The Best Reality TV From Someone Who Hates Reality TV

Caroline Richards ’22

A&E Editor

Reality TV: what a concept. Honestly, when I hear someone say “reality TV,” I visibly cringe. I’ve never been a reality TV watcher, despite the seemingly endless array of people who keep giving me reasons why I should. For those of you out there who have ever recommended reality TV to a friend, you’ll be happy to know that it worked. Here I am, writing about reality TV. I hope you’re happy.    

For these reviews, I did some “research” and found a few reality TV shows that might actually have potential. I tried to steer clear of the “basic” reality TV in search of some of the more unpopular or underrated shows. 

So, if you’re considering taking the deep-dive into reality TV, or are an avid reality TV watcher already, this one’s for you

1. American Pickers

    This show is the modern equivalent of hunting for buried treasure, but the treasure is discarded trash  and the hunting ground is the continental United States. For the life of me I cannot seem to pin down why this show is so entertaining. First of all, who the fuck came up with this one? Two guys who travel around to different places collecting often weird, yet somehow really expensive, antiques? Yes. Amazing the things we didn’t know we needed in our life. American Pickers follows two guys around, pickers Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz (which, I know, sound like made-up names from an erotic novel), as they buy various collectors items or antiques from people in the Midwest. 

    They usually end up reselling them for profit, but sometimes if it’s a really good find, they’ll add it to their own personal collections. What makes the show exciting is the thrill of seeing all the places they go and people they meet to collect from. Oftentimes, it’s people with hoards of antiques laying around in their barn or garage, or it’s people who have inherited a bunch of junk and don’t know what to do with it. 

      Either way, there is something undeniably thrilling about seeing one of them pull a treasure up from the depths of these junk-yards and bringing it back to life. From old Coca-Cola signs to vintage bicycles and centuries-old pottery, the hosts find the most random stuff you could imagine. Plus, the history of antiques can actually be interesting? Worth the watch: you might just learn something. 

2. Gold Rush

Gold Rush is the American Dream revamped wearing a camouflage Carhartt jacket and smoking a cig in a 500 horsepower mining tractor. It is, in essence, a must watch. My dad is obsessed with this show and once made me watch an episode with him despite my outspoken complaints about reality television. Needless to say, we ended up binge watching five or six episodes because it is wildly entertaining. Undoubtedly, humanity has an obsession with the strange and exotic, and this show reveals the most strange and insane lifestyle you didn’t even know existed. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time because the stakes are real stakes. 

It’s not like The Bachelor, where the stakes are made mostly for dramatic effect; this show has real people’s lives and livelihoods on the line. The basic premise of the show is to narrate the gold mining efforts of multiple family-run mining companies in the Klondike region of Dawson City, Yukon in Canada. It showcaes the people who live in the middle of nowhere with just their families, mining for gold and using the most sophisticated, sensitive construction equipment and technology out there. There are always internal feuds, family-against-family fights, the machinery is guaranteed to break down pretty much every episode, and the need to meet certain quotas is a constant stressor. There is so much money on the line, it’s hard to fathom. And, the people involved are always the most interesting cast of characters from all over.

3. Deadliest Catch

 This Discovery Channel show  will have you watching gritty fishermen haul up nets of mean-looking crabs from the depths of the Bering Sea in climates that look so cold you will feel cold despite the comfort of your position on the couch. Deadliest Catch follows a series of fishermen during their two different seasons of commercial fishing: October for the king crab and January for the snow crab. Over the course of a single episode, you watch them dodge flying crab pots, navigate the uneven boat terrain, and deal with pieces of things breaking for one reason or another, all while battling some of the worst and most dangerous sea conditions on the planet. Everyone is always yelling over the wind, the waves are always soaking the crew-members with salt water, and someone always falls and hurts themselves. It’s thrilling, I say! 

Alaskan Crab Fishing is considered to be one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. In multiple episodes, a boat will sink and everyone will have to be rescued by the Coast Guard, including the cameramen on the boat who are filming. On top of all that stress, there are also feuds among the fisherman and between boats concerning who can bring in the most crab in the least amount of time. A key component to the drama is the “greenhorns,” the new, rookie fishermen who have just recently joined the crew. They’re constantly running into issues and it’s so satisfying to see them finally gain their footing over the course of a season. Danger! Sudden Doom! Crab Claws! Lots of Swearing! This show breeds anxiety like no other. Stay warm when watching and don’t be afraid of the water.

4. Love Island

Love Island is a stupid, yet frustratingly addictive series about people with British accents living