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The best reality TV shows of 2023

The best reality TV shows of 2023
The best reality TV shows of 2023, according to me, include America Outdoors, The Traitors, The Great British Bake-Off, and The Devil's Plan

This year, reality TV gave us The Traitors’ Kate Chastian and Bake-Off’s Saku; delivered Scandovol and Tom Hanks’ niece melting down; and produced both a real-life Squid Game and the Survivor trio of Carolyn, Carson, and Yam Yam.

2023 was the year Netflix re-introduced the world to cutthroat cruelty and Amazon Freevee convinced the world that Jury Duty was a new idea (even though it’d been done so much better 20 years earlier).

There was a lot to watch and enjoy—though not always the best examples of the genre.

Among the shows I reviewed were a surprising number of misfires, from bad adaptations of good IP (007, Hot Wheels) to weak versions of returning shows (American Ninja Warrior, Kitchen Nightmares).

This year’s unscripted, episodic television did deliver some television excellence, though.

Below, I share my favorite reality TV of 2023: the best of the genre, which for me means dynamic characters, engaging formats, and outstanding production that unfolds over multiple episodes.

First, though, a few runners-up, and some shows from that other genre!

My 2023 scripted TV favorites

  • Abbott Elementary (ABC), the best sitcom on TV
  • The Bear (FX), which was even better in season two
  • Mrs. Davis (Peacock), a weird and wild ride that also had depth
  • Poker Face (Peacock) and its fun murder mysteries that were wrapped up in one episode!
  • Succession (HBO), of course
  • What We Do in the Shadows (Hulu), which just continues to be the best mockumentary on TV

Shows I still need to watch: I’m a Virgo (Amazon Prime Video), the final season of Reservation Dogs (FX)

2023 reality TV honorable mentions

An elf doll in a Christmas tree; it's wearing an all-red suit with its legs crossed and its hands on its knee
One of Elf on the Shelf: Sweet Showdown’s many elves watches the bakers (Photo by Food Network)

2023’s best reality TV

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Happy discussing!

Chuck S.

Monday 1st of January 2024

There was a lot of fun stuff this year. "GBBO" was really great... I LOVED Saku and Alison is a much better fit as a co-host than Matthew (although I really did enjoy him in Wonka!) Thinking about Rob/Corey from "The Amazing Race" still gets me teary eyed. I rooted hard for those two. "The Traitors" was a pure joy to watch and Cerie was incredible. Her game play was top notch and I am glad she finally got a win she deserved. For scripted shows, I think my favorite had to be "Schmicago." I loved it even more than "Schmigadoon."

JF

Sunday 17th of December 2023

2023 will go down as one of the best years of reality television for me.

I got three of my favorite reality shows of all time: The Traitors (all versions), Jury Duty, and Squid Game: The Challenge.

The Challenge (in all iterations) returned to greatness and House of Villains made me laugh out loud more times than any reality show ever has.

Love Island Games shook up the LI format and brought back many of my all-time favorites. Seeing castmates from non-competitive reality have to suddenly strategize led to lots of entertaining drama.

The Devil's Plan was riveting, and I found myself relaxed by the calmness of Singles Inferno.

Although it is impossible to find, Interior Design Masters season 4 showed that it continues to be one of the most fun home makeover shows there is.

The RuPaul's Drag Race franchise continues to provide lots of entertainment (although Down Under's most recent season was a struggle to get through).

Although not all the Real Housewives franchises are great, Potomac returned to form after a boring previous season, SLC survived the loss of Jen Shaw with some great changes, and Miami is the gift that keeps giving.

I struggled to find time for scripted TV this year given so many entertaining reality TV options. I loved it!

WISH LIST FOR 2024: Survivor stops phoning it in and Love Island UK becomes entertaining again (the last two seasons have been a snore).

Tami

Thursday 14th of December 2023

Reservation Dogs final season was perfection. Don’t miss out! Also, thanks for giving me a heads up on The Exhibit. I really enjoyed that show and hope for another season!

Andy Dehnart

Thursday 14th of December 2023

I'll definitely be watching, and good to know it's perfect! And you're welcome—The Exhibit sure was an unexpected surprise this year.

Melissa

Wednesday 13th of December 2023

As for scripted shows, have you seen Somebody, Somewhere on HBO? It's even better than Succession in my opinion; it has characters to love and root for!

For HBO reality shows, I also loved How To with John Wilson, Painting with John (the potato episode still randomly pops into my head) and 100 Foot Wave.

Cat

Wednesday 13th of December 2023

Any word on whether “ The Exhibit” is getting a 2nd season?