Relive the Drama of These 12 Forgotten — But Iconic — Reality Shows
If your teen years weren't defined by Rich Girls and The Swan, did you even live?
Sure, you’ve seen every episode of Vanderpump Rules, can break down every single moment of drama on the last season of the Real Housewives of New York and follow all of the former Bachelor contestants on Instagram, but how well do you remember Pretty Wild?
Well, it turns out that there are plenty of O.G. reality series that are incredibly iconic — but sadly oft-forgotten nowadays. Let us remember them all, now.
The short-lived but iconic E! series was centered around three young girls — Alexis Neiers, her sister Gabrielle, and their family friend/”sister” Tess Taylor — living fast and wild in Hollywood, while their mother, former Playmate Andrea Arlington attempts to help them launch modeling careers.
Drama Rating (On a Scale of 1-10): 10. Honestly, we’d score this an 11 if we could. After all, on the very first day of filming, Alexis was arrested for her role in the “Bling Ring” robberies.
Breakout Star: Alexis, who went from regular reality show star to tabloid sensation overnight.
Moment That’s Burned in Our Brain: The infamous phone call that Alexis left for Vanity Fair writer Nancy Jo Sales, after the profile that was written about the trial and tabloid attention was, well, less than flattering. Oh, and it said that she wore Louboutins in court when, as Andrea would like to remind everyone from the next room, her shoes were $29.
Does It Hold Up? While the show declines in drama towards the end of its season-long run, there’s still more than enough half-clothed antics and hysterical sobbing to hold you attention. (Plus, Ryan Cabrera dates Tess Taylor for a whole episode, and you know you want to see that.) It’s also worth re-watching with the knowledge that both Alexis and Tess were in the throes of debilitating drug addictions at the time of filming, as it changes the way some of their behavior is perceived; both girls are now clean and sober, and Alexis works as a drug and alcohol recovery counselor.
THE ASHLEE SIMPSON SHOW
Running just two seasons on MTV, this series chronicled the process of Ashlee Simpson working to make her first two albums, find her voice as a writer and performer and, most importantly, to step out of her older sister’s shadow.
Drama Rating: A 5 at most. With respect to Ashlee, the ups and downs of her making her first two records were not exactly filled with drama.
Breakout Star: Ashlee Simpson, duh!
Moment That’s Burned in Our Brains: Watching Ashlee recount the saga of her now-infamous lip-synced performance on Saturday Night Live, and handle the tabloid fall-out in the next few days.
Does It Hold Up? While you could probably pass on re-watching the whole series — unless you’re dying to spot a pre-fame Josh Henderson in the first episode or relive the glory days of Ryan Cabrera — we highly recommend revisiting Ashlee’s first two albums, which are still, to this day, filled with jams. (And yes, we do still know all the words to “L.O.V.E.”)
The 10 episodes that aired on MTV chronicled the lives and spending habits of Ally Hilfiger (daughter of Tommy) and Jamie Gleicher, whose father founded Innovation Luggage, as they graduate high school and prepare for college.
Drama Rating: Maybe a 4? It’s worth considering more as a period piece chronicling the early 2000s than as a dramatic television show.
Breakout Star: Ally Hilfiger, who claimed that her father invented cargo pants and was basically the cool girl that everyone on the UWS wanted to befriend.
Moment That’s Burned in Our Brains: When Ally had a full-blown breakdown by the pool when she struggled to make a burrito, and called her father to wonder what she’s going do with her life. Which really, who among us hasn’t had these kind of phone calls with mom and dad?
Does it Hold Up? Yes — but only for an episode or two. We recommend the prom episode to get a feel for the show (and to spot a brief cameo from Mischa Barton) and the aforementioned poolside meltdown, and you should be good.
The controversial reality show featured a beauty pageant of contestants who were all originally “ugly duckings.” Thanks to help from therapists, stylists, trainers, life coaches and, yes, plastic surgeons, the show promised to transform the contestants “inside and out.”
Drama Rating: 8 — between watching people endure intense therapy while recovering from full plastic surgery and the general nationwide controversy over the premise of the show, there was plenty of drama to go around.
Breakout Star: Season 1’s Marsha Meddleburg, who went from shaving her face and wishing she was invisible to finding confidence.
Moment That’s Burned in Our Brains: Seeing all of the contestants sweating and training in the gym, while having their heads and bodies fully wrapped in bandages from their surgeries.
Does It Hold Up? Not really. Not only does it seem really dated and controversial now, it’s honestly just not that compelling of a show.
This (sadly) short-lived Bravo series followed a group of very rich, privileged New York City teenagers as they attended fashion shows, worried about college and were generally obnoxious. But in an entertaining way, we promise.
Drama Rating: A solid 8
Breakout Star: It’s a tie between PC, who was the show’s biggest villain and most charismatic presence at the same time, and Sebastian’s gloriously fluffy Bieber hair.
Moment That’s Burned in Our Brains: When PC didn’t get a front row seat at fashion show and threw a massive hissy fit while the show was going on. Iconic.
Does It Hold Up? You bet it does. In fact, we’d recommend that you go straight to Netflix to catch up, but sadly, Netflix took it down. So, if you’re reading this Ted Sarandos, please give us NYC Prep back.
