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The 15 best reality shows streaming right now

By March 26, 2023No Comments12 min read

There is no shortage of reality shows these days. In fact, there are so many being released at this rate that we’ve even reached the Netflix Cinematic Universe with crossover shows such as Perfect Match which created a dating series with contestants from other Netflix outputs. Classics are being rebooted and while dating competitions still draw big numbers, no matter how ludicrous the setup, there’s plenty of space for the relaxing reality series as well which act as hour-long meditations. There’s something for everyone including enthusiasts or those who are just looking to decompress with a show to help switch their brain into off-mode at the end of the night.

With the fourth season of Love is Blind arriving on Netflix, here are 15 more reality shows you’ll be binging this weekend.

Courtesy of Netflix © 2022 / Blow Away

Blown Away, 2019-present

Perhaps the sweatiest television shows out there, Netflix’s Blown Away is one of those reality series that makes their competitors take one step back and question their own creative endeavors and shortcomings in the art of glass-blowing. It’s a physically exhaustive process from the looks of it, and one that must require a great amount of skill that’s come from years of training with plenty of risks presented to these artisans. But this also makes it a mesmerizing craft to capture on camera. The talking head bits are less interesting, partially due to the episodes being shorter making viewers want to see the glassblowing structures themselves, but it’s a quick and engaging watch that reminds us of the creative power people hold in their hands.—Allyson Johnson

Watch all three seasons on Netflix

Courtesy of HBO Max/The Big Brunch

The Big Brunch, 2022-present 

Dan Levy makes for a terrific host in HBO Max’s reality series The Big Brunch. What makes the show better, however, is that it doesn’t rely on the natural charisma of the Schitt’s Creek star. Instead, the show highlights other culinary veterans such as fellow judges Sohla El-Waylly and Will Guidara, while using their platform to celebrate the skills of chefs while offering them advice.

Following ten chefs from across the country who are vying for a $300,000 prize in order to establish or grow existing businesses, each episode consists of two challenges where they must whip up new delicious and challenging treats each week. The general vibe is easygoing and relaxed despite the stakes, no doubt in large part due to the atmosphere of sharing knowledge with the group of contestants rather than withholding for just the winner alone. It’s great to watch talented people be given chances to become even greater. —Allyson Johnson 

Watch Season 1 on HBO Max 

Courtesy of Paul Castillero/Paramount+©2022 MTV Entertainment. All Rights Reserved

The Challenge: All Stars, 2021-present

The Challenge: All Stars on Paramount+ is a breath of fresh air for fans of the long-running Challenge franchise. No overtly complicated game rules, no pre-existing big alliances that have a stranglehold lock on the season, and no young players that are in current rotation on MTV’s The Challenge. The Challenge: All Stars goes back to basics and brings back many of the iconic players who competed and pioneered the game to become the beloved competition beast we’ve grown to love.

Plus, with the familiar cast being older and having experienced their lives, the game feels more balanced and layered. These players have known each other for years—some since competing on The Challenge or back when they first appeared on The Real World/Road Rules. Those longstanding relationships are so much more interesting than the never-ending drama from people competing in back-to-back seasons or random new players joining.—Justin Carreiro

Watch all three seasons on Paramount+

Courtesy of Netflix © 2023 / The Circle

The Circle, 2020-present

What do you get when you mix social media with a reality TV competition? You get The Circle on Netflix. The Circle is a fun and unconventional game that puts players to the test for finding the most popular player in “The Circle,” a fictional social networking app. Players are separated in different apartments and can only chat through the app—they never get to see each other until they’re eliminated. Plus, players create profiles, so sometimes they’re being themselves or catfishing as a completely different person. The great draw of The Circle is seeing how the players interpret the messages they get from other players and how they build relationships. After five seasons on Netflix, there’s been plenty of drama over all the messy connections built through the TV screens.—Justin Carreiro

Watch all five seasons on Netflix

Courtesy of Netflix © 2022/Floor is Lava

Floor is Lava, 2020-present

In an age of increasingly wild reality show premises, Floor is Lava keeps it simple: the ubiquitous childhood game but on a comically large scale, including a small warehouse full of bubbling “lava”. The charm of Floor is Lava is that everyone knows what show they are on. Host Rutledge Wood is perfectly happy rattling off terrible lava puns and seems genuinely delighted each time a contestant falls to their pretend doom or faceplants into one of the goofy obstacles.

