Have you run out of American reality shows to watch? Is The Bachelor not floating your boat the way it used to? Is there a hole in your heart now that Dancing With The Stars is on hiatus? Well, fear not – the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland has got you covered. I know, I know: reality shows probably aren’t the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Britain. However, we’re pretty good at them. We’re more than just a sad and rainy little island, you know.
Okay, some of our reality shows are quite similar to yours, except for the English accents. However, we’ve got a few hidden gems that’ll keep you entertained for the foreseeable future. Whether dating shows are your thing, you’re a fan of baking, or you like to see celebs eating maggots and kangaroo testicles, there’s a British series out there for you. Here’s a selection of the best reality TV that Blighty has to offer.
16. Strictly Come Dancing
Sure, Dancing With The Stars is great, but there’s nothing quite like its original British counterpart. Strictly Come Dancing is a staple of winter Saturday night TV in the UK. When it starts each September, you know that Christmas is coming. The format is simple: fifteen celebrities are matched with professional dance partners. Each week, they have to turn it out on the dancefloor or risk being in the dreaded Dance-Off. The four judges score them out of ten, and their total is combined with the public vote to decide who stays and who goes. Each week, one more couple is eliminated until the finalists battle it out for the Glitterball trophy. Italian firecracker Bruno Tonioli falls off his judge’s chair at least once per season. It’s utter TV gold.
When Gogglebox first started, a lot of people were dubious about its format. Who wants to spend their time watching other people watch TV? Well, as it turns out, the majority of Brits enjoy doing just that. Each week, Gogglebox takes us into the homes of various families and films them watching the biggest TV shows of the last week. Their reactions are often hilarious and their observations are refreshingly witty. The families featured have become much-loved by the British public. One Gogglebox star, Scarlett Moffat, has gone from watching TV for the cameras to being a TV personality in her own right! If you’re into watching other people lose their minds at dramatic TV moments, this is the show for you.
14. Love Island
When Love Island first aired for two seasons in the early 2000s, it didn’t really take off. However, the 2015 reboot of the series is a whole other story. It’s become a huge hit, to the extent that it practically overshadowed 2017’s country-wide elections. Who cares who runs the country when there’s romantic island-based drama to be watched? The show’s premise is straightforward yet effective. A group of singletons is dumped on a remote Spanish island, constantly filmed, and forced to ‘couple up’ in order to remain on the show. Couples break up and make up as the weeks go on and take part in various games and challenges. The last pair standing wins £50,000. Frankly, we’re all counting down the days until the 2018 season begins. Love Island mania is real.
13. The Only Way is Essex
The Only Way Is Essex – or TOWIE, as all Brits call it – is one of many ‘scripted reality’ shows gracing TV screens at the moment. While the action is (mostly) based on the cast’s real lives, the producers engineer situations to make arguments and other dramatic moments blow up on demand. As you’d guess from the title, the show follows various young people living in the Southern English county of Essex. The area has a reputation for being trashy in places, and the show certainly doesn’t help that. Its fake-tanned, impossibility perfect-looking cast have got into all sorts of romantic entanglements and doomed friendships as the seasons have dragged on. If we’ve learned anything, it’s that emotions run very high in Essex…
12. Made in Chelsea
Made in Chelsea is basically the ultra-posh version of TOWIE. While the two shows have the same themes – relationships, friendships, partying, and drama – their casts could not be more different. Set in the most up-market areas of London, Made in Chelsea chronicles the lives of Britain’s next generation of insufferable toffs. The cast members are all heirs and heiresses to huge fortunes, the son of a lord or Duke, or irritatingly hipster young business leaders. They throw more money around than us common folk even realized existed. Of course, money doesn’t buy them happiness – you won’t find any stable relationships or even friendships on this show. Still, being able to blow thousands of pounds on one shopping trip must raise your mood a little bit.
11. Come Dine With Me
When a reality show has been airing for almost fifteen years, you know it’s doing something right. Come Dine With Me may have kept the same format for practically its entire run, but it never ever gets old. Each week, five contestants each hold a dinner party. They’re ranked out of ten by their fellow participants on their food and entertainment, but the scores remain a secret until every dinner party has taken place. At the end of the week, the contestant with the highest score wins a cash prize. It may sound simple, but so, so much can go wrong in the course of an evening. Contestants get drunk, have huge arguments, go searching for secrets in their host’s home, and generally stir up all sorts of trouble. Not a week goes by without something weird and wonderful going down.
10. First Dates
In the last few years, British dating shows have started to change their nature. While they were once all totally trashy, more and more surprisingly well-rounded series are springing up. First Dates is one of these. It’s a genuinely wholesome show in which couples are, as you’d expect, filmed having their first date. The dates all take place in a designated restaurant run by Fred, a charming and romantic Frenchman. Some pairs hit it off; others crash and burn. However, you always get a little update at the end of the episode to reassure you that every contestant is doing well, whether they’re single or still dating their match. First Dates has born long-term relationships, weddings, and even kids! The show’s matchmakers are clearly on point.
9. The Undateables
If you’re looking for a reality show that might make you shed a tear or two, The Undateables is for you. The title is actually a bit misleading: the series tends to prove that its stars actually are dateable after all! Each week, the show follows singletons who have some kind of physical or mental disability. Their conditions have often made dating difficult, but the show’s specialist dating agency is there to change that. The resulting dates are sometimes awkward, sometimes unsuccessful, but always heartwarming. Even if the couples decide to just remain friends, you can really see the newfound confidence that each participant has. The show isn’t just there to help them find love: it encourages them to love themselves, disability and all.
