635 voters

The Best Reality Dramas

Updated May 13, 2021 5.0k votes 635 voters 30.3k views68 items

The best reality dramas include programs that keep viewers interested with compelling stories and fascinating characters. Yes, reality dramas are technically reality TV, but they aren't silly. They're often serious, sometimes dangerous and always entertaining. This list includes some of the best dramatic reality shows ever on television, so be sure to vote for your favorites. You can also add any outstanding reality dramas that are missing, and rerank the lists to suit your taste!

Many television dramas are popular because they have great, scripted story lines. Not so with reality TV dramas: These are reality shows that manage to keep viewers glued to their televisions with real life happenings. Examples of these kinds of shows include the Discovery Channel's documentary-style reality TV drama Deadliest Catch, the History Channel's Ice Road Truckers and MTV's reality drama series Teen Mom.

And things don't always turn out well on these shows: In 2010, while filming Deadliest Catch, boat Captain Phil Harris became gravely ill. Cameras continued to roll, and Harris later died from complications of a massive stroke.

Some of the best reality dramas on television are medical in nature. Examples include ABC's NY Med, TLC's Trauma: Life in the E.R., and A&E's Emmy-winning addiction program Intervention. These programs follow real-life events in major hospitals and chronicle the journeys of people who are trying to overcome potentially deadly addictions.

What is your favorite reality drama? Again, vote for the shows you like the most, vote down any you think aren't worthy and remember to rerank if you're so inclined.
  • 1

    Dirty Jobs

    Mike Rowe, David M. Barsky

    PremieredNovember 7, 2003

    Genres (Tv)Reality

    Dirty Jobs was a TV series on the Discovery Channel in which host Mike Rowe is shown performing difficult, strange, disgusting, or messy occupational duties alongside the typical employees. The show,...  more

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  • 2


    Jon Lung, Brian Louden

    PremieredJanuary 23, 2003

    Genres (Tv)Documentary, Science

    MythBusters is a science entertainment television program created by Peter Rees and produced by Australia's Beyond Television Productions for the Discovery Channel. The series is transmitted by...  more

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  • 3

    Swamp People

    Troy Landry, Jacob Landry

    PremieredAugust 22, 2010

    Genres (Tv)Reality, Documentary

    Swamp People (History, 2010) is an American reality series that follows the day-to-day activities of Louisiana natives living in the swamps of the Atchafalaya River Basin who hunt American alligators...  more

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  • 4

    Deadliest Catch

    Rick Quashnick, Sig Hansen


    Genres (Tv)Drama, Documentary, Reality television

    Deadliest Catch (Discovery Channel, 2005) is an American reality television series. It portrays the real life events aboard fishing vessels in the Bering Sea during the Alaskan king crab, snow crab...  more

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  • 5

    Pawn Stars

    Rick Harrison, Richard Harrison

    PremieredJuly 19, 2009

    Genres (Tv)Reality, Auction, History

    Pawn Stars (History, 2009) is an American reality television series that chronicles the daily activities at the World Famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, a 24-hour family business operated by patriarch...  more

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  • 6


    Andrew Fincher, Joe Guay

    PremieredMarch 11, 1989

    Genres (Tv)Reality, Crime, Law

    Cops (Fox, 1988) is an American documentary-reality legal series and one of the longest-running television programs in America. It follows the activities of police officers by assigning television...  more

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  • 7

    Undercover Boss

    Mark Keller

    PremieredFebruary 7, 2010

    Genres (Tv)Reality

    Undercover Boss (CBS, 2009) is an American reality television series, based on the British series of the same name. Each episode depicts a person who has an upper-management position at a major...  more

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  • 8

    48 Hours

    Maureen Maher, Peter Van Sant

    PremieredJanuary 19, 1988

    Genres (Tv)Newsmagazine, Crime, Law

    48 Hours is an American documentary/news magazine television series that airs on CBS. The series has been broadcast on the network since January 19, 1988. The program airs Saturdays at 10:00 p.m....  more

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  • 9

    Ice Road Truckers

    Alex Debogorski, Thom Beers

    PremieredJune 17, 2007

    Genres (Tv)Reality, Science, Technology

    Ice Road Truckers (History, 2007) is a reality television series. It features the activities of drivers who operate trucks on seasonal routes crossing frozen lakes and rivers in remote Arctic...  more
  • 10

