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15 Reality Shows That Need To Be Brought Back

The good, the so-bad-it's-good, and everything in between.

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1. The Mole


The Mole was one of those reality shows where you could actually tell that everyone involved was having fun creating it, which only made it more enjoyable to watch as a viewer. The challenges perfectly combined a sense of irreverent humor with a feeling of seriousness; these challenges weren't merely throwaways, but actually prompted the viewer to have some fun thinking along with contestants. And if the show weren't great enough already, the first couple seasons were expertly hosted by Anderson Cooper. Please, Anderson, leave CNN and come back to the reality landscape!

2. Blind Date

Universal Worldwide Television

This is in more of the "so-bad-it's-good" category, but Blind Date was such a hilariously blunt look at dating and relationships that it just needs to return to TV. It was fine when the dates went well, but when they went wrong, the show became a trainwreck that you just couldn't take your eyes off of. Plus, the little pop-ups that recurred throughout voiced all of the snarky commentary you usually keep in your head when you watch dating shows.

3. Trading Spaces


In the "home improvement" genre of reality TV, one of the first and best series was Trading Spaces, in which two pairs of neighbors switched homes for two days and redid a room in their neighbor's home with the help of a designer. Host Paige Davis brought a sense of vibrancy and fun to the proceedings, helping to assuage homeowners' fears about the renovations going on in their own home. Plus, who doesn't want to see what kind of hilariously terrible designs Hildi Santo-Tomas could come up with using modern technology?

4. Murder in Small Town X


Though little-remembered (it's basically impossible to find clips online), this series was incredibly entertaining during its one-season run in the early '00s. Contestants were dropped into a small-town murder mystery, tasked with interrogating the locals (played by a slew of actors) and uncovering clues to unravel the story behind the crime. Given the current murder mystery trend (Broadchurch, How to Get Away with Murder, The Killing, etc.), a reboot of MiSTX could be a perfect reality-themed fit for the TV landscape.


5. Beat The Clock

OK, so this is technically a game show more than what we currently think of as a reality show, but let's leave the semantics out of it for a moment and just agree that it would be a terrific show to see back on the air. The premise is simple and engaging — try to complete a lighthearted stunt before the time on the clock runs out — making the series one of the most purely fun shows out there. Today's reality shows often focus more on ratcheting up conflict and can lose clarity in favor of ever-larger sets and personalities. Beat the Clock would bring the world of reality back to its essence and remind us of how entertaining TV can be when you stick to the basics.

6. Endurance

Discovery Kids

This is a children's reality series, yes, but do you really begrudge the youths of today who might want a show geared toward their demographic? In many ways, this show was like Survivor with teens — remote locations, teams competing against each other in challenges, alliances and voting — but without quite as much of the adult nastiness so prevalent in that series. In fact, contestants actually look sad seeing their competitors go sometimes. It's kind of refreshing.

7. The 1900 House (or Frontier House, etc.)

Channel 4 / PBS

Seeing people forced out of their comfort zones and into completely different lifestyles is always entertaining, especially when they must confront a way of life that people actually had to deal with in the past. There is a whole slew of shows like this, but some of the best are those aired by PBS, like The 1900 House. The juxtaposition of modern sensibilities and historical strictures makes for not only interpersonal conflict, but intriguing internal conflicts as people must break free of modern habits in order to understand how their ancestors once lived.

8. Next


Another one of those shows that is so egregiously awful, you can't help but be entranced by it. Even if the reboot of the show were only to include the lists of "fun facts" about each contestant that were displayed as they exited the bus, it would be worth watching. The ultra-hammy dates themselves would be like icing on the cake.


9. Whodunnit?


In all honesty, this show as it was during its one and only season doesn't deserve to come back. But given the murder mystery trend on TV these days, it could really succeed with a little tweaking. The series brought contestants into a mansion to analyze and solve a new "murder" each week and determine whom among them was secretly the killer. Unfortunately, the show focused more on how the crimes were committed than who was committing them, but by changing the format to be a mixture of The Mole and Murder in Small Town X, it could be a perfect reality guilty-pleasure.

10. Work of Art


This art competition was produced by Sarah Jessica Parker (and the show wouldn't let you forget it), but the real star was art collector and contestant mentor Simon de Pury. His accent made even the harshest critiques enjoyable to listen to, so despite the sometimes questionable nature of the works being created, there was always something to look forward to. Plus, the art world is often so opaque to outsiders that putting it in the reality format is a great way to increase its accessibility to the general public.

11. The Weakest Link


Another series that is more of a game show than reality show, another reminder to just ignore that distinction for now. Host Anne Robinson is essentially the perfect authority figure for any series, with her sharp and smart intonation and complete and utter lack of desire to deal with your bullshit. Honestly, Anne Robinson returning to (American) TV is more important than The Weakest Link itself coming back, although both would be preferable.

12. Design Star


Like Work of Art, this series put aesthetics at the forefront and made it actually enjoyable to watch other people engaging in creative endeavors. It's a show that generally took the focus off of fighting and drama (although there was some of that) in favor of allowing the spotlight to shine on the contestants' individual personalities. Given that the prize was the right to host an HGTV series, it was a good decision to allow viewers to get to know the contestants as competent people who would be enjoyable to watch rather than obnoxious trolls. It would be a refreshing re-addition to television.


13. While You Were Out


Another home renovation series, another show that definitely needs to be brought back to the television landscape. This show took unsuspecting subjects and carted them off for a weekend, during which time a team would come in and renovate a room in their home. Unlike renovation reveals in which the recipient of the reno already has some idea what to expect, these reveals were taken to the next level because the recipient was completely in the dark, making for a unique experience within the genre.

14. Road Rules

Before The Challenge, MTV had Road Rules. As with the early days of its sister reality program The Real World, the show was much less focused on stirring up conflict between constantly-drunken twentysomethings and more intent on capturing more realistic interpersonal dynamics. As time went on, Road Rules shifted in that direction, but let's instead bring it back as it was at the start — unique characters, entertaining challenges and quests, and beautiful locations.

15. The Simple Life


The Simple Life thrived in the '00s due to the polarizing personalities of stars Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie and the desire of viewers to watch the two celebutantes taken down a notch and forced to live like the rest of us. It's a premise that still holds interest today, as gaps in wealth continue to widen and new socialites revel in huge fandoms. Maybe we don't specifically need Paris and Nicole anymore, but reviving the show with a new crop of cast members could be an interesting representation of the modern economy. And even if it isn't a perfect critique of modern capitalism, at least it would still be fun.