8. Tattoo Fixers
Have you ever spent an evening cringing at all the photos on the internet showing horrifically bad tattoos? Do you like hearing the stories of how such terrible inkings came to be? Well, this is the show for you! As you’d guess from the title, Tattoo Fixers isn’t just about laughing at the bad ones. The show’s team of tattoo artists actually covers up the monstrosities with far better designs! Of course, you still get to hear the full story of how the bad tattoo came to be. Amazingly, very few of them were drunken mistakes! The show also makes a point of getting to know the unfortunate owner of the tattoos, leading to some pretty interesting chats about each person’s life. Perhaps most memorable was the woman who didn’t realize she was pregnant until she gave birth. How terrifying is that??
7. The Great British Bake Off
Despite undergoing a somewhat controversial channel change back in 2016, The Great British Bake Off is still the most popular cooking-based reality show on British TV. Now hosted by goth comedian Noel Fielding and gay icon Sandi Toksvig, the show follows a group of amateur bakers as they fight it out to impress judges Paul Hollywood and Prue Leith. They all want to win the coveted title of Star Baker, but only one contestant can. Each week, the most unsuccessful baker has to leave the tent for good. Bake Off is possibly the most quintessentially British reality show on TV right now. It’s gentle, soothing, but also deadly serious, as 2014’s Bingate proved. Did sly baker Diane really deliberately sabotage adorable Ian’s Baked Alaska, leading him to angrily trash the whole thing? Was it a total accident? We’ll never know…
6. Ex on The Beach
We Brits love that old reality TV trope of forcing exes to spend time with each other for our own twisted entertainment. There’s something so satisfying about watching that kind of awkwardness unfold. Ex On The Beach is a popular show of this kind that, as you’d expect, brings exes together on a summer beach holidays. However, there’s a twist. The show starts with sixteen singletons trying to find love… And their exes all turn up, one by one. It’s as much of a mood killer as it sounds. The competitors end up having to juggle finding someone new to date among their fellow singles and trying to stop their often bitter ex from totally ruining things. As you’d imagine, it rarely goes well for anyone involved.
5. Naked Attraction
This, er, ‘unique’ dating show has become surprisingly popular since its slightly traumatizing debut back in 2016. It basically does what the title suggests: a singleton picks a date based on their fellow contestants’ naked bodies. Their most intimate areas are revealed first with their faces being the last part of their bodies we get to see. Yup, it’s a load of butts, boobs, and genitalia being flaunted on prime-time British TV. Like, there’s no blurring or anything. You see it ALL. It’s an interesting approach to dating, to say the least. It’s also really, really difficult to look away, even if you know that staring at these unashamedly naked people is probably wrong. Channel 4 has always liked to produce shows that shock us, and Naked Attraction is no exception.
4. Take Me Out
This dating show coined the now-infamous catchphrase “no likey, no lightey.” Incredibly, that’s not even the most cringe-worthy thing about the show. It generally features a group of girls all ogling one lucky man. Each woman is given a light on her podium. As the eligible single man tells the women a bit more about himself, they can choose to shut off their light if they don’t like what they hear. This takes them out of the running: the guy can’t choose them at the end. The poor man just has to hope that at least one woman has left her light on by the end of the show. If not, he goes home dateless. Yeah… This one isn’t quite as charming as some of the other British dating shows out there but it’s nonetheless entertaining.
3. Don’t Tell The Bride
This hilarious reality show takes every single bride’s worst nightmare and makes it a reality. In Don’t Tell The Bride literally all control over the wedding is taken out of the bride’s hands and is given to her husband-to-be. It’s his job to find a theme, a venue, and even a dress that his future wife would love. Unfortunately, these hapless blokes fail more often than they succeed. The dresses are usually awful, and far too much money is inevitably blown on the guy’s bachelor party. One particularly gut-wrenching episode saw a bride getting married on a pig farm. Her groom had blown £14,000 on pigs to walk her down the aisle. She didn’t even like pigs. I wonder how that couple is doing now?
2. Geordie Shore
After Jersey Shore became a huge hit Stateside, we Brits decided it was time to throw our own version of the show into the mix. Geordie Shore follows the antics of a group of housemates living in the North of England. They spend their time drinking, flirting, fighting, and often crying, and it makes for pretty trashy TV. Despite being labeled “borderline pornographic” by Newcastle’s local parliamentary representative, the show has become a huge hit. Watching a group of fake-tanned party animals make mistake after mistake is surprisingly addictive. It takes Jersey Shore to a whole new level. Skip Floribama Shore and go straight to this one.
1. I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!
Imagine throwing a group of celebrities into the Australian jungle for a few weeks and forcing them to eat kangaroo testicles. Well, that’s basically I’m A Celebrity: Get Me Out Of Here in a nutshell. A group of famous faces all jet off Down Under to live in an isolated camp. To get luxuries, tasty food, and other benefits, they have to endure so-called Bushtucker Trials that range from being surrounded by insects to eating weird body parts of animals. It’s pretty grim to watch, but also strangely addictive. Each week, a celeb is voted out of the competition by the viewing public. The winner is crowned King or Queen of the Jungle and gets both pride and a lot of publicity! I’m A Celeb is another reality show that gets us Brits through the dark, cold winter. Nothing warms the heart like watching famous people eat maggots.