Watchworthy

The Best Reality Dramas 

TVs Frank
Updated May 22, 2020 6.6k votes 622 voters 29.2k views 47 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.
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list ordered by
1
Dirty Jobs is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best Reality Dramas
Mike Rowe, David M. Barsky, Doug Glover

Premiered: 2003

Genres (Tv): Educational television, Documentary, Reality television

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 ...more

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2
MythBusters is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best Reality Dramas
Jon Lung, Brian Louden

Premiered: 2003

Genres (Tv): Non-fiction, Special Interest, Educational television, Science, Documentary, + more

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
Deadliest Catch is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best Reality Dramas
Rick Quashnick, Sig Hansen, Edgar Hansen

Premiered: 2005

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 ...more

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4
Cops is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best Reality Dramas
Andrew Fincher, Joe Guay, Wayne Anderson

Premiered: 1988

Genres (Tv): Crime Fiction, Documentary, Reality television

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 ...more

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#51 of 148 The Greatest TV Title Sequences Ever #53 of 590 The Best TV Theme Songs of All Time #43 of 125 The Best Serial Cop Dramas of All Time

5
Pawn Stars is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best Reality Dramas
Rick Harrison, Richard Harrison, Corey Harrison

Premiered: 2009

Genres (Tv): Documentary, Reality television

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 ...more

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#179 of 389 The Best TV Shows of The Last 20 Years #195 of 422 The Best TV Shows to Rewatch #47 of 292 The Best Reality TV Shows Ever

6
Undercover Boss is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best Reality Dramas
Mark Keller

Premiered: 2010

Genres (Tv): Documentary, Reality television

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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#10 of 292 The Best Reality TV Shows Ever #16 of 44 The Best American Versions of British Shows #18 of 37 The Best Business TV Shows

7
Ice Road Truckers is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best Reality Dramas
Alex Debogorski, Thom Beers, Hugh Rowland

Premiered: 2007

Genres (Tv): Documentary, Reality television

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
8
48 Hours is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best Reality Dramas
amani2374 added Maureen Maher, Peter Van Sant, Erin Moriarty

Premiered: 1988

Genres (Tv): News magazine

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 ...more

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9
Survivor is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best Reality Dramas
Jeff Probst, Rob Mariano, Rupert Boneham

Premiered: 2000

Survivor is a reality game show produced in many countries throughout the world. In the show, contestants are isolated in the wilderness and compete for cash and other prizes. The show uses a ...more

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10
Duck Dynasty is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best Reality Dramas
prkr.river.rat added The Robertson Clan

Premiered: 2012

Genres (Tv): Comedy, Reality television

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.

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11
Intervention is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best Reality Dramas
Jeff VanVonderen, Candy Finnigan

Premiered: 2005

Genres (Tv): Documentary, Reality television

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 ...more

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#12 of 29 The Best Reality Medical Shows #13 of 51 The Best Movies and TV Shows About Heroin Addiction #35 of 188 The Best Documentary Series & TV Shows

12
Hoarders is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best Reality Dramas

Premiered: 2009

Genres (Tv): Documentary, Reality television

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.

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13
First Responders Live is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best Reality Dramas

Premiered: 2019

Genres (Tv): Reality television, Documentary

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 ...more

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#82 of 292 The Best Reality TV Shows Ever #24 of 29 The Best Reality Medical Shows #8 of 53 The Most Exciting Reality Shows Ever Made

14
Trauma: Life in the E.R.... is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best Reality Dramas
Chip Demarest, Andy Michaels, Brian Plaisier

Premiered: 1997

Genres (Tv): Special Interest, Reality television

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 ...more

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15
Shark Tank is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best Reality Dramas
Kevin O'Leary, Barbara Corcoran, Daymond John

Premiered: 2009

Genres (Tv): Game show, Reality television

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 ...more

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16
Terrace House is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best Reality Dramas

Premiered: 2015

Genres (Tv): Reality television, Variety show

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
The Osbournes is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best Reality Dramas
Ozzy Osbourne, Sharon Osbourne, Jack Osbourne

Premiered: 2002

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.

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18
Big Brother is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best Reality Dramas
Julie Chen, Phil Proctor, Clayton Halsey

Premiered: 2000

Genres (Tv): Reality television

Big Brother (CBS, 2000) is a television reality game show based on an originally Dutch TV series of the same name created by producer John de Mol in 1997, taking its name from the character in ...more

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19
Little People, Big World... is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best Reality Dramas

Premiered: 2006

Genres (Tv): Reality television

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 ...more
20
Dance Moms is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best Reality Dramas
marshallthornton00 added Abby Lee Miller, Maddie Ziegler, Chloe Lukasiak

Premiered: 2011

Genres (Tv): Reality television

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

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21
Terrace House: Tokyo 201... is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best Reality Dramas

Premiered: 2019

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 ...more
22
The Real World is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best Reality Dramas
Jamie Chung, Steven Hill, Landon Lueck

Premiered: 1992

Genres (Tv): Reality television

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 ...more

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23
Wife Swap is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best Reality Dramas

Premiered: 2003

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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24
True Life is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best Reality Dramas
Serena Altschul

Premiered: 1998

Genres (Tv): Documentary, Reality television

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
Swamp People is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best Reality Dramas
Troy Landry, Jacob Landry, Bruce Mitchell

Premiered: 2010

Genres (Tv): Reality television

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 ...more

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