Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Favorite Reality Shows of All-Time*

*Using the time frame of "All-Time" to classify reality shows is stretching it a little bit. After all, for the most part reality television has only been with us for about a decade. There were a few trailblazers like "Cops" and "The Real World", but it all really started with Survivor. Remember the first time you heard about Survivor and you were like, "They're really going to drop people on a deserted island for a game show?" We all went crazy for it and television has really never been the same since.

Overall, I'm not really a reality show junkie. As we all know, most of them are horrible and even I...the master of crap...feel like I'm wasting my time watching the majority of them. The competition shows just get to be exhausting and the "following people around" sub-genre usually feels like they're just grabbing at straws. But every show has it's fans. Here's 10 Reality Shows that I've loved or at least fondly remember:

Animal Precinct (2001-2008; Animal Planet) I loves me some Animal Precinct! It was like Cops but with dogs and cats instead of guns and drugs...but there were still alot of dirtbags in white tank top t-shirts. Cameras followed the ASPCA of New York City and followed up on calls of animal neglect or abuse and other illegal animal activities. There was always just some really bizarre things going on. Actor Michael Madsen was the series narrator and managed to work the word "emaciated" into every single episode. It was really a highlight of the whole show. Animal Precinct was the first show I ever set a Season Pass for on TiVo. Ah, the memories!


Girls Next Door (2005-present; E!) Oddly enough, I discovered this favorite show of mine while wrapping Christmas presents in the middle of the night one year. I've mentioned my love for this show before. The original run of the show followed Holly, Bridget and Kendra and their lives as Hugh Hefner's girlfriends and residences of the Playboy Mansion. While this show does obviously have it's sexy and risque moments, it's all actually quite tame and the reason I love it is for the look inside the incredibly fascinating Playboy Mansion and how it's run, and the whole show is just so plain goofy. Cartoon sound effects, silly story-lines and very clever editing make this one of my favorite shows on TV right now. Unfortunately last year, the girls all split from Hef and the show was revamped with three new girls who only lasted one season. The new girls were ok, but just didn't have the personalities of the original three. It appears they are tinkering with the show again and adding new girls. I've seen the pilot and didn't care for it, but I'll wait to see more before I pass final judgement. The girls are all still alive and kicking in reality world. All three of them have had their own spin-off series. Kendra, Holly's World, and Bridget's Sexy Beaches.

Mall Cops: Mall of America (debuted this year; TLC) I love COPS, I love malls, and I'm totally fascinated with the idea of an amusement park inside a mall, so I was all on board for Mall Cops, which basically transplants the popular COPS format into a big ol' mall. Much like Girls Next Door, it's also interesting to see the behind the scenes inner-workings of a huge operation like Minnesota's Mall of America. I don't think I'll make it out to MoA anytime soon, but watching two security officers escort a drunk guy out of a mall makes for a pretty entertaining evening of television.

My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance (2004; Fox) This isn't necessarily a show I fondly remember and would love to see again, it just stands out as one of the most insane, yet entertaining ideas of a reality show yet. If I recall correctly, this high-class girl from a snobby family had to convince her family that she had fallen in love with some big goofy oaf and that they were getting married in a short period of time. All she had to do, was get all of her family members to show up at the wedding and she would collect some crazy prize like a half a million dollars. Here's the old FOX-style catch - the Fiance, was actually an actor on the shows payroll and it was his job to constantly mess things up without the chick knowing he wasn't also in this for the money. I think they even had actors playing his family. It was a pretty elaborate set-up that of course ended with lots of screaming and crying and a big oversized check for half a million dollars payable only at the Bank of Self-Degrading.

My Fair Brady (2005-2008; VH1) Here's the thing, I'm not a huge fan of the original Brady Bunch show but I absolutely adore all the spin-offs. This latest cash-grab on the good Brady family name, has Christopher Knight (Peter Brady) and Adrianne Curry (who won the first season of America's Next Top Model) who met on another reality show The Surreal Life. The two of them hit it off so well, that they decide to start a relationship, move in together and invite the VH1 camera crew to film their every move. Of course with Knight being a Brady, this led to plenty of opportunities for other Brady's to show up from time to time. Seriously folks, when you got Greg Brady dropping by, a good time is bound to be had by all!

Shipmates (2001-2003; syndicated) My wife and I used to love us some Shipmates! Chris Hardwick hosted this dating show where a couple was set up on a blind date on a cruise ship for three days. It's one thing to be set up on a blind date, but then to be stuck with the person for three days with no escape - good times! Locally, this came on at 2:00am, which shows you how good the show was. I wish I was kidding when I tell you that back in those pre-TiVo and pre-kid times, the Mrs. and I would set the alarm and get up and watch the show in the middle of the night. Those were the good ol' days. Nowadays I'm not likely to get out of bed at 2 in the morning unless there's a fire...and it would have to be a really, really big fire!


The Simple Life (2003-2007; Fox then E!) Paris Hilton (then a nobody) and her BFF Nicole Ritchie (still a nobody) were two spoiled daughters of rich people who were dropped in the middle of Arkansas and expected to go get jobs and live without all the luxuries they are accustomed to. The great thing about this show was how incredibly not "realistic" it was. It was obvious that the situations were planned and that producers told Paris and Nicole to do certain things and act a certain way. Still, it made for great television and was actually a hit the first season. After two more equally entertaining, but less popular seasons the show was cancelled by Fox and then picked up by E! who produced two more seasons which were pretty bad. For my money,the first three seasons of The Simple Life is some of my favorite television of that last decade.


Sunset Tan (2007-2008; E!) One 4th of July back in 2007, both my kids took a monster nap all day long and I laid on the sofa and watched a marathon of this reality show about a tanning salon chain in Los Angeles and found it to be one of the most engrossing things I had watched in a long time. There was alot of drama in this well produced reality show as well as alot of good characters. I followed the show weekly though it's second season and then it just kind of faded off into the sunset, forgotten by E! Oh, the memories of spray tan and tanning beds.




My Super Sweet 16 (2005-present; MTV) When you've got a theme song performed by Hillary Duff you're doing something right, eh!? This rockin' little MTV program shows spoiled teenagers throwing giant parties in honor of themselves. These parties are so way over the top idiotic but it's kind of interesting to see just how rich people (in this case, WAY-too rich people) live their lives and throw around their money. It's a totally stupid show that is completely engrossing and will suck 30 minutes out of your life before you even know it!


Wife Swap (2004-2009; ABC) Seriously folks, I could watch Wife Swap all day long and not get tired of it! And thanks to Lifetime Television, I'll have the chance to do that for the next 4 or 5 years! On Wife Swap, two moms trade places for a week to see what it's like to live in someone else's shoes. Shortly after the show got off the ground, the producers started matching families up with extreme views on one subject or another. So, it wasn't just enough that the animal activist mom went and lived with another family, it had to be with a family of hunters. Competitive sports-minded moms switched places with moms who didn't let their kids play sports. It got to the point where they would even find circus families and swap moms with a family who had a fear of clowns. (I'm not even making that up!) Even though the casting got a little silly, it's some good TV. For the first few days, the moms have to live by the new families rules and then later the moms make new rules that the family has to obey. This always makes for some tension between the new mom and either the husband or the kids. Sometimes they all hate the new mom and then she usually ends up crying and whispering to the camera in the final act of the show. Great show, it way-outlasted FOX's copycat version Trading Spouses. (Which was also good!)
OK...you've read this far...now, tell us your favorite Reality Shows of All Time....

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