Ah, reality television. A stellar way to ignore the state of the world and focus on what's important: Other people's drama. And while reality tv is great and all, there's also a ton of it. From The Real World to Nailed It!, The Bachelor to Top Chef, we've got a wide variety for pretty much every person on earth. Here's the best reality shows of all time—not in chronological order, don't yell at me if you think this is a ranking!—and where to find them. Who knows, maybe you'll find your next new favorite show.
When was it on? The show ran for 32 seasons on MTV (1992-2017) and will return in 2019 on Facebook Watch.
What's it about? The show that started it all! The opening credits described the show better than I could: "This is the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house, work together, and have their lives taped to find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real." And oh, it got so real.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? The Real World: San Francisco is easily the most famous season, and the impact Pedro Zamora had on AIDS awareness in the 90s changed everything. Oh, and it also features one of the best uses of Lisa Loeb's "Stay," possibly ever.
Where can I watch it? Seasons 12, 16 to 32 are all available for purchase on Amazon Prime, but the earlier seasons are going to be a bigger search.
When was it on? The show originally aired from 2000 to 2008 on TLC and Discovery Home for eight seasons, and a revival began in 2018.
What's it about? Two sets of neighbors, two rooms, 48 hours, and $1,000 to transform a room with the help of a designer and a carpenter, and the homeowner has no idea what's happening in their own home.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Just start with the revival, honestly. Nothing wrong with the earlier seasons, this is just going to be the easiest to access!
When was it on? The show ran for five seasons, starting on ABC from 2000-2001 and then moved to MTV, where it ran from 2002 to 2009.
What's it about? Well, what the label says—making the band. The show gave us memorable musical acts O-Town, Da Band, Danity Kane, Day26, and Donnie Klang, but the drama provided even was even better. The goal at the end was to make it all the way and prove to Diddy (and in the first season, the now-defunct Transcontinental Records) that you were worthy of being in their girl group. Hey, it gave us "Damaged" and "Liquid Dreams," which is more than we ever asked for.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Start from season 1, episode 1. O-Town was a tiny phenomenon.
Where can I watch it? Yet another that's been lost in the abyss, unfortunately.
When was it on? The show aired on MTV from 2002 - 2005 for four seasons.
What's it about? The Osbournes was basically your standard family reality sitcom, but with a lot more swearing. Following the day-to-day lives of Black Sabbath singer Ozzy Osbourne, his wife Sharon, and his kids Jack and Kelly, the show was, at the time, the highest-viewed show in MTV history.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Season 1, for sure.
Where can I watch it? Unfortunately, this is a near-impossibility, unless you want to buy a DVD copy from Amazon, or watch an illegally uploaded version on YouTube.
When was it on? The show ran on Fox from 2002 to 2016 for fifteen seasons, and then was revived two years later on ABC.
What's it about? In case you've been living under a rock, the premise of the show is auditioning for a panel of celebrity judges and competing to see who will be —you guessed it—the next American Idol.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Eh, all of them. It's hard not to be in awe of this amount of talent. But my personal favorite, forever, is the original, Kelly Clarkson.
When was it on? The Bachelor began airing in 2002 on ABC and has aired for 23 seasons, and has given us plenty of spin-offs: several spin-offs including The Bachelorette (which began airing in 2003 until 2005, and then returned in 2008 and has aired 14 seasons), Bachelor Pad, Bachelor in Paradise, and The Bachelor Winter Games.
What's it about? A single suitor has a pool of romantic interests to pick from and find the person of their dreams through a sea of eliminations.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Oh, man. Season 17, Sean Lowe's season, is a safe place to start.
When was it on? The show ran for five seasons on Fox (2003–2005) and E! (2006–2007).
What's it about? It's the show that blessed us with Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton, and we have never been the same since. The show followed the two socialites as they were taken from the comfort of their lives in Beverly Hills and put into rural environments and given manual jobs, all to comedic effect.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Season 2, the "Road Trip" season, is end-to-end hilarious.
When was it on? The original series aired on Bravo for five seasons from 2003 to 2007, the reboot began on Netflix in 2018, having already aired two seasons with a third on the way.
What's it about? This makeover series, originally titled Queer Eye for The Straight Guy (they dropped the "straight guy" part for the revival, which is all-inclusive) focuses on the Fab 5, a group of queer and gay men who each have an individual focus on fashion, style, personal grooming, interior design, and culture, perform a makeover on a person in need.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Just watch the entire revival. If you get through the first episode without crying, you are a stronger person than I.
