8 underrated reality shows you really should be watching
Reality television is having a moment. With the influx of money from streaming platforms cashing in on the genre's many iterations — we're talking competitions, family dramas, love matches, and more — there’s truly delectable fare out there for everyone. At this point, even if you don’t think you're a reality TV fan, you probably are. Of course, not every reality show is good (let's preemptively pass on the next Caitlyn Jenner reality show, please), and no one wants to spend their time sifting through the slush pile after bingeing Love Island and Selling Sunset. So, allow us: Here are the 8 best hidden gem reality TV shows you should be watching right now.
Family Karma (iTunes, Bravo)
When Family Karma, a show focused on a cluster of Indian Americans living, partying, and beefing in Miami, debuted on Bravo; it was seen by some as a wild, if niche, watershed moment. After all, it's a big deal when reality TV comes knocking. (In recent years, other Indian and Indian-American reality shows have debuted alongside Family Karma — though from decidedly different lenses via Netflix's Indian Matchmaking and another entry on this list, The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives). Family Karma hits all the right reality TV notes: There’s cattiness; passive aggressive feuds; and best of all, there's what feels like an earnest and unforced (albeit dramatically heightened) look into a specific slice of American life.
House of Ho (iTunes, HBO Max)
HBO Max's House of Ho — similarly to the wildly popular Netflix series Bling Empire — is billed as TV’s somewhat cheap (but deliciously so) reaction to the success of the 2018 blockbuster film Crazy Rich Asians. But while the latter lives up to that promise — a superbly entertaining window into an assemblage of rich people gallivanting in Los Angeles (when they’re not jetting off to Paris) — House of Ho is instead a much realer, darker window into the pressures and problems of one billionaire family. It is, in this way, a true and nevertheless binge-worthy iteration of what reality television purports to be: real life.
Sweet Life: Los Angeles (HBO Max)
Issa Rae once told The Hollywood Reporter that she "grew up on The Hills" and was an avid watcher of the early seasons of Bravo's Vanderpump Rules. As an executive producer of Sweet Life: Los Angeles, Rae aimed to create something similar to those shows, but with a cast of Black 20-somethings in South Central LA. Sweet Life — like Rae's scripted show, Insecure, when it debuted — might seem groundbreaking for documenting what is in fact normal: young Black people dealing with the quotidian ups and downs of life, simply trying to figure it all out.
Selling Sunset fans won’t exactly find a carbon-copy of pleasures from Parisian Agency, but that doesn't mean it's not worth watching. Rather than the distinctly American, irresistibly played-up dramas of the former, this short, five-episode French reality show instead follows a real estate family as they occasionally butt heads in keeping the business running. The conflicts have a much calmer tone, but for fans who tune into house-hunting reality TV for the sake of real estate wish fulfillment, the up-close tours through expensive Parisian properties are reason enough to watch.
The D’Amelio Show (Hulu)
Even the most avid viewer of reality TV — content that's often relegated to (and celebrated for) a perception as low-brow entertainment — might still scoff at this new show about the family behind Charlie and Dixie D’Amelio, two of the biggest TikTokers in the world. (17-year-old Charli, the younger sister, has the most followed TikTok account by a wide margin, with 124 million followers and counting.) But the show, an expensively-produced behind-the-scenes look at the two sisters grappling with their gargantuan fame, is also (at times) a surprisingly interesting documentary about the apparatus behind a modern A-list social media star — and a sympathetic look at what all of that does to a pair of young girls still wide-eyed about the world.
FBoy Island (HBO Max)
It’s hard to determine if FBoy Island counts exactly as an under-the-radar show. On the one hand, it might go unnoticed to many HBO Max users, as the mostly prestige-drama giant makes a foray into the self-aware trashy TV dating landscape. On the other hand, FBoy Island has developed a loud cult following among those who know the genre well. The show follows a trio of women who, in order to find lasting love, must distinguish the good guys from the secret fuckboys, all within a group of impossibly chiseled men. Amid a crowded field of steamy beach dating shows like Bachelor in Paradise, Love Island, and Too Hot to Handle, FBoy Island really is a worthy entry — maybe even an exceptional one, for leaning more than any other into its ludicrous schtick.
The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives (Netflix)
Most Americans who tune into this Netflix reality series shot in India might not have the context to understand the exact nature of its cast's fame and riches, but the premise of the show is nevertheless easily digestible. The Fabulous Lives of Bollywood Wives follows a quartet of wealthy women married to Bollywood A-listers (one of the four, Neelam Kothari, is a famous former actress herself), and it's quickly legible to any fan of the Real Housewives universe — though the dramas don’t necessarily culminate in the same messy blow-ups. The show tracks the women's relationships, small daily dramas, and gilded getaways; but most interestingly, in some ways, it can also be a window into the nuances of another culture’s rules of fame.
Cooking With Paris (Netflix)
By now, we’re well-aware that the Paris Hilton we once thought we knew was actually a carefully crafted persona. And while she was frequently mocked for that persona, Hilton was the one pulling the strings and raking in the dough. In recent years, as she’s become more publicly reintroduced to American audiences, the character remains alive and well, and our awareness of her performance manages to enhance the enjoyment of watching her on-screen. In this way, Cooking With Paris doesn’t even pretend to be about actual cooking. Rather, it's all about Hilton — along with some of her famous friends, like Kim Kardashian, who pop in as guests. For fans of celebs being celebs, or Paris being Paris, this Netflix show is a perfect meal.