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Highest rated reality TV shows

  • Highest rated reality TV shows

    Whether you're someone who lives for the drama of reality TV or just considers it an occasional guilty pleasure, its dominance can't be understated. Today nearly four out of every 10 people watch some form of reality TV.

    The trend started during the 1940s and 1960s, with shows like "Queen for a Day" and "The Dating Game" entertaining audiences and serving as early prototypes of what would become popular contest shows like "The Voice." In the ‘50s, quiz shows dominated the airwaves, and paved the way for primetime staples like “Jeopardy!” (though a bombshell cheating scandal almost killed off the genre entirely).

    The genre transformed with "An American Family." A predecessor to powerhouse shows like "Keeping up with the Kardashians," the 1973 PBS documentary is considered the first reality series on American television. It follows the lives of an upper-middle-class family in Santa Barbara, Calif. The director thought viewers would be shocked if they could look at the real lives of American families. During filming, the parents’ got a divorce and the drama attracted 10 million viewers at the height of its popularity. The early 2000s saw a new explosion of shows like “American Idol” and “Big Brother,” which shaped reality TV as we know it today.

    Despite accusations that some shows are staged, scripted, manipulated by producers or otherwise not “real,” the genre is now inescapable, with hundreds of reality shows making their debut in American homes and impacting pop culture. To help pick out the shows that stand out in this wide-ranging genre, Stacker looked at IMDb data for shows with more than 1,000 votes and ranked them by their user ratings. From dance-offs to communicating with animals, no topic has escaped reality TV’s grip. Who knows, along the way you may find your next show to indulge in.


    You may also like: Lowest-rated reality TV shows of all time

  • #100. Bering Sea Gold

    Year: 2012 – present

    IMDb rating: 6.7

    From the creators of the popular Discovery Channel series Deadliest Catch, Bering Sea Gold follows a group of "dredgers," those people who search for gold and other profitable minerals in shallow waters.  Along with the tough lifestyle and voyages, the average water temperature in the Bering Sea is 34 degrees and max temperatures reach only 68 degrees, adding to an already very tough reality. 

  • #99. Ripley's Believe It or Not!

    Year: 1999 – 2003

    IMDb rating: 6.7

    A popular American franchise, as a reality documentary show it reported on topics very unusual, surprising and spectacular, such as inventions, stunts, records, freak creatures and accidents. For its timeslot, the series was at the time the top-rated program among adults between the ages of 18-34, 18-49 and 25-54.

  • #98. Total Divas

    Year: 2013 – present

    IMDb rating: 6.7

    A favorite for all wrestling fans, Total Divas follows the lives of WWE divas in their work and personal relationships. With fascinating characters like the Bella Twins, one of WWE's most popular one-two pair, the show averages almost a million viewers.

  • #97. MasterChef Junior

    Year: 2013 – present

    IMDb rating: 6.7

    Like its adult counterpart, MasterChef Junior pits groups of cooks against each other for a free-for-all competitive cooking contest, but with only children and teenage contestants. The drama of the eccentric food critic Gordon Ramsay may haunt these kids for years to come.

  • #96. Miami Ink

    Year: 2005 – 2008

    IMDb rating: 6.7

    TLC's Miami Ink followed five tattoo artists who open a tattoo shop in South Beach. Acclaimed for its in-depth insights into the process behind each piece the tattooists created, the show had various spin-offs including LA Ink, London Ink, and NY Ink.

  • #95. Naked and Afraid

    Year: 2013 – present

    IMDb rating: 6.7

    A title that instantly catches one's attention, this Discovery Channel show follows the lives of a man and a woman who must survive for 21 days on only the resources provided by their surroundings. The drama of the contestants’ survival attempts and at times combating egos makes it a truly fascinating watch, especially for those who enjoy others’ misery.  

  • #94. American Restoration

    Year: 2010 – present

    IMDb rating: 6.7

    A spin-off of History Channel’s Pawn Stars, American Restoration follows five of the best restoration shops in the United States as they restore pieces of America's history and also create new and awe-inspiring works from reclaimed vintage items. Among hundreds of popular similar shows, it’s become one of the longest-running antiques-based reality shows.

  • #93. Cake Boss

    Year: 2009 – present

    IMDb rating: 6.7

    The show follows the cake man Buddy Valastro and his family, whose business in Hoboken, New Jersey, produces custom cakes for any occasion. Want a cake from the boss himself? His bakery can offer options for as little as $300 (or even $100 if you settle for a decorated sheet cake). “It depends on what you want,” he says

  • #92. Viva la Bam

    Year: 2003 – 2006

    IMDb rating: 6.7

    A spiritual successor to MTV’s Jackass, Viva La Bam tracked skater Bam Margera’s stunts designed to antagonize his parents. Highlights of the show included Bam ironing pictures of hamburgers onto all of his dad’s clothes, building a firepole in his home in the middle of the night and turning his house into a skate park.

  • #91. Are You the One?

    Year: 2014 – present

    IMDb rating: 6.8

    The lovechild of reality shows The Bachelor and Real World, MTV’s Are You the One chronicles 10 women and 10 men as they try to seek out love during a 10-week stay at a house in Hawaii. Along the way, couples go into a “truth booth” to find out if they are a "perfect match" or "no match" at all. If they succeed in matching, the entire group shares a prize of up to $1 million, because money can be the best of matchmakers.

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