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At a time when reality’s not feeling all that real, I’m looking one place and one place only for my source of lockdown entertainment: the sweet, forbidden world of guilty pleasure reality TV shows. Whether you’re 15 seasons deep in Keeping Up with the Kardashians or you roll your eyes at the mention of Real Housewives, there’s something in today’s reality TV landscape for everybody — and we do mean everybody. From Pawn Stars to Supernanny and Fixer Upper to Dating Naked, there’s a reality show just dying for your undivided attention. And believe me: you’ll be happy you found it, starting with tonight’s season 12 return of Real Housewives of New Jersey.
There’s something uniquely peaceful about watching reality shows, especially when those shows consist of people who live in our world but have not yet heard of COVID-19 or a stay-at-home order. While many of these shows follow real people’s lives and therefore run into real-life issues, they’re typically resolved within twenty minutes (or a season arc, if the producers are playing the long game). There’s sad, ominous music as pressures mount, and upbeat music as tensions ease. It’s life — but life compartmentalized into soundbites, competitions, staged conversations with friends. Reality TV invites you to live in someone else’s world and then makes it insanely comfortable for you to stay there.
Be honest: Doesn’t the idea of stepping into someone else’s reality right now sound nice? Personally, I’d rather invest an hour in The Great British Bake Off than depress myself trying to watch Twin Peaks for the hundredth time. Prestige TV has a time and place, and I’m feeling like the middle of a pandemic is not one of them. We’re all switching on Netflix for the same reason here. Why not indulge in something that will really distract you the way you want?
For your next binging session, here are the best reality TV shows to choose from right now.
A version of this was originally published in May 2020.