BRITNEY AND KEVIN: CHAOTIC
Wanted to know what was really going on in Britney Spears’ relationship with Kevin Federline? Of course you did. That’s why you were glued to every episode of this shockingly low-fi reality show.
Drama Rating: Like a 5. Not a lot happened on this show, but it was addicting nonetheless.
Breakout Star: We want to say that it just helped make Britney a bigger star, but in all reality, it probably helped Kevin’s career more than anyone else’s, as he was about to launch his own “music” career soon after.
Moment That’s Burned in Our Brains: Seeing the superstar surprise her family and friends with her wedding. (And, on a less … pleasant note, hearing the two of them talk a whole lot about their sex life.)
Does it Hold Up? For an episode or two, but you don’t need to binge the entire series by any means.
THE RACHEL ZOE PROJECT
The show that helped launch Rachel Zoe into the headlines — and made everyone everywhere understand how much work actually goes into being a stylist — and basically taught us all the importance of the phrase “I die.”
Drama Rating: 8. Honestly this show was so packed with drama, mostly from assistants Taylor and Brad, that we spent our time watching the show as stressed out as Rachel was at any given moment.
Breakout Star: Brad Goreski, who turned his job as one of Rachel’s newest assistants into a full-blown styling career … and his own Bravo spin-off show.
Moment That’s Burned in Our Brains: When Rachel and Rodger revealed that Taylor (who had been with Rachel for 4 years) had been unceremoniously fired while insinuating that she was stealing from the company.
Does It Hold Up? Oh, for sure. Between the drama and the time capsule element of the outfits on the show, it’s a perfect Friday night face-mask binge watch
Ah, the early aughts, when Lindsay Lohan was the biggest star in the tabloids, and her family got a new reality show all about how mom Dina was attempting to launch little sister Ali’s music career.
Drama Rating: Maybe a 6? Sure the show has its moments, but Lindsay never even appeared once on the show, so how insane could it be?
Breakout Star: While we’d like to say Lindsay’s hot-but-camera-shy brother Michael, honestly, Dina was probably the show’s center point and villain at the same time.
Moment That’s Burned in Our Brains: Watching Dina dance onstage in Las Vegas because … she was just as talented as her daughters?
Does It Hold Up? Not really. Sure, Ali is talented and Cody is a cute kid, but honestly, Lindsay was and always will be the most interesting Lohan.
GROWING UP GOTTI
As an attempt to show that the Gotti family wasn’t as terrifying as the media made them out to be, Victoria — daughter of the infamous John Gotti — and her three sons invited the world into their opulently decorated home.
Drama Rating: A 6, but most of the best drama comes from watching the three Gotti boys fight with each other in the presence of cabinets full of fine china, while Victoria just kind of rolls her eyes.
Breakout Star: John, Carmine and Frank Gotti, who were the original spiky-haired, guido heartthrobs of Jersey girls everywhere.
Moment That’s Burned in Our Brains: When Carmine started a fist fight with his brothers because one of them used his gel.
Does It Hold Up? Honestly, since it’s not available to watch anywhere, it’s hard to tell how interesting the show is in 2018.
PRINCES OF MALIBU
Pre-Kardashians and pre-The Hills, this show follows Brody and Brandon Jenner, two spoiled and heavy-spending 20-somethings that are being cut off by their stepfather, David Foster. (Yes, that David Foster.)
Drama Rating: A solid 7. It’s entertaining and full of hijinks, which makes it perfect for a casual Saturday afternoon binge, but doesn’t require your full attention at all times.
Breakout Star: Spencer Pratt, one of Brody’s best friends who managed to finagle an executive producer credit and a role on The Hills out of his appearances as Foster’s least favorite houseguest.
Moment That’s Burned in Our Brains: The very first episode, when Brody threw a massive pool party for his 21st birthday, and an angry David Foster kicked everyone out while then-wife Linda Thompson happily greeted every guest.
Does It Hold Up? Yes — especially if you use it as an opportunity to spot every pre-fame Kardashian appearance.
After playing the supportive work bestie for years on The Hills, Whitney Port got her own reality show thanks to a “job” working in PR for Diane von Furstenberg in New York.
Drama Rating: A 3 at most. With respect to Whitney, who was our teenage dream BFF, the show itself has a lot less drama than The Hills ever did. (Maybe it was the lack of Spencer and Heidi? Who knows.)
Breakout Star: Olivia Palermo, Whitney’s work frenemy and socialite turned style superstar.
Moment That’s Burned in Our Brains: When Olivia “betrayed” Whitney over her fashion line and PR maven Kelly Cutrone lost her mind and declared “she’s dead!”
Does It Hold Up? Not really, unless you’re dying to see some beautifully savage Olivia Palermo eye rolls.
Think The Bachelor, only the eligible handsome man was a construction worker instead of the millionaire that the girls had been promised they would date.
Drama Rating: Let’s declare it a 7.
Breakout Star: The first bachelor, Evan Marriot, who got to enjoy some minor tabloid fame thanks to his chiseled good looks.
Moment That’s Burned in Our Brains: When the final twist was revealed: That since winner Zora Andrich decided to stay with Marriot even though he’s not a millionaire, they would be able to split a million dollars.
Does It Hold Up? No, not at all.