Contestants compete in teams of three and include people from all walks of life and even contestants from other Netflix reality shows. The absurdity of the obstacles and perpetually slippery surfaces mean that it’s impossible to predict which teams will succeed and even the show seems hilariously uninvested in who will win. There are no grand narratives to follow as you cycle through a new batch of teams in every episode. There are only more offerings to the lava. The ultimate prize for the teams that manage to survive the lava playground? $10,000 split three ways and a chintzy lava lamp.—Jose Cordova 

Watch all three seasons on Netflix 

Photo Courtesy of Netflix / Glow Up

Glow Up, 2019 – present 

Part of the charm of many of these artist-based reality series is seeing people accomplish tasks that are unfeasible to the majority of us. I wouldn’t know where to start in providing my face full coverage and had to be stopped before using a brow pencil as an eyeliner, so the feats accomplished by the many contestants of Netflix’s Glow Up never cease to astonish. From general high fashion concepts and runway looks to working with prosthetics, and optical allusions with the artist’s face as their base, there’s no week where we (the normals) aren’t watching and going “we could never do that.” That’s what makes it so fun in this case. Vibrant, camp, and ridiculous, Glow Up isn’t going to stimulate your brain but it will delight your eyes.—Allyson Johnson

Watch all four seasons on Netflix 

Courtesy of Netflix/The Great British Bake Off

The Great British Bake Off, 2010-present

For years The Great British Bake Off has been the pinnacle of cozy reality competitions—for good reason. While the show is a competition, it’s immediately obvious the bakers are chosen for their affability just as much as their baking skill. The delight of Bake Off comes from watching a group of talented people make interesting and often incredible baked creations all while having a lovely time together.

The tension each week comes from the difficulty of the challenges and never from any of the interpersonal drama that so often fuels other reality competitions. While it would be easy to dismiss the displays of support and kindness in the Bake Off tent as momentary made-for-tv friendships, a quick look around social media proves that many of the contestants go on to maintain these friendships after the show. It is truly heartwarming and there’s nothing quite like sitting down at the end of a long week for a direct dose of coziness courtesy of Bake Off.—Jose Cordova

Watch the series on Netflix 

Courtesy of HBO Max / The Great Pottery Throw Down

The Great Pottery Throw Down, 2015-present

As you might’ve gathered from the title, The Great Pottery Throw Down is very much cut from the same cloth as The Great British Bake Off. Currently airing its sixth season in the U.K, the first five seasons are currently available on HBO Max, and, seasons four and five in particular are soothing balms to everyday stresses. Perhaps even more so than Bake Off, there’s something so captivating in Throw Down, and it’s not a sense of tranquility, especially as this show deals with quite a lot of bangs as slabs of clay smack the artisans’ workstations.

Rather, it’s thrilling to watch artists truly excel and make beautiful pieces of work from something many of us can only gawk at. Playdoh eluded me as a child, so to see contestants create functioning sinks and light fixtures to tea sets is remarkable. That the show manages to infuse it with genuine care and empathy and a real, tender approach that explicitly shows how much value goes towards the artists of the world, is extraordinary.—Allyson Johnson 

Watch seasons 1 through 5 on HBO Max 

Cr. Julian Panetta/Netflix © 2022/The Mole

The Mole, 2022-present

The iconic reality TV series has come back from the dead to ask the long-awaited burning question: “Who is the Mole?” Fans of mysteries and games like Clue will get hooked on this juicy reality competition. The Mole on Netflix still packs the same secret agent flair and addictive intrigue from its original seasons, but the game has been updated for a new generation. New challenges, a sleek modern aesthetic, and deceptive players who are eager to play the game make up the new franchise. The Mole has only aired one season on Netflix so far, but with a second season on the way, now is the perfect time to grab your magnifying glass and watch the game.—Justin Carreiro

Watch season one on Netflix

Courtesy of Netflix/Physical: 100

Physical: 100, 2023-present

Physical: 100 brings together one hundred of the fittest people in South Korea to answer the question, “Who has the best physique?” Bodybuilders, Olympic athletes, dancers, and military service members compete across a series of grueling physical challenges testing their strength, endurance, and agility. While the physical feats are certainly impressive, one thing that stands out is the camaraderie that is built up between the contestants especially once the challenges begin to include a team component.

