definitely start with season two of the original series. You won't regret it.

Where can I watch it? The shows are all streaming on HBO Max and Discovery+.


When was it on? The Circle began in the U.K. in 2018, before Netflix came out with their various international versions. We'll focus on the U.S. version, which first premiered on New Year's Day 2020 and is still ongoing.

What's it about? In this social media popularity contest, a group of contestants living in separate apartments communicate through a platform called the Circle.  They can play either as themselves or a catfish, and none of the players see each other in person unless they're eliminated. Through the Circle, they form alliances, vote for the most popular players, and eliminate the least popular, with the last person standing winning $100,000.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? The first season shows the contestants at their most trusting, before the show started streaming and the game play became more calculated.

Where can I watch it? All three seasons are available on Netflix.


When was it on? The flagship show of the franchise, Selling Sunset, began in 2019 and has spawned seven seasons since then. The first spinoff, Selling Tampa, premiered in 2021, followed by Selling the O.C. in 2022.

What's it about? Each series follows a group of glamorous real estate agents as they sell multimillion-dollar mansions and deal with personal drama. Think Million Dollar Listing but with the filmography of The Hills—they have the same creator, Adam DiVello.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Season one sows the seeds of Sunset's long-running storylines, including Christine's feud with Chrishell and Christine and Mary's estranged friendship. Or, if you want more workplace drama than interpersonal, check out Tampa.

Where can I watch it? All episodes of the shows are available on Netflix.


When was it on? Catfish got its start in 2010 as an acclaimed indie documentary, following host Nev Schulman's own investigation into his online relationship. The MTV show based on the doc first aired in 2012 and has been going strong since.

What's it about? Each episode is an investigation into an online relationship where one person suspects the other of being a catfish. Schulman, with his co-hosts Max Joseph (2012-2018) and Kamie Crawford (2018-present), lead the accuser through an investigation, usually discovering that their partner's name and photos were fake. Each episode ends in a confrontation between the subject and whoever has been dating them—and usually deceiving them and taking their money—from behind a screen.

What's the best season to watch as a beginner? All of the early seasons are *chef's kiss* but most of the most memorable episodes come from seasons three and four, including the infamous "Antwane & Tony."

Where can I watch it? All eight seasons are available to stream on Hulu.


When was it on? The original U.K. iteration of the show—which, as with Love Island, also happens to be the best version—aired for 15 seasons between 2004 and 2018.

What’s it about? Created by Simon Cowell while he was still a judge on American Idol, this talent competition show is kind of a combination of American Idol and The Voice, since it starts with an audition in front of a panel of judges, after which the acts selected to move forward then enter a “bootcamp” where they’re coached and narrowed down by one of the judges, before moving onto live elimination rounds to compete against all remaining contestants.

What’s the best season to watch as a beginner? You’ll spot plenty of big names throughout the series, so you really can’t go wrong. Here’s a (spoiler-filled) cheat sheet to better direct your search: Leona Lewis won season three, Little Mix won season eight, and, in a stroke of boy band genius, Cowell famously formed One Direction from five individual contestants in season seven.

Where can I watch it? The show’s official YouTube account is your best bet to relive all the highlights.


When was it on? Dance Moms reigned at the top of the reality TV pyramid for eight seasons, from 2011 to 2019.

What’s it about? The name of the show only tells half the story. Sure, the titular mothers of the young dance students at Abby Lee Dance Company stir up plenty of drama with each other and, more often, with dance teacher Abby Lee Miller. But the show is also filled with pretty spectacular performances from the students themselves, who include beloved Gen Z stars like Maddie Ziegler and JoJo Siwa.

What’s the best season to watch as a beginner? The first four seasons kept pretty much the same cast, some of whom stayed on through season seven (before almost everyone was swapped out for the eighth and final year), so it’s worth starting from the beginning to really get to know all of the dancers, moms, and Abby Lee catchphrases.

Where can I watch it? All eight seasons are available to stream via both Hulu and Lifetime, linked below.


When was it on? Naked and Afraid debuted on the Discovery Channel a decade ago, and it’s still going strong to this day, 15 seasons later.

What’s it about? It’s pretty straightforward: In each episode, two survivalists—a man and a woman, neither with any stitch of clothing to be found and equipped with only one useful piece of gear each—are dropped into the wilderness and must work together to survive for three weeks. Expect lots of blurred-out body parts.

What’s the best season to watch as a beginner? Because every pair’s survival attempt takes place over the course of a single episode, this is one of those shows where you can really drop in at any time—so the entire world of Naked and Afraid is your oyster.

Where can I watch it? Both Max and Discovery Plus (below) have all 16 seasons just waiting for you to dive in.