While traditionally pigeonholed as a trashy genre, there is plenty of current reality TV with substance. Whether it's learning a new trade, understanding a complicated topic, or gaining a more nuanced perspective of the lives of others, the reality shows below truly teach you something. For every Real Housewives, there's a Who Do You Think You Are.
Many current thought provoking reality TV series do not shy away from controversy. Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath explores shocking stories of people who escaped Scientology and does not hesitate to challenge the religion as a whole. Inspirational reality series shine light on traditionally marginalized groups. RuPaul's Drag Race focuses on the LGBT community and Little People, Big World shows the every day struggles of little people. Such programs prove reality TV scandal and exploitation are not the defining factors of the genre.
What is the most thoughtful current reality TV series? Vote up the best programs below!
What you learn: Celebrate uniqueness, love yourself, work it girlRuPaul's Drag Race is an American reality competition television series produced by World of Wonder for Logo. RuPaul plays the roles of host, mentor, and source of inspiration for this series, ...more
What you learn: How to empathize more with adults with cognitive disabilitiesBorn This Way (A&E, 2015) is an Emmy Award-winning American reality television series. It features seven adults with Down Syndrome who work hard to achieve goals and overcome obstacles.
What you learn: It's a small world, family trees have deep roots, ancestry is interestingWho Do You Think You Are? is a British genealogy documentary series that has aired on the BBC since 2004. It is made by the production company Wall to Wall. In each episode, a celebrity goes on ...more
What you learn: Communication skills, good customer service, the importance of mutual respectUndercover Boss is an American reality television series, based on the British series of the same name and produced by Studio Lambert in both countries. Each episode depicts a person who has an ...more
What you learn: Be prepared, know your value, learn from your mistakesShark Tank (ABC, 2009) is an American reality television series created by Mark Burnett, and a franchise of Dragons' Den. Aspiring entrepreneur-contestants pitch their business idea to a panel ...more
What you learn: How to be resourceful, act under pressure, and engage in teamworkMasterChef (Fox, 2010) is an American competitive cooking reality show based on the original British series. A nationwide search for the best home cooks in America where one of 50 hopefuls will ...more
What you learn: Teamwork, basic geography, and how to read instructions carefullyThe Amazing Race is a reality television game show in which teams of two people, who have some form of a preexisting personal relationship, race around the world in competition with other teams. ...more
What you learn: Celebrating uniqueness, family values, overcoming adversityLittle People, Big World is an American reality television series that premiered on March 4, 2006, and airs on TLC. The series chronicles the lives of the six-member Roloff family farm near ...more
What you learn: Everyone deserves a second chance, the power of redemption, don't judge a book by its coverPit Bulls & Parolees is an American reality television series on Animal Planet which confronts the misunderstandings of the Pit Bull breed. The series debuted on October 30, 2009. It ...more
What you learn: Baking tips, teamwork, British phrasesThe Great British Bake Off (also called Bake Off or GBBO) is a British television baking competition, produced by Love Productions, in which a group of amateur bakers compete against each other ...more
What you learn: How to adopt a nuanced, informed perspective on religion and the abuse of powerLeah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath (A&E, 2016) is a documentary series presented by Leah Remini and Mike Rinder. Each episode features former members of the church describing their ...more
What you learn: Go for your dreams, overcome obstacles, share talentAmerica's Got Talent is an American reality television series on the NBC television network, and part of the global British Got Talent franchise. It is a talent show that features singers, ...more
What you learn: DIY skills, how to locate a stud, when to call an expertThis Old House is an American home improvement media brand with television shows, a magazine and a website, ThisOldHouse.com. The television series airs on the American television station Public ...more
What you learn: Different is good and food highlights cultureAnthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown is an American travel and food show on CNN which premiered on April 14, 2013. In the show, Anthony Bourdain travels the world uncovering lesser known places and ...more
What you learn: Survival skills, how to be prepared, the importance of mental strengthRunning Wild with Bear Grylls is a survival skills reality television series starring Bear Grylls. In each episode, Grylls brings a different celebrity along on his adventures. Celebrities such ...more
What you learn: How stuff is made, the magic of manufacturing, practical science is coolHow It's Made is a documentary television series that premiered on January 6, 2001 on Discovery Channel in Canada, and Science in the U.S. It's also being aired on Discovery Family. The program ...more
What you learn: A nuanced perspective of those of whose lives deviate form the normTrue Life is an American documentary television series that has been airing on MTV since March 31, 1998. Each episode follows a particular topic, such as heroin addiction as in the first episode ...more