Reality shows are getting a bad rap from many people. The most common criticism about reality television is that it’s like the broadcast equivalent of junk food – all empty calories. The criticism being leveled at reality TV does have a kernel of truth to it. It’s no secret that a big majority of reality shows really don’t offer anything to the viewers except for mindless and “pander-to-the-lowest-common-denominator” entertainment.
But even in a trash heap there are gems to be found. There are reality shows out there that not only offer great entertainment, it also offers sleek production values, and most importantly, you actually get to learn something by the end of the episode. Here are a number of great reality shows worth checking out.
Project Runway could be considered as a trailblazer in the high quality reality competition genre. Before the series, reality competitions were all solely about trying to find entertainment in how contestants interact with each other. Project Runway reshaped the reality TV landscape by actually focusing on the contestants’ skills and creativity and merely using the social interaction aspect of reality TV to add a little spice. But make no mistakes about it, it’s the skill that’s the star here.
With the controversial departure of Project Runway from Bravo TV, the network was desperate to get a new tent pole reality competition show to replace what they have lost. They first backed a Project Runway clone called The Fashion Show, but it was a pale imitation of the juggernaut that was Project Runway. Now it seems that they have found it in the Sarah Jessica Parker-produced Work of Art.
This reality competition series focuses not in the fashion world but in the world of art. A group of artists from different art disciplines are given a task or challenge to produce art based on certain criteria given every week. Work of Art succeeds because it shows each artist’s creative process and was able to translate it into the visual medium. You can almost feel yourself imbibing the contestants’ creative juices. In addition to such a great show, the people behind Work of Art was able to find a mentor that will definitely give Project Runway’s Tim Gunn a run for his money in the form of art auction veteran Simon de Pury.
3. Top Chef
We’ve already cited reality shows that take inspiration from the worlds of fashion and art. Now here’s a show that dives headlong into the culinary world. Top Chef follows the same formulas as the other reality competitions but what sets it apart from the rest aside from the creative world it represents is the sheer amount of information that you learn from each episode. You learn to recognize ingredients you usually wouldn’t recognize, you also develop a better vocabulary that will help you describe food as it is presented to you. Most importantly, you will get a better appreciation for good food and not the ones at the fast food outlets.
Project Runway may have rewritten the reality competition landscape, but it was The Amazing Race that showed people that there’s more to reality TV than just onscreen fights and showmances. The globe-spanning race is a vicarious pleasure to anyone who wants to travel the world but don’t have the means to really do it. Just seeing what each country has to offer as the TAR contestants go through their tasks and roadblocks is a treat unto itself. It’s like a Discovery Channel documentary only with bickering teammates instead of seasoned hosts.
This is the only non-competition show in the list, which shows how much of a powerhouse The Deadliest Catch is. The show, which chronicles the lives of Alaskan fishermen, is reality at its grittiest. It’s mesmerizing to see how these fishermen go about doing what is probably the most dangerous job in the world. They risk their life on a daily basis just to get that impressive haul that will allow them to feed their families and put a little something in their bank accounts. Each episode is a story of courage and determination that is so in your face, you’ll never look at fishermen – or Alaskan king crabs – the same way aga