Since Survivor first aired 15 years ago, summertime has been reality television’s territory—especially on broadcast networks, which have more real estate in summer for unscripted shows. With the end of America’s Got Talent and Big Brother, and the return of Survivor, summer reality TV is handing the baton off to fall reality television.
This summer’s reality TV may have started with a misfire, and there were certainly weak spots, never mind some horrible lows and terrible moments. And one of the summer’s breakout scripted shows, The Bachelor quasi-expose UnReal, focused on the worst parts of the genre.
Yet what stands out to me is that just so much of summer’s television was just pleasant to watch. Happiness trumped cruelty; triumph resulted from adversity; and we had fun experiencing it all.
Here are the shows that stand out to me when I think back on the summer:
- Home Free’s feel-good house giveaway on Fox.
- Steve Harvey’s perfectly calibrated mocking on ABC’s prime-time Celebrity Family Feud.
- NBC’s America’s Got Talent, and its four-month parade of thoroughly entertaining acts.
- D-list celebrities having fun challenging themselves on NBC’s I Can Do That.
- The return of ABC’s Battlebots, with metal spectacularly destroying metal.
- The Fear Factor-ish mayhem of Fox’s Bullseye.
- Whales and other incredible animals doing their thing live on PBS’ Big Blue Live.
- The stunning, quiet beauty of Animal Planet’s The Last Alaskans.
- The play-along-at-home game of Science’s Race to Escape.
- Running Wild with Bear Grylls on NBC challenging celebrities to challenge themselves.
- Being immersed in the ambition of Startup U‘s wannabe entrepreneurs.
- The camaraderie and turtle CPR of NBC’s The Island.
- The return of The Great British Baking Show to PBS, a show mostly made of joy, from its hosts to its competitors.