The best reality TV shows on Netflix

Join me in the Nicole Byer fan club.

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When it comes to reality TV, Netflix has a lot to offer. And I mean a lot. Dig deep enough and you’ll come across some wacky offerings, including a show where contestants try to make gourmet meals out of leftovers (Best Leftovers Ever!) and a series all about “pet influencers” (Pet Stars). Those might be good. Honestly, I haven’t spent any time with them. What I do know is that the streamer offers must-have options, which should be part of your TV-watching routine.

Here are five of the best original reality TV shows on netflix.

Nailed (2018-)

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Boredom often sends me to the grocery store to buy cake mix and a tub of frosting. The result of my elbow grease is a lifeless and disappointing heap, but that doesn’t spoil the experience. I mean I still have made something, and it even tastes good. Nailed It delivers the joy of home baking and releases it in an easily devourable half hour. Three non-bakers compete to recreate professional cake pops, iced cookies, and stunning tiered cakes. Some hopefuls unveil some truly disastrous baked goods, but the show still applauds them for putting in the effort. The focus is on having a good time, not replicating some seemingly impossible confection. Charismatic judges Nicole Byer and Jacques Torres deliver hilarious (but ultimately enjoyable) evaluations of the finished treats, which makes it easy to smile.

The Circle (2020-)

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Social media can feel like a game. So why not literally make one? In The Circle, a group of social media-savvy contestants attempt to be crowned the “highest rated” player at the end of the series. Contestants bring high-energy personalities and their own winning strategy – choosing to play as themselves or “catfish” as someone completely different (or something in between those two extremes). They are sequestered in individual rooms and tasked with sending messages to their fellow competitors through a screen. All players periodically “rate” each other, and the top-ranked pair can choose who to eliminate from the competition. It’s a creative concept, and the show has plenty of twists and turns to liven things up. Do you think it would be easy to spot those who completely fake a personality online? Well, you’d be surprised.

Blown (2019-)

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Blown Away did not start on Netflix. It first aired on a Canadian channel called Makeful. But it’s now on the streamer, inviting you to appreciate a thoroughly fascinating art form. Talented glassblowers compete in challenges and follow a theme, whether it’s creating a household item, an original cartoon character or a piece about climate change. Underperforming cast members are eliminated until a winner emerges. It’s a familiar reality competition formula, but the elaborate artistry that’s taken from concept to creation is worth sticking around for. Those who only recognize glass sculptures as finished products sitting in a gallery will appreciate the chance to peek behind the scenes. Prepare to be mesmerized, and maybe even inspired to get up and do something with your hands.

Dating around (2019-)

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I’ve said it before, and I’ll happily say it again: Dating Around is a must-watch for reality TV fans. This Netflix catalog entry has a no-frills premise, which is saying a lot considering its wild society on the streaming platform (Too Hot to Handle, Sexy Beasts, Love Is Blind). Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot to do to invest yourself in what’s happening on screen. Singles in New York and New Orleans share a night of drinks, dinners and conversations, resulting in both unbearably awkward encounters and dazzling chemistry. The show’s scaled-down feel allows its featured actors to shine. Capturing the vibe of the city’s night spots, everything looks fantastic. If I have to keep renting this show, I will. I can’t wait to get my hands on season 3.

Rhythm and Flow (2019-)

Cardi B, Chance the Rapper and Tip “TI” Harris judge this reality TV competition that sees young hopefuls compete to become hip-hop’s next superstar. We have to start by mentioning these three – a big part of the show’s appeal is the time we spend with them. The format of the series resembles options like American Idol. There are live auditions in different cities, only some go back to compete again, and so on. But that roughly halves the total number of episodes. Unsigned rappers are judged on both their vocal ability and their stage presence when speaking and performing. Some of them are stellar, but the show really draws its strength from its celebrity judges (and guest judges — the great Snoop Dogg comes in during the first episode). We know those numbers, and we cling to every word they say. When Cardi B shares that she’s looking for “one of us,” it means something and helps us fully invest in the ride.

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