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The Best Reality Dramas

Updated November 3, 2020 5.2k votes 628 voters 29.5k views51 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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  • 1
    Dirty Jobs
    165
    69

    Dirty Jobs

    Mike Rowe, David M. Barsky

    Premiered2003

    Genres (Tv)Educational television, Documentary, Reality television

    Dirty Jobs was a TV series on the Discovery Channel in which host Mike Rowe is shown... more on Wikipedia

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  • 2
    MythBusters
    138
    84

    MythBusters

    Jon Lung, Brian Louden

    Premiered2003

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

    MythBusters is a science entertainment television program created by Peter Rees and produced... more on Wikipedia

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  • 3
    Swamp People
    133
    103

    Swamp People

    Troy Landry, Jacob Landry

    Premiered2010

    Genres (Tv)Reality television

    Swamp People (History, 2010) is an American reality series that follows the day-to-day... more on Wikipedia

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    History Channel's 'Swamp People' Has Been Lying To You About Everything#42 of 47 The Best Survival TV Shows You Need to Watch

  • 4
    Deadliest Catch
    120
    96

    Deadliest Catch

    Rick Quashnick, Sig Hansen

    Premiered2005

    Genres (Tv)Drama, Documentary, Reality television

    Deadliest Catch (Discovery Channel, 2005) is an American reality television series. It... more on Wikipedia
  • 5
    Pawn Stars
    107
    91

    Pawn Stars

    Rick Harrison, Richard Harrison

    Premiered2009

    Genres (Tv)Documentary, Reality television

    Pawn Stars (History, 2009) is an American reality television series that chronicles the daily... more on Wikipedia
  • 6
    Cops
    103
    93

    Cops

    Andrew Fincher, Joe Guay

    Premiered1988

    Genres (Tv)Crime Fiction, Documentary, Reality television

    Cops (Fox, 1988) is an American documentary-reality legal series and one of the... more on Wikipedia

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  • 7
    Undercover Boss
    99
    92

    Undercover Boss

    Mark Keller

    Premiered2010

    Genres (Tv)Documentary, Reality television

    Undercover Boss (CBS, 2009) is an American reality television series, based on the British... more on Wikipedia

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    #10 of 352 The Best Reality TV Shows Ever#12 of 44 The Best American Versions of British Shows

  • 8
    48 Hours
    47
    48

    48 Hours

    Maureen Maher, Peter Van Sant

    Premiered1988

    Genres (Tv)News magazine

    48 Hours is an American documentary/news magazine television series that airs on CBS. The... more on Wikipedia

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  • 9
    The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
    99
    121

    The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

    Yolanda Hadid, Kim Richards

    Premiered2010

    Genres (Tv)Reality television

    The Real Housewives (Bravo, 2010) of Beverly Hills is an American reality television series... more on Wikipedia

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  • 10
    Ice Road Truckers
    81
    104

    Ice Road Truckers

    Alex Debogorski, Thom Beers

    Premiered2007

    Genres (Tv)Documentary, Reality television

    Ice Road Truckers (History, 2007) is a reality television series. It features the activities... more on Wikipedia
  • 11
    Survivor
    75
    101

    Survivor

    Jeff Probst, Rob Mariano

    Premiered2000

    Survivor is a reality game show produced in many countries throughout the world. In the show,... more on Wikipedia

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  • 12
    Duck Dynasty
    69
    99

    Duck Dynasty

    The Robertson Clan

    Premiered2012

    Genres (Tv)Comedy, Reality television

    Duck Dynasty (A&E, 2012) is an American reality television series. It portrays the lives of... more on Wikipedia

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  • 13
    Intervention
    64
    97

    Intervention

    Jeff VanVonderen, Candy Finnigan

    Premiered2005

    Genres (Tv)Documentary, Reality television

    Intervention (A&E, 2005) is an American documentary television series created by Sam Mettler.... more on Wikipedia

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    #15 of 29 The Best Reality Medical Shows#8 of 46 The Best Movies and TV Shows About Heroin Addiction

  • 14
    Trauma: Life in the E.R.
    60
    92

    Trauma: Life in the E.R.

    Chip Demarest, Andy Michaels

    Premiered1997

    Genres (Tv)Special Interest, Reality television

    Trauma: Life in the E.R. is a medical-based television reality show that formerly ran on TLC... more on Wikipedia

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    #5 of 101 The Best Non-Fiction TV Series#14 of 63 The Most Exciting Reality Shows Ever Made

  • 15
    Hoarders
    69
    109

    Hoarders

    Matt Paxton, Robin Zasio

    Premiered2009

    Genres (Tv)Documentary, Reality television

    Hoarders (A&E, 2009) is an American reality television series that depicts the real-life... more on Wikipedia
  • 16
    Terrace House
    Terrace House (Netflix, 2015) is a Japanese reality television show franchise consisting of... more on Wikipedia
  • 17
    First Responders Live
    First Responders Live (Fox, 2019) is an American documentary-reality television series created... more on Wikipedia
  • 18
    Shark Tank
    8
    19

    Shark Tank

    Kevin O'Leary, Barbara Corcoran

    Premiered2009

    Genres (Tv)Game show, Reality television

    Shark Tank (ABC, 2009) is an American reality television series created by Mark Burnett, and... more on Wikipedia

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  • 19
    The Real World
    55
    97

    The Real World

    Jamie Chung, Steven Hill

    Premiered1992

    Genres (Tv)Reality television

    The Real World (MTV, 1992) is an American reality television program inspired by the 1973 PBS... more on Wikipedia

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  • 20
    Little People, Big World
    Little People, Big World is an American reality television series that premiered on March 4,... more on Wikipedia
  • 21
    Wife Swap
    Wife Swap is a British reality television programme produced by independent television... more on Wikipedia

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  • 22
    Dance Moms
    30
    67

    Dance Moms

    Abby Lee Miller, Maddie Ziegler

    Premiered2011

    Genres (Tv)Reality television

    Dance Moms (Lifetime, 2011) is an American reality television series. It is set in Pittsburgh,... more on Wikipedia

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  • 23
    True Life
    44
    94

    True Life

    Serena Altschul

    Premiered1998

    Genres (Tv)Documentary, Reality television

    True Life (MTV, 1998) is an American documentary television series. Each episode follows a... more on Wikipedia
  • 24
    Terrace House: Tokyo 2019-2020
    Terrace House: Tokyo 2019-2020 (Netflix, 2019) is a Japanese reality television show and... more on Wikipedia
  • 25
    Born This Way
    13
    40

    Born This Way

    Sean McElwee, Rachel Osterbach

    Premiered2015

    Genres (Tv)Reality

    Born This Way (A&E, 2015) is an Emmy Award-winning American reality television series. It... more on Wikipedia