When was it on? The most legendary and iconic of reality shows premiered in 2003. The first six seasons (a.k.a. "cycles") aired on UPN, then the following sixteen cycles were aired on The CW until the series was first cancelled in October 2015.The series was revived in 2017 with cycle 24 and is currently airing on VH1.
What's it about? Tyra Banks hosts this competition for aspiring models compete for the title of "America's Next Top Model" and the opportunity to begin their career in the modeling industry.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Season 6. Trust me. I know what I'm talking about.
Where can I watch it? The first twenty-two seasons are available to stream on Hulu.
When was it on? The show's first two seasons aired on The WB from 2003–2004, and the last four seasons were shown on VH1 from 2004–2006.
What's it about? It's like The Real World, but with famous people you forgot even existed!
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Season 3, which set the stage to change reality TV. You'll see why in a moment
Where can I watch it? Yet another one that's hiding in an internet abyss.
When was it on? Project Runway first aired on Bravo for the first five seasons beginning in 2004, followed by Lifetime for the next eleven seasons (as well as seven seasons of Project Runway: All Stars) and it is set to return to Bravo for the seventeenth season in 2019.
What's it about? Aspiring fashion designers compete for a chance to break into the fashion industry compete in various weekly design challenges.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Seasons 2, 4, and 12. Take your pick.
When was it on? Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County aired for three seasons on MTV from 2004 until 2006; The Hills aired six seasons from 2006 to 2010.
What's it about? Laguna Beach followed the lives of high schoolers at Laguna Beach High School, and The Hills followed one of those high schoolers, a girl you may have heard of named Lauren Conrad, as she moved into her professional life and career in Los Angeles. The drama, however, was real.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Oh, girl, start with Laguna Beach's first season and go from there.
Where can I watch it? All three seasons of Laguna Beach are available to stream on MTV.com and for purchase at Amazon, and MTV.com has all six seasons of The Hills available for live streaming with a cable login.
When was it on? Flavor of Love ran for three seasons from 2006 - 2008 on Vh1; I Love New York ran for two seasons from 2007-2008 on Vh1.
What's it about? If you've ever used this GIF of Tiffany "New York" Pollard indignantly saying "BEYONCE?" you can give your thanks to Flavor of Love. After falling in love with Brigitte Nielsen on The Surreal Life, Flavor Flav decided reality tv found him love once, why not try it again? Pollard, after coming in second place twice on Flavor of Love, was gifted her own spin-off, I Love New York. Neither series was successful in their goals of finding love, though.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Oh, season 1 for sure.
When was it on? The Real Housewives of Orange County, premiered in 2006; followed by in New York City and Atlanta in 2008, New Jersey in 2009, Washington, D.C. and Beverly Hills in 2010 (D.C. aired for a single season), Miami in 2011 and aired for three seasons, Potomac and Dallas in 2016, as well as the international installments, The Real Housewives of Athens premiered in 2011, Vancouver in 2012, Los Angeles (in French) in 2013, Melbourne in 2014, Cheshire in 2015, Auckland in 2016, Sydney, Toronto, Hungary in 2017 and South Africa in 2018.
What's it about? The simplest way to put it is... rich women doing things. It's better than it sounds.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Oh, god. Dip your feet in the water with Beverly Hills's first season, and then go from there.
Where can I watch it? Every American installment (except Dallas) is available to stream on Hulu.
When was it on? The show premiered on Bravo in 2006, and has aired sixteen seasons.
What's it about? Top Chef features professional chefs competing against each other in various culinary challenges for prizes, while being judged by a panel of chefs and food and wine industry people. It's the Olympics of TV food competitions.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? All of them, but if you're really short on time, start with Top Chef:Las Vegas or Top Chef: Chicago.
Where can I watch it? Every season is available to stream on Hulu.
When was it on? The show has run for seventeen seasons on TLC since 2007.
What's it about? Following the day-to-day in Kleinfeld Bridal, one of the most notable bridal salons in the world, as brides come in and choose a dress for the best day of their life. It's makeover meets self-care.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Just find a marathon on, you don't need to watch this one by season.
When was it on? Shark Tank began its run on ABC in 2009, and has aired 10 seasons.
What's it about? Aspiring entrepreneurs get a chance to pitch investors, or "sharks" for the opportunity to invest in their company.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Another "catch it on a marathon" one — you can even start from whatever episode's on this week.
