Netflix hosts a lot of reality TV. Dig deep enough and you’ll come across some wacky-sounding titles, including a series about “influential animals” (Pet Stars) and a show where contestants try to make gourmet meals out of leftovers (The Best Leftovers!). While I haven’t watched any of them, I know that Netflix has some great original reality shows that you won’t want to miss.
Here are seven of the best reality TV shows. Be sure to add these originals to your TV viewing routine.
When I pressed play on the first-ever episode of Next in Fashion, I had a burning question on my mind: How does this fashion competition show differ from its iconic predecessor, Project Runway? Before any of the brainstorming and sewing begins on the Netflix series, a Q&A hosted by hosts Alexa Chung and Tan France (Gigi Hadid takes over from Chung in Season 2) reveals that many of the designers have dressed A-list celebrities the list before. France then asks the designers which one is a household name. The answer? Neither one. So we get the impression that this is a group of experienced, accomplished designers who are there to gain more recognition.
When I watch Project Runway, I’m not made to feel like these designers have already “made it.” With Next in Fashion, I expect highly skilled designers and some personalities that match the theme of the show. Chung and France keep the mood upbeat and fun, and the clothing produced is inspiring enough.
Social media can seem like a game. So why not make it literally one? In The Circle, a group of social media savvy contestants try to be crowned the “highest rated” player. Contestants bring high-energy personalities and their own game-winning strategy—choosing to either play as themselves or play as someone completely different (or something in between those two extremes). They are isolated in separate rooms and tasked with sending messages to the other contestants through a screen. Players periodically “rate” each other, and the highest-ranked pair gets to choose who to kick out of the competition. It’s a creative concept and the show includes plenty of twists and turns to bring things to life. Do you think it will be easy to spot those who completely fake a persona online? You will be surprised.
Boredom often sends me to the grocery store to pick up cake mix and a jar of frosting. The result of my elbow grease is a lifeless, bland pile, but that doesn’t dull the experience. I mean, I still do made something and it even tastes pretty good. Nailed It takes the joy of amateur baking and channels it into an easy-to-eat half-hour. Three non-bakers compete to recreate professional cake pops, iced cookies and show-stopping, tiered cakes. Some hopefuls turn out truly disastrous-looking baked goods, but the show still applauds them for making an effort. The focus is on having a good time, not actually replicating an impossible-looking outfit. Charismatic judges Nicole Bayer and Jacques Torres offer hilarious (but ultimately good) evaluations of the finished treats, making it easy to smile.
Blown Away didn’t start on Netflix. It was first aired on a Canadian channel called Makeful. But now it’s on the streamer and invites you to appreciate a completely fascinating art form. Talented glassblowers take on challenges and follow a theme, whether it’s crafting a household object, an original cartoon character or a piece about climate change. Less successful cast members are eliminated until a winner emerges. It’s a familiar reality competition formula, but the intricate art that went from concept to creation makes it worth sticking around for. Those who recognize glass sculptures only as finished products housed in a gallery will be interested in the opportunity to peek behind the scenes. Prepare to be mesmerized and maybe even inspired to get up and do something with your hands.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll gladly say it again: Dating Around is a must-see for fans of the reality show. This entry in the Netflix catalog has a no-frills premise, which is saying something given its wild company on the streaming platform (Too Hot to Handle, Sexy Beasts, Love Is Blind). Make no mistake, there’s still plenty to keep you invested in what’s happening on screen. Singles in New York and New Orleans share a night of drinks, dinner and conversation, spawning both excruciatingly awkward encounters and dazzling chemistry. The show’s pared-down feel allows the cast members to shine. Capturing the atmosphere of the city’s nightlife, everything looks fantastic. If I have to keep praising this show, I will. I’m desperate to get my hands on season 3.
Cardi B, Chance the Rapper and Tip “TI” Harris judge this reality competition where young hopefuls compete to become the next hip-hop superstar. We have to start by mentioning these three – a huge part of the show’s charm is the time we spend with them. The format of the series seems similar to options like American Idol. There are live auditions in different cities, only some go on to compete again, etc. But that cuts the total number of episodes by about half. Unsigned rappers are judged on both their vocal abilities and their stage presence as they appear and perform. Some of them are stellar, but the show really gets its strength from its celebrity judges (and guest judges—the great Snoop Dogg weighs in during the first episode). We know these numbers and hang on to their every word. When Cardi B shares that she’s looking for “one of us,” it means something and helps us fully invest in the journey.
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