    Terrace House: Tokyo 2019-2020

    Reina Triendl, Azusa Babazono


    Genres (Tv)Reality

    Terrace House: Tokyo 2019-2020 (Netflix, 2019) is a Japanese reality television show and spin-off of Terrace House. Six strangers share a fabulous house in Tokyo, looking for love while living under...  more
  • 11
    First Responders Live (Fox, 2019) is an American documentary-reality television series created by Dick Wolf. Camera crews follow first response teams in day to day operations and capture what first...  more

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  • 12


    Jeff Probst

    PremieredMay 31, 2000

    Genres (Tv)Reality, Action, Adventure

    Survivor (CBS, 200) is a reality game show and is based on Swedish television series Expedition Robinson created by Charlie Parsons. Hosted by Jeff Probst, contestants are isolated in the wilderness...  more

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  • 13

    Duck Dynasty

    The Robertson Clan

    PremieredMarch 21, 2012

    Genres (Tv)Reality, Documentary

    Duck Dynasty (A&E, 2012) is an American reality television series. It portrays the lives of the Robertson family, who became wealthy from their family-operated business, Duck Commander....  more

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  • 14

    Trauma: Life in the E.R.

    Chip Demarest, Andy Michaels

    PremieredSeptember 30, 1997

    Genres (Tv)Documentary, Reality, Medical

    Trauma: Life in the E.R. is a medical-based television reality show that formerly ran on TLC from 1997 to 2002 and reruns are currently airing on Discovery Fit & Health. At its peak, Trauma was one...  more

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  • 15


    Jeff VanVonderen, Candy Finnigan

    PremieredMarch 6, 2005

    Genres (Tv)Reality, Documentary, Health

    Intervention (A&E, 2005) is an American documentary television series created by Sam Mettler. It follows one/two participant(s), who are dependent or are addicted, documented in anticipation of an...  more

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  • 16

    Terrace House

    Reina Triendl, Yoshimi Tokui

    PremieredSeptember 2, 2015

    Genres (Tv)Reality

    Terrace House (Netflix, 2015) is a Japanese reality television show franchise consisting of five series and one film. The show follows the lives of six strangers, three men and three women from...  more
  • 17


    Matt Paxton, Robin Zasio

    PremieredAugust 17, 2009

    Genres (Tv)Reality, Health

    Hoarders (A&E, 2009) is an American reality television series that depicts the real-life struggles and treatment of people who suffer from compulsive hoarding disorder....  more

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  • 18

    The Osbournes

    Ozzy Osbourne, Sharon Osbourne


    Genres (Tv)Reality television

    The Osbournes (MTV, 2002) is an American reality television program. It features the domestic life of heavy metal singer Ozzy Osbourne, his wife, and two of their three children....  more

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  • 19

    Shark Tank

    Kevin O'Leary, Barbara Corcoran

    PremieredAugust 9, 2009

    Genres (Tv)Reality

    Shark Tank (ABC, 2009) is an American reality television series created by Mark Burnett, and an entry in the Dragons' Den franchise. Aspiring entrepreneur-contestants pitch their business idea to a...  more

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  • 20

    The Real World

    Jamie Chung, Steven Hill

    PremieredMay 21, 1992

    Genres (Tv)Reality

    The Real World (MTV, 1992) is an American reality television program inspired by the 1973 PBS documentary series An American Family. Seven to eight young adults are picked to temporarily live in a...  more

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  • 21

    Little People, Big World

    Matthew Roloff, Amy Roloff

    PremieredJanuary 7, 2006

    Genres (Tv)Reality

    Little 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 Portland,...  more
  • 22

    Born This Way

    Sean McElwee, Rachel Osterbach

    PremieredDecember 8, 2015

    Genres (Tv)Reality, Documentary

    Born 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....  more
  • 23

    Dance Moms

    Abby Lee Miller, Maddie Ziegler

    PremieredJuly 13, 2011

    Genres (Tv)Reality, Dance

    Dance Moms (Lifetime, 2011) is an American reality television series created by Jeff Collins. It is set in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the Abby Lee Dance Company and follows the early careers of...  more

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  • 24

    True Life

    Serena Altschul

    PremieredMarch 31, 1998

    Genres (Tv)Documentary

    True Life (MTV, 1998) is an American documentary television series. Each episode follows a particular topic such as drug use, money issues, and sexuality, and the show is created by following a...  more
  • 25

    Wife Swap

    Samantha Fox, Lizzy Bardsley


    Genres (Tv)Reality television

    Wife Swap is a British reality television programme produced by independent television production company RDF Media and created by Stephen Lambert for Channel 4, first broadcast in 2003. In the...  more

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