From talent competitions and dating shows to bake-offs and survival contests, the 2010s brimmed with new reality TV shows

By Dana Rose Falcone
December 16, 2019 03:48 PM
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The 2000s might have ushered in America’s obsession with reality television, but the 2010s certainly kept up the momentum.

Viewers watched as reality stars opened up their lives during their most vulnerable moments, found love, fought to survive and undercut the competition to win it all (here’s looking at The Challenge‘s Johnny “Bananas” Delvecchio and Ashley Mitchell). And thanks to the decade’s social media boom, the moments will live on as long as tweets and memes. (The Internet will never forget Colton Underwood’s fence jump on The Bachelor or Teresa Giudice flipping a table on The Real Housewives of New Jersey).

The past 10 years gave us the chance to watch a medical professional pop pimples, celebrities compete in a singing competition while in costume and Snopp Dogg and Martha Stewart pair up for a cooking show. While some more niche programs like What Would Ryan Lochte Do?, Kocktails with Khloé and Bridalplasty didn’t make it beyond one season, the below 10 shows became staples of weekly viewing after they debuted over the last decade.

1. Bachelor in Paradise

Krystal Nielson and Chris “Goose” Randone at their Bachelor in Paradise wedding in June 2018.
| Credit: John Fleenor/ABC

This spinoff of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, introduced in 2014, gave contestants who failed at finding love another shot at making a connection with fellow franchise castoffs. Singles from seasons past have since gathered on the beach in Mexico to go on dates and endure rose ceremonies in hopes of finding The One. The show’s future came into question during season 4, when production temporarily halted to investigate concerns about an alcohol-infused sexual encounter between Corinne Olympios and DeMario Jackson. Warner Bros. found no evidence of misconduct, so the show employed stricter alcohol limitations for its contestants and finished out the season. In its six seasons, BiP has led to life-long connections for couples like Ashley Iaconetti and Jared Haibon, Jade Roper and Tanner Tolbert, Krystal Nielson and Chris “Goose” Randone, and Even Bass and Carly Waddell, who have all gotten married since meeting at on the beach. Roper and Tolbert and Bass and Waddell have also each welcomed two kids since appearing on the show.

2. The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills season 9 castmates (from left) Denise Richards, Erika Girardi, Dorit Kemsley, Kyle Richards, Lisa Rinna, Teddi Mellencamp and Lisa Vanderpump.
| Credit: Bravo

Bravo’s Housewives franchise expanded to Beverly Hills in 2010, originally introducing Taylor Armstrong, Camille Grammer, Adrienne Maloof, Kim Richards, Kyle Richards and Lisa Vanderpump. While the stars of the show have ebbed and flowed over the last 10 years (Kyle remains the only full-time OG Housewife), RHOBH continued to give viewers top-notch drama, like Taylor and Camille’s season 2 spat, the fight in Amsterdam, Brandi and Kyle’s argument (“You want to f—in’ see ghetto, I’ll show you ghetto!”) and numerous drug accusations. We still don’t know: Were people doing coke in your bathroom?

3. The Voice

The Voice season 17 host Carson Daly (center) with judges (from left) Blake Shelton, Gwen Stefani, John Legend and Kelly Clarkson.
| Credit: Trae Patton/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

The NBC singing competition broke the mold when it launched in 2011 and give hopeful singers a fair shot at launching a music career regardless of their physical appearance. The coaches — Christina Aguilera, CeeLo Green, Adam Levine and Blake Shelton in season 1 — sit with their backs to the stage as perspective candidates sing and try to impress the pros with their voice alone. If a coach likes what they hear, they slam their buzzer and their chair turns around, giving them their first look at the singer they want to mentor. If multiple coaches turn around, then the performer gets to decide on whose team they want to compete. The Voice has launched the careers of county stars Danielle Bradbery and Cassadee Pope, boasted three PEOPLE Sexiest Man Alive titleholders and even seen judges Shelton and Gwen Stefani find love on set.

4. Jersey Shore

The cast of MTV”s Jersey Shore
| Credit: MTV

Jersey Shore technically premiered in December 2009, but it truly propelled to pop culture glory when the new decade rolled around. College students flocked to Jersey Shore-themed parties once winter break ended and suddenly everyone wasGTLing like the guidos on MTV. From the moment Angelina entered the Seaside Heights, N.J. house with her belongings packed in trash bags, Snooki, JWoww, Vinny, The Situation, DJ Pauly D, Sammi “Sweetheart” and Ronnie captured America with their late nights at Karma (followed by even later nights in The Smush Room), days working at the t-shirt shop and Italian-style family dinners. The original run lasted six seasons and came back by popular demand in 2018 to see the group head to in Miami and Las Vegas. Sammi and Ron’s love might not have lasted, but fans still shout “Cabs are here!” every time their Uber arrives.

