Reality TV is more than fake tans and vajazzling these days, although there’s some of that in here for good measure. Have a browse through our celebration of 10 reality shows, covering bank heists, SAS selection, being left naked in the wilderness, and plenty more.
1. Ricky and Ralf’s Very Northern Road Trip (Gold)
It’s been eight years since they appeared together as father and son in the Royle Family. Now Ricky Tomlinson and Ralf Little are reuniting for a road trip around northern England.
Hitting the road for six weeks in a campervan, they journey from Liverpool to the Lakes, from York to the Angel of the North, meeting old friends and making new ones on a journey ‘exploring what makes the people in this part of Britain so special’.
Most importantly of all, it’s very funny. It started on Gold on Monday [11 May] and it’s exactly the sort of escapist, feelgood TV we need right now.
What they say: ‘Heartwarming and hilarious’ British Comedy Guide
2. First Dates Hotel (Channel 4)
First Dates Hotel is one of those shows where the most basic things look so out of the ordinary when you’re watching them in lockdown.
Look! People having dinner, in a restaurant, with someone they’ve only just met and they’re less than six feet apart! Not only that, they might even get to stay in a hotel and spend the whole of the following day together.
Except first dates are rarely straightforward, as First Dates Hotel and its parent show, First Dates, have proved time and again. Now into its fifth series, a gloriously entertaining reminder of simpler times past (and ahead).
What they say: ‘The most romantic show on television’ Radio Times
3. Absolutely India: Mancs in Mumbai (ITV)
Travel shows feel even more special during lockdown and Absolutely India: Mancs in Mumbai is no exception.
The Thomas brothers, Ryan, Scott and Adam have appeared in some of ITV’s biggest shows.
They join their father, Dougie, to explore both India and their relationships with each other for this journey of a lifetime currently in the middle of a six-part run on ITV.
What they say: ‘A sweet mix of travel show and family bonding session’ Daily Telegraph
4. The Heist: Million Pound Bank Job (Sky One)
The Heist: Million Pound Bank Job tasks its contestants with stealing a life-changing amount of cash and then hiding their share of the booty from a crack team of detectives.
Beginning as The Heist in 2018, it raised the stakes even further for this year’s second series, The Heist: Million Pound Bank Job.
The ultimate in illicit escapism, it shows what happens when ordinary people are put into extraordinary (and entirely illegal) situations.
What they say: ‘A real-life game of cops and robbers’ Broadcast
5. Naked and Afraid (Discovery)
Lockdown is a reminder for many of us of just how much of modern life we take for granted. Naked and Afraid does something similar but is rather more extreme about it. A lot more extreme.
The Discovery show takes a man and a woman and puts them into a wilderness where they have to survive for three weeks with no food, no water and … no clothes.
An extreme survival show like no other, it returned for its 11th series this year. Just about the only thing that sounds more terrifying is its solo spin-off show, Naked and Afraid: Alone.
What they say: ‘What makes the show great is that we get a chance to marvel at what seems like superhuman abilities … the best reality show on television’ The Guardian
6. Celebrity SAS: Who Dares Wins (Channel 4)
Former British Special Forces soldier Ant Middleton puts celebrities through their paces in the new series of the ‘Who Dares Wins’ reality show currently on Channel 4.
Katie Price, Brendan Cole, Anthea Turner and John Fashanu were among the celebrities who lined up to be put through the gruelling SAS training.
It’s the second celebrity edition of SAS: Who Dares Wins, which first aired on Channel 4 in 2015. Who dares wins. Who doesn’t dare, watches.
What they say: ‘Sweary, sadistic fun proves we’re an ‘orrible lot’ The Times
7. Paddington Station 24/7 (Channel 5)
A day in the life of London’s Paddington Station returns to Channel 5 for a fourth series on Thursday [14 May].
The programme-makers’ all-seeing cameras follow railway workers on the Great Western Mainline as they deal with challenges that range from the everyday to major incidents.
The new series begins with the station readying itself for thousands of extra passengers travelling to the Cheltenham race festival. Like so much of viewing under lockdown, it feels like a glimpse into a different world.
What they say: ‘Follows 12 months of Paddington train station and the Western network … the staff, engineers, drivers and signallers who keep the railway running’ Radio Times
8. Keeping Up with the Kardashians (E!)
To be filed under ‘no list of reality shows would be complete without …’ and ‘needs no introduction …’ comes Keeping Up with the Kardashians.
The continuing adventures of America’s most famous family is not so much a TV show as a way of life (and a multibillion dollar business empire).
It was back for its 18th season this year but just like everyone else they’ve been affected by the lockdown and the show’s return in September will be unlike any other.
What they say: ‘Yes, it’s not the most high-brow entertainment, but that’s kind of the point … Fights, family and old frenemies deliver the perfect distraction’ Radio Times
9. Katie Price: My Crazy Life (Quest Red)
One of the most enduring of all reality TV stars, Katie Price invites viewers into her ‘crazy life’ on Discovery’s Quest Red channel.
It’s 16 years since the phenomenon previously known as Jordan went into the jungle on ITV’s I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!
Now into its fourth series, My Crazy Life is an all-access behind-the-scenes look at the life of the model, businesswoman and 24/7 reality star, at work and at play.
What they say: ‘You need to watch Katie Price: My Crazy Life … as the star talks rehab, romance and that cocaine rap’ London Evening Standard
10. The Only Way is Essex (ITV Be)
It’s the show that made household names out of Gemma Collins, Joey Essex, Mark Wright, Amy Childs … and the ‘vajazzle’.
The original homegrown ‘scripted reality’ show, The Only Way Is Essex helped usher in a new way of doing reality TV and turned 10-years-old this year.
But those birthday celebrations had to be put on hold because of the pandemic which meant fans are having to wait just that bit longer for series 26. But there’s still plenty to enjoy on ITV Be and the ITV Hub.
What they say: ‘Real people, fake tans, true-ish stories’ New York Times