TV critics: these are the reality shows you should nominate

As a public service to TV critics who once again have to select just two reality shows to nominate for Outstanding Achievement in Reality Programming for the 2013 TCA awards, I present a list of shows that are actually outstanding and demonstrate achievement in reality, rather than, say, popularity or scriptedness (let’s please not nominate Duck Dynasty, which is more sitcom than reality).

Each member of TCA can each only nominate two shows per category, so this list is small by design. I’m also including only what was, for me, truly outstanding television. A show I watched but that didn’t have a strong season or year creatively (So You Think You Can Dance, for example) did not make the list. Others, like Top Shot, fall out of the date range. Also, I’ve suggested Survivor, but only the fall season; Philippines was exceptionally strong but it was followed by an embarrassing spring season that dragged the franchise down.

This list is heavy on competitions and light on documentary-style shows, which I think is representative of the increasing focus on scripting/over-producing docudramas. Here’s what I wrote last year about the shows I chose, which holds true this year, too: “These are the series that had exceptional seasons last year and rise to the top for the exceptional ways in which they transform people’s lives or experiences, real or contrived, into compelling entertainment. Thus, they truly deserve recognition.”

  • Hoarders, A&E
  • Shark Tank, ABC
  • The Glee Project, Oxygen
  • Hard Knocks, HBO
  • Inside Combat Rescue, National Geographic
  • Survivor Philippines, CBS
  • King of the Nerds, TBS
  • Food Network Star, Food Network
  • The Glass House, ABC

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.