Long day at the (home) office, huh? I know. Time to give your brain a break. Perhaps with a TV show—one that isn’t going to use too much of your brain power. (We’re looking at you, Westworld). Turning on some of the best reality TV is the way to go, and to make it as simple as possible, let’s just focus on what’s currently streaming on Netflix.
Over the past few years, Netflix has had a barrage of splashy original reality shows come out, but that doesn’t mean those are the only ones on the streamer. Recently, behemoth franchises like Survivor and America’s Next Top Model have made their debut beside homegrown hits like Love is Blind and the artistically enlightening Blown Away.So, here are the best 19 reality shows available to watch right now (and here are the best Netflix original TV shows and movies, too, if you want to keep the party going afterwards).
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Cooking With Paris
On January 13, 2020, Paris Hilton uploaded a 16 minute video of her cooking lasagna to YouTube and titled it “Cooking with Paris.” It is absolute chaos—in it, she grates cheese wearing biker gloves, vouches for pre-cooked noodles, and admits that it is her first time cooking in what we can only assume is her own home kitchen. 5 million views and a little over a year later, Cooking with Paris is now a Netflix original series. It features celebrity guests like Kim Kardashian and Saweetie, who collaborate with Paris to create…well, we can’t deny that they are meals. Just don’t go in expecting to learn to cook anything good.
Restaurants on the Edge
In this Netflix original series, three experts are brought in to save restaurants in beautiful locations around the world that just aren’t attracting guests for one reason or another. Who doesn’t like a good makeover show, right? Well, first, it depends on the quality of the makeover. These ones? Very mom-went-to-Homegoods-again. And the experts in charge of them? A designer, a restauranteur, and a vibe curator/occasional mixologist who always wears a fedora. It’s extremely questionable on the whole, but incredibly binge-able. We’d watch it all again.
Somebody Feed Phil
An absolute gem of a man and a food connoisseur, Somebody Feed Phil follows Everybody Loves Raymond creator Phil Rosenthal as he explores, makes friends, and eats in cities all over the world. There is no way to watch Phil without a smile (and without craving both travel and good food).
Indian Matchmaking is matchmaker Sima Taparia’s world, and we’re all just along for the ride. By the powers of her rolodex of clients, a cast of singles across India and the United States are matched in this captivating series based on their personal preferences, backgrounds, and vibes. There is no shortage of terrible dates, ghosting, and family drama that will entertain and shock you.
When you think reality TV, you probably don’t think “soothing.” But Blown Away, Netflix’s glass blowing competition show, reveals a mesmerizing art form that hardly gets its due in culture. It’s a standard competition show format, and each episode has the competing artists work on a new challenge involving molten glass, blowpipes, and furnaces. No matter your interests, age, or TV taste, it’s truly a delight to watch gorgeous glass creations come into being. Two seasons are available to stream right now.
America’s Next Top Model
America’s Next Top Model is a pioneer in the competition reality show landscape, and two seasons of it are streaming on Netflix right now. Watch model hopefuls compete in photoshoots and challenges under the guidance and stern rule of Tyra Banks, inventor of the smize. The tootch. Well, there are a lot of new words you’ll learn. Reality entertainment at its finest. We’re rooting for you. We’re all rooting for you.
With more than 20 years and 40 seasons under its belt, Survivor is a veteran of the reality genre with a cult-like following. Each season, contestants are split into tribes and left to survive off the land, with challenges and immunities to be won. Each week, the losing tribe must vote out a member, until one Sole Survivor is left standing. Two seasons are streaming on Netflix right now.
The first American reality show with an all Asian cast made a big splash when it landed on Netflix this January. Set in Los Angeles and filmed pre-pandemic, Bling Empire follows the mega-rich as they shop, travel, party, and bicker. Dramatic, fun, and engrossing, you’ll learn about Asian culture as well as high couture jewelry.
The Circle started Netflix’s 2020 reality programming off with a bang. The reality show centers around a group of people brought to an apartment complex where they all must live separately, and are only able to communicate through a social media network called The Circle. The players must rank and vote out fellow contestants frequently based on their likability and interactions, but the twist is players are allowed to catfish the rest of the group. The premise is cheesy, but the cast is so likable and fun that the show is a surprisingly heartfelt binge.
