Ever since MTV introduced "The Real World," viewers have been obsessed with the genre it created: reality television. Even now, more than 20 years later, audiences still can't get enough of cameras following people around as they live their supposedly spontaneous but actually scripted lives -- whether it's the Kardashians or the Real Housewives of wherever. Whether you're already a huge fan, or ready to get in on the fun of reality TV, here are five reality shows that need to be seen to be believed.
'Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo' (2012 - 2014)
America's obsession with child beauty pageants took an unexpected turn in 2012 when TLC's "Toddlers & Tiaras" launched "Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo" as a spinoff. Following frequent pageant contestant Alana "Honey Boo-Boo" Thompson and her family, the show captures their antics as they prepare for her pageants while living in Southern poverty. It's unclear if the audience is meant to laugh with, or at, the family but it's definitely hard to look away from them. If nothing else, "Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo" is a perfect course for parents on what not to feed their children (Spoiler alert: copious amounts of butter are not great for a kid's diet).
'Property Brothers' (2011 - )
"Property Brothers" is an HGTV staple, because everyone loves watching two hunky guys (Jonathan and Drew Scott) transform dumpy houses into dream homes. Although the format never changes -- a complaining couple is shown a turnkey house that's out of their price range, they pick one of three shoddy houses, and the brothers transform it into a palace -- somehow, "Property Brothers" doesn't get old. The twins' ability to stay positive despite the inevitable construction setbacks, not to mention the buyer couple's shocking sense of entitlement, will likely keep audiences returning for years to come.
'UnREAL' (2015 - )
"UnREAL" is a scripted drama about the producers of a fictitious reality show -- "Everlasting," a thinly veiled version of "The Bachelor." "UnREAL" works on two levels: The show is both a sobering reminder that all reality TV is scripted -- and anything but real -- and it also stands on its own as a compelling drama. Producer Rachel Goldberg (Shiri Appleby) is charged with manipulating contestants for ratings while creating a facade of romance, and the show maneuvers around the constant tension of doing what's best for the participants versus what will gain the most the viewers. Think of "UnREAL" as all the fun of reality TV, without the guilt.
'16 and Pregnant' (2009 - ) and 'Teen Mom' (2009 - 2012)
Arguably the most realistic reality TV franchise, MTV's "16 and Pregnant" -- and its follow-up series "Teen Mom," "Teen Mom 2," and "Teen Mom 3" -- tracks the lives of young women through their journeys into motherhood. All four shows depict the overwhelming joy of having a child while presenting many of the grim realities at the same time, to the point where watching an episode can feel like sitting through a high school Sex Ed class. While some critics have been troubled at the instant-celebrity status that follows the mothers after appearing on the show, most agree that all the shows in the franchise are worth watching as a series of parables.
'America's Next Top Model' (2003 - )
One of the longest-running reality TV shows of all time -- 13 years have yielded 22 seasons so far -- "America's Next Top Model" is an elimination-style game show where aspiring beauty queens vie for a chance at $100,000 and a modeling contract. Led by fashion legend Tyra Banks, who left the show as host in 2015 but remains an executive producer, the models are given new challenges each week to prove they're each more than just a pretty face. The drama on "Top Model" gets pretty intense -- the show isn't short on backstabbing, yelling, or petty arguments -- but what has helped it endure is how well it shows the amount of work that goes into the fashion industry. The plots may not be real, but the models' hard work definitely is.
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