The 10 Most Unique and Innovative Reality Shows Ever

Reality shows are a dime a dozen these days, but there are some that have really stood out from the crowd. Here are our top ten reality show picks.

Top Ten Reality Show Concepts

Back in 1948, when the first run of Candid Camera premiered on black and white American TVs all across the country, no one could possibly have known how the reality TV craze would take hold and blossom into a billion-dollar industry. Jersey Shore, Geordie Shore, Love Island, Big Brother, The Real Housewives, Fear Factor…there’s a reality show to suit every kind of personality. Some people prefer TV shows based on video games. Some like dramas or documentaries, but 36 percent of 30 to 49-year-old Americans and 32% of 18 to 29-year-old Americans prefer their TV coming at them reality style.

Every kind of show under the sun has taken its turn on the reality circuit: dating shows, talent shows, lifestyle shows, comedy shows, travel shows. Some fade into obscurity before they’re even noticed but some change the game completely. These are the shows that have set the bar for their genre and, even if they’re gone now, will be remembered forever.


Though Jackass certainly wasn’t to our parent’s taste when it came out, no one can deny that it is a genuinely legendary show. Fans still remember in intimate detail what Steve-O looked like after chugging a gallon of milk or the many times that Chris Pontius had his ample rear on display. In typical 2000’s MTV style, Jackass is in your face, brash and crude; the show follows a crew of friends who put themselves in dangerous, embarrassing, and gross situations just for the fun of it. Think shooting each other in the nether regions with a taser, pulling off elaborate pranks dressed up as old men, taking the full force of a punch in the kidney just because you can. 

The Bachelor and The Bachelorette

Finding love through a reality show is nothing new, but The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are utterly unique in their show format. Contestants gather to compete for the affection of one man or one woman. Week by week, contestants are knocked out of the running, and the remaining ones get closer to the ultimate prize.

Queer Eye

Originally titled Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, Queer Eye premiered at a time when gay men were considered to be the ultimate style icons, and straight men were believed to have absolutely no clue how to dress or care for themselves. The show focused on the Fab 5: Carson Cressley, Kyan Douglas, Jai Rodriguez, Thom Filicia, and Ted Allen, each of whom was a style, lifestyle, grooming, and general makeover expert. The series was so successful that it was presented in a new format in 2018 with a new Fab 5: Antoni Porowski, Bobby Berk, Jonathan Van Ness, Tan France, and Kamaro Brown.

RuPaul’s Drag Race

There is nothing, absolutely nothing else in the world like Drag Race. Not only does this incredible show allow rising stars to share their talent with the world, but it also provides a window into this aspect of queer culture for those who might not otherwise have been able to learn so much about it.

The Simple Life

Nicole and Paris were icons for being the ultimate rich girl and, let’s face it, more than a little stupid. Though these women have proven their limitations in the show were just an act, when the Simple Life came out, they had the world convinced that they didn’t know how to tie their own shoes. Watching these two muddle through the realities of everyday, Simple Life was far more entertaining than doing it for ourselves.


The king of all reality shows has to be Survivor; there’s never been anything like it. The premise is simple; a bunch of people are dropped off on a supposedly very remote and isolated island and asked to survive not only the environment but also the cutthroat attitudes of their tribemates. Jeff Probst, the beloved host, and heart of the show, has been with the Survivor team since the show’s inception. More than 40 seasons later, the show is still going strong.

Sweet Sixteen

MTV strikes again with Sweet Sixteen. The show follows incredibly wealthy fifteen-year-olds as they prepare for their Sweet Sixteen birthday parties. The parties are extravagant, wildly themed, and always ridiculously expensive. They entertained the world with their tantrums, crazy demands, and entitlement for seven years.

American Idol

American Idol is not unique as a talent show, but its place in the hearts of the billions of fans who watched the original run and the subsequent worldwide spinoffs makes it special because it’s a life-changing event. Though American Idol is itself a spinoff of the British version of the show, it’s the American public and American contestants who set the show on its path to iconic status.

America’s Next Top Model

Top Model rode the cresting wave of reality shows when it kicked off in 2003. The show gave aspiring supermodels the chance to learn from the best, Tyra Banks herself. Though the show had some controversial moments, it’s still a hit to this day.

The Real Housewives

The lifestyles of the rich and famous certainly keep us guessing and entertained. The more glamorous the person is and the less they have to do with their time, the more fascinated we become. Since 2006, our desire to see into the opulent and excessive lives of these fabulous women has expanded so drastically that the show has 11 series running in the US concurrently and 21 around the world. There’s no other show like it anywhere!

Wrap Up

These are the most iconic and original reality shows of our lifetimes- who knows what’s coming next!

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