Love Is Blind
Netflix’s hit dating show Love Is Blind is a crazy lovechild of The Circle and Married At First Sight. The show brings 30 Atlanta singles to a set where they go on ‘blind’ speed dates in pods separated by a glass wall. After ten days of dating without ever seeing one another, the participants must either get engaged to someone they have never seen or go home. Once engaged, the couples meet in person, go on whirlwind honeymoons, and begin the three week countdown to their weddings. You have to wait, with their friends and family, until they get down the aisle before you find out whether or not the couples say “I Do.” It’s a wildly entertaining rollercoaster ride.
If your typical trashy dating show is a tequila shot, Dating Around is an expensive martini. In each episode, one contestant is sent on five blind dates that all take place at the same restaurant, which are edited together seamlessly. Afterwards, the dater can only choose one option worthy of a second date. It’s a classy formula with just enough first-date awkwardness to keep the secondhand-embarrassment pumping through your veins. Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming now.
Netflix’s reboot of Queer Eye starring grooming expert Jonathan Van Ness, style expert Tan France, design expert Bobby Berk, lifestyle expert Karamo Brown, and food expert Antoni Porowski is a Netflix reality bright spot. The Fab Five travel the country to makeover a new person’s life every episode. The fifth season of the beloved show dropped on June 5. Prepare for both laughter and tears.
Netflix’s Selling Sunset follows the agents of real estate brokerage The Oppenheim Group as they traverse the high-end residential Los Angeles market. It’s a Bravo-esque petty world of drama and real estate porn. Seasons 1, 2, and 3 are streaming now.
The Great British Bake Off
Reality TV is not often associated with wholesomeness and purity, but in this case, it’s exactly that. To enter the tent of The Great British Bake Off is to enter a cheerful and sometimes stressful (but, you know, a charming, British kind of stressful) world of artful sugaring and soggy bottom anxiety. Each season features 12 home bakers who partake in three challenges every weekend—a signature bake, technical challenge, and showstopper—until only three bakers remain for the final. The show’s first seven seasons feature celebrated judging duo Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood alongside hilarious hosts Mel and Sue. After a move from the BBC, season eight replaces Mary Berry with Prue Leith and brings on Noel Fielding and Sandi Toksvig as hosts. The new cast grows on you, but we recommend starting from the beginning if you’re new to the wonderful world of GBBO. Come for the baked goods, stay for the high drama (google ‘Bingate’ to see what we mean).
The Big Flower Fight
The Great British Bake Off, except with floral arrangements. This soothing show has pairs of florists, artists, and landscapers competing to build ornate sculptures out of flowers and plants. Comedians Natasia Demetriou and Vic Reeves host, and florist-to-the stars Kristen Griffith-Vanderyacht judges this slice of “emotional comfort food.” Content warning if you have bad seasonal allergies.
Too Hot To Handle
Too Hot To Handle is not good, but it also could be exactly what you’re looking for. This Love Island rip-off places fifteen bathing suit-clad contestants in a villa, but the twist is that they have to abstain from all physical contact with one another in order to keep their $100,000 cash prize fund intact. Complete with thinly-veiled horny ‘self-discovery’ workshops for the self-proclaimed sex-fueled cast, each violation of the rules results in a deduction from the communal pot. A great choice if your brain needs a complete vacation from any semblance of sanity or reality.
Tidying Up With Marie Kondo
The queen of sparking joy and staying out of internet drama, Marie Kondo’s Netflix show made waves when it dropped onto Netflix in 2019, and for good reason. In it, Kondo makes over and tidies up client homes using her KonMari method. Great to watch while you procrastinate cleaning up your own house.
Love on the Spectrum
Love on the Spectrum follows several young Australians on the autism spectrum as they navigate dating and romance. Over the course of five episodes, the show introduces a charming cast of characters, including two happy couples and a handful of singles looking for love. It’s both an empathetic and amusing series, and by far the most realistic reality dating content on Netflix to date. Unlike Netflix’s Too Hot To Handle or Love Is Blind, Love on the Spectrum showcases what actual dating is like—from uncomfortable split the bill conversations to awkward silences, tangible nerves, and real disappointment. It’s an important series and a real heartwarmer that is not to be missed.
Lauren Kranc is an editorial assistant at Esquire, where she covers pop culture and television, with entirely too narrow of an expertise on Netflix dating shows.
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