Netflix hosts a whole lot of reality TV. Dig deep enough and you’ll encounter some wacky-sounding titles, including a series all about “animal influencers” (Pet Stars) and a show where contestants try to make gourmet meals out of leftovers (Best Leftovers Ever!). While I haven’t seen either of these, I know Netflix has some great original reality shows you won’t want to miss.
Here are seven of the best reality TV shows on Netflix. Be sure to add these originals to your TV watching 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 starts on the Netflix series, a Q&A led 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 before. Then France asks the designers who among them is a household name. The answer? Not a single one. So we get the impression that this is a pack of seasoned, accomplished designers who are there to earn greater recognition.
When I’m watching Project Runway, I’m not made to feel like these designers have already “made it.” With Next in Fashion, I’m expecting highly skilled designers, and some personalities that fit the show’s theme. Chung and France keep the mood uplifting and fun, and the clothing produced is sufficiently awe-inspiring.
Social media can feel like a game. So why not literally make it 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 “catfish” as someone entirely different (or something in between those two extremes). They’re sequestered in individual rooms and tasked with messaging their fellow contestants by way of a screen. The players periodically “rate” one another, and the highest-ranked pair gets to choose who to toss from the competition. It’s a creative concept, and the show throws in plenty of twists to liven things up. Think it would be easy to spot those completely faking a personality online? You’d be surprised.
Boredom often sends me to the grocery store to snag cake mix and a jar of frosting. The result of my elbow grease is a lifeless, underwhelming heap, but that doesn’t dull the experience. I mean, I still made something, and it even tastes pretty good. Nailed It gets the joy of amateur baking, and radiates it in an easily devourable half-hour. Three nonbakers compete to re-create professional cake pops, iced cookies and show-stopping, multitier cakes. Some hopefuls unveil truly disastrous-looking baked goods, but the show still applauds them for putting in the effort. The focus is on having a good time, not on actually replicating an impossible-looking confection. Charismatic judges Nicole Byer and Jacques Torres offer hilarious (but ultimately nice) assessments of the finished treats, making it easy to crack a smile.
Blown Away didn’t start out on Netflix. It first aired on a Canadian channel called Makeful. But it’s on the streamer now, inviting you to gain appreciation for a completely fascinating art form. Talented glassblowers face off in challenges and follow a theme, whether it’s crafting a household item, an original cartoon character or a piece about climate change. Less successful cast members are knocked off until a winner emerges. It’s a familiar reality competition formula, but the elaborate art that’s brought from concept to creation is worth sticking around for. Those who recognize glass sculptures only as finished products sitting in a gallery will take interest in the chance to peer behind the scenes. Prepare to be mesmerized, and perhaps even inspired to get up and do something with your hands.
I’ve said it before, and I gladly will again: Dating Around is a must-watch for reality show fans. This entry to Netflix’s catalog has a no-frills premise, which is saying something considering its wild company on the streaming platform (Too Hot to Handle, Sexy Beasts, Love Is Blind). Make no mistake, there’s still a lot 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, giving rise both to unbearably awkward encounters and dazzling chemistry. The show’s scaled-back feel allows its featured cast members to shine. Capturing the ambiance of late-night city spots, 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 “T.I.” Harris judge this reality competition that sees young hopefuls compete to become the next hip-hop superstar. We have to start off by mentioning those three — a massive part of the show’s allure is the time we get to spend with them. The series’ format feels similar to options like American Idol. There are live auditions in different cities, only some move on to compete again, etc. But it chops the total episode count by about half. Unsigned rappers are judged both on their vocal ability and their stage presence as they step up and perform. Some of them are stellar, but the show really gets its strength from its big-name judges (and guest judges — the great Snoop Dogg weighs in during the first episode). We know these figures, and we hang on every word they say. When Cardi B shares that she’s looking for “one of us,” it means something, and it helps us to completely invest in the ride.
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