Where can I watch it? Every season is available for streaming on Hulu.
When was it on? The show has run for 11 seasons beginning in 2009.
What's it about? Drag queens compete to see who is best and who lip synchs for his or her life and "sashays away."
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? If you can get through the "Vaseline" filter of season 1, feel free to start from the beginning, as the series becomes more self-referential as the series goes on. But if you can't, start with season 4 and bounce around from there.
When was it on? The show ran for one season in 2010.
What's it about? Yes, the source of the iconic “Nancy Jo, this is Alexis Neiers calling" phone call. Pretty Wild was here for a short time, but a great time. Remember the Bling Ring? Yeah, Alexis Neiers was a member of that group, and Pretty Wild follows her attempts to prove her innocence (She wound up serving one month of her six-month sentence and paid a $600,000 fine to Orlando Bloom, and in a perfect sense of irony, her jail cell was next to Lindsay Lohan) as well as as the rest of the Taylor/Neiers family as they tried to make their way into the Hollywood social scene.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Well, there's only one season, so. There's that.
Where can I watch it? The entire show is available for purchase on iTunes.
When was it on? The show first aired in the UK in 2010, with the first four seasons airing on BBC Two, moved to BBC One for the next three seasons, and then with the seventh season, the show moved to Channel 4. On the other side of the pond, most episodes aired on PBS starting in 2012.
What's it about? The most charming show on television, this devastatingly British competition series follows amateur bakers as they compete against each other in a series of rounds with different themes, hoping to impress a group of judges with their baking skills
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Season 1 on Netflix is season 5 in the UK world, but really, with this show, you can start wherever. A personal favorite is the third "collection" (a fancy way of saying "season") on Netflix.
Where can I watch it? In the US, you can find (most) of the seasons on Netflix.
When was it on? Love & Hip Hop: New York first started airing in 2011, followed in 2012 by Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta, Love & Hip Hop: Hollywood in 2014, and Love & Hip Hop: Miami is the most recent, premiering in 2018.
What's it about? The series follows the lives of hip hop and r&b musicians, performers, managers, and producers living in, well, New York, Atlanta, Hollywood, and Miami. You can thank the show for giving us Cardi B.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? New York, season 4 because of the love triangle between Peter Gunz, Tara and Amina. Atlanta, season 1. Hollywood, season 2. And Miami's only had one season!
When was it on? The show has aired on Bravo for six seasons starting in 2013. Below Deck: Mediterranean began its run in 2016.
What's it about? Below Deck, or as I like to call it, Maids on a Boat, follows a young yacht crew of a multi-million dollar charter boat in the Caribbean as they handle their jobs serving guests and the interpersonal communcation issues. Sounds boring? Imagine being young, hot, and trapped at sea. Yep, it gets real.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Every season has its shining moments, but without question, start at season three, and try not to buy a mermaid suit.
When was it on? Vanderpump Rules started its run in 2013 and has aired for seven seasons.
What's it about? Following the trials, tribulations, and tequila drinking of the employees of Lisa Vanderpump's restaurant, SUR.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? SEASON ONE EPISODE ONE AND YOU ARE SO WELCOME.
Where can I watch it? The entire series is available on Hulu.
When was it on? The original show, 90 Day Fiancé, premiered in 2014, and has aired six seasons. The first spin-off, 90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After? began airing in 2016 and has aired three seasons, and the second spin-off, 90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days premiered in 2017 and has aired two seasons.
What's it about? 90 Day Fiancé, or as I like to call it, 90 Day OG follows couples who are in the K-1 visa process, which means that as foreign fiancés of American citizens, they have 90 days to decide if they're going to get married before the visas of the foreign half of the couple expire and they must leave the United States. Happily Ever After? (The question mark is imperative.) follows couples from previous seasons and their relationships post-marriage, Before the 90 Days follows six couples as the American counterpart goes abroad to be with their partner before the K-1 Visa process begins.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? Definitely start with 90 Day OG, and start with season 2. You won't regret it.
When was it on? The first two seasons aired on Netflix beginning in 2018, and a third is forthcoming.
What's it about? Ever see an amazing baking project on Pinterest and think, "I can do that"? This show is designed to show you that no, you probably can't.
What's the best season to watch as a beginner? All of them are great, but the "Holiday" season is a unique breed.
Where can I watch it? The entire series is available to view on Netflix.