5. 90 Day Fiancé

90 Day Fiancé season 5’s David Vasquez and Evelyn Cormier.

TLC shone a light on the unique relationships of international couples who apply for K-1 visas, which require the visiting partner to marry their U.S. citizen beau within 90 days of entering the country, or they must return home. The documentation of that stressful process captured audiences, including celeb fan Chrissy Teigen, since the show began in 2014, so much so that the series inspired six spin-offs: 90 Day Fiancé: Happily Ever After, 90 Day Fiancé: What Now?, 90 Day Fiancé: The Other Way, 90 Day Fiancé: Pillow Talk, 90 Day Fiancé: Before the 90 Days and The Family Chantel, focusing on season 4 cast members Pedro and Chantel. While the unconventional path to love didn’t work out for all of the pairs, over a dozen couples from the show remain married and have started families together.

6. Dance Moms

Abby Lee Miller
| Credit: Lifetime

The Lifetime series introduced one of reality TV’s most polarizing characters in 2011: dance company owner and instructor Abby Lee Miller. Miller drilled the dance team of pre-teen and teen girls each week, frequently criticized their appearances and ranked her students in hopes of pushing everyone to do their best at competitions. What went down inside the studio between the students, who included Sia’s prodigy Maddie Ziegler and current Nickelodeon star JoJo Siwa, sparked feuds among their moms outside of it. Some of the other mothers even went on to form their own teams or open separate studios, and Miller herself left the show in season 7. Off-screen, Miller faced a slew of legal problems, most notably being sentenced to one year and one day in prison after pleading guilty in June 2016 to bankruptcy fraud charges.

7. Teen Mom 2

Pregnant Jenelle Evans
| Credit: Source: David Eason Instagram

The Teen Mom family continued to grow when Teen Mom 2 kicked off in 2012. Centered on the lives of Chelsea DeBoer, Jenelle Evans, Kailyn Lowry and Leah Messer, the series followed their day-to-day parenting and dating woes as young mothers, custody battles and other legal issues, family drama and fights with one another. The drama often continued outside of the show on social media, which kept fans of the MTV series captivated even when the show wasn’t airing. Briana DeJesus, who also appeared on Teen Mom 3, and Jade Cline from Teen Mom: Young and Pregnant joined the cast in later seasons.

8. Fixer Upper

Chip and Joanna Gaines.

Contracting and design duo Chip and Joanna Gaines put Waco, Texas on the map while getting viewers hooked on home renovation and all things DIY. Not only did Chip and Joanna have Fixer Upper loyalists devoted to shiplap and subway tile since the show’s start in 2013, but the Gaines’ sweet relationship at home and at work also gave fans a reason to believe in love. The parents of five played a key part in the decade’s boom in home reno and house-flipping shows, and they’ve gotten so big that they need their own network. In October 2020, Magnolia TV network will join their empire, which already includes a home decor line, a market and coffee shop, and their own lifestyle magazine.

9. The Great British Bake Off

The Great British Baking Off’s (from left) Paul Hollywood, Mary Berry, Sue Perkins and Mel Giedroyc.
| Credit: Mark Bourdillon

The baking contest debuted on BBC 2 in the U.K. in 2010, and thanks to syndication on PBS and then Netflix, the charming program found an audience among American viewers, who appreciated the show’s less aggressive approach to a competition. The amateur bakers face off in three challenges each week, and one contestant whose creating doesn’t rise to the top gets eliminated at the end of each episode. To wrap up the decade, former GBBO judge Mary Berry reached peak British by bringing Prince William and Kate Middleton on for a Christmas baking special.

10. Queer Eye

Jonathan Van Ness and Tan France get emotional during an episode in Japan.
| Credit: Netflix

Notalgia ruled the 2010s, giving way to television reboots and revivals galore. Reality TV wasn’t exempt from the trend, and in 2018, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy arrived on Netflix with a new Fab Five — and without the straight guy element, since the experts work with men and women of all orientations. Bobby Berk, Karamo Brown, Tan France, Jonathan Van Ness and Antoni Porowski headed to small-town America to elevate clients’ interior design, culture, fashion, grooming and food, respectively. The Fab Five unveiled touching personal stories and tackled controversial issues, making each episode more impactful and emotional than the last. In 2019, they even brought their life-changing capabilities to Japan. Fabulous!