From the beginning, you can see the respect the athletes have for each other and how it deepens the further they make it into the competition. The finale includes a segment where the final contestants outline their motivations for participating in the show and they repeat some themes that are a throughline throughout the entire series such as promoting unpopular sports or promoting the strength and skill required for certain professions. Physical: 100 succeeds by showcasing incredible displays of both athleticism as well as sportsmanship.—Jose Cordova

Watch season one on Netflix

Courtesy of Photo Credit: World of Wonder/Paramount+

RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, 2012-present

Earning a spot in the Drag Race Hall of Fame has never been tougher than when past RuPaul’s Drag Race contestants have come back for their redemption. RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars brings the best of the best back together to compete for another chance at the crown. But what makes this spinoff series so fun to watch is that every queen is back and better than ever! The queens have grown as performers: their runways have elevated, their skills have improved, and they’ve all got something to prove. Plus, the added aspect of the queens voting each other out gives an extra competitive edge that keeps us on our toes. Let’s not forget that these queens get to know each other after their seasons are filmed and they go on tours together—it’s not just a competition, it’s drag.—Justin Carreiro

Stream all seven seasons on Paramount+

Courtesy of Netflix © 2021 / School of Chocolate

School of Chocolate, 2021

A core part of engagement in reality competitions comes from the elimination component. There is heartbreak when a favorite is sent home and relief when they are safe. School of Chocolate throws that entire concept out the window. At the center of the show is Swiss-French pastry chef and chocolatier Amaury Guichon, who serves as host, judge, and teacher. School of Chocolate quickly proves that it is appropriately titled. Instead of being eliminated, contestants that struggle during challenges are placed in separate one-on-one sessions with Guichon receiving extra instruction and encouragement.

Guichon is a breath of fresh air as a reality competition judge. While he challenges the contestants in every episode and pushes them out of their comfort zone, he is also ready to provide an honest compliment on their work and provide support when needed. Across the eight episodes, Guichon introduces the contestants to fascinating techniques for working with chocolate and each week brings a new breathtaking chocolate creation. There are sculptures, moving hinges, and even a chocolate chandelier!—Jose Cordova

Watch Season 1 on Netflix 

Courtesy of Netflix / Singles Inferno

Singles Inferno, 2021-present 

There’s no real reason a show such as Singles Inferno should work as well as it does. While its first season was lazily accessible and enjoyable, the second season is where it excelled with real heart-gripping drama. No, this is not hyperbole. Yes, the series is ostensibly about a group of pretty single people who go to a remote island to win nights of luxury and maybe partner up by the end of the series, and yes, it seems like the main success of winning at all is clout.

Still, despite the shallow veneer of the series it casts a spell on viewers. It’s one of the best reality series in ages not just because it understands how integral it is to have a lovable group of contestants who are magnetic alone and with potential suitors, but also by allowing smaller moments of connection to inform the bigger standoffs—we’re still not over the sand pit fight. It’s silly, harmless, and about as meditative as a mainstream-released reality show can be.—Allyson Johnson

Watch Seasons 1 and 2 on Netflix 

Photo Courtesy of PEACOCK

The Traitors, 2023

Secret identity games, like Peacock’s The Traitors, bask in the anticipation of whether the evil players will win. Think of games like Werewolf, Mafia, The Resistance, and Among Us—the secret team is working undercover to sabotage, manipulate, and lie their way to victory. On the other side of the coin, we have the heroes trying to discover the traitors and vote them out. The Traitors is so deliciously intense and intriguing because we get to witness both of their journeys. Unlike The Mole where we serve as the investigators, The Traitors gives us the identities of both teams and we determine who we’re rooting to see win at the end: the “Faithfuls” or the “Traitors.”—Justin Carreiro

Stream Season 1 on Peacock

Photo Courtesy of Hulu / The Zone: Survival Mission

The Zone: Survival Mission, 2022-present (Hulu)

Consisting of only eight episodes, the Korean reality series The Zone: Survival Mission is perhaps one of the more absurd shows on this list. That said, if you commit to the bonkers tone and wild scenarios, it becomes endlessly entertaining. Each episode follows the cast as they’re put into survival-themed simulations in an area called “The Zone,” where their tasks range from surviving a zombie invasion to keeping water levels up.

They must endure four hours in each zone, their rules consisting of making it to the end without quitting, while also being given person-specific goals that are based on how poorly they handle each problem and each other. There’s plenty of charm in the visuals alone, but it’s our three hosts/participants who provide the greatest laughs. Yoo Jae-suk, Lee Kwang-soo, and Kwon Yuri are inept and hilarious, and watching them verbally spar and beat up on one another is just as entertaining as the situations they’re put in.—Allyson Johnson

Stream Season 1 on Hulu

Allyson Johnson

Based in New England, Allyson is co-founder and Editor-in-Chief of InBetweenDrafts. Former Editor-in-Chief at TheYoungFolks, she is a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics and the Boston Online Film Critics Association. Her writing has also appeared at CambridgeDay, ThePlaylist, Pajiba, VagueVisages, RogerEbert, TheBostonGlobe, Inverse, Bustle, her Substack, and every scrap of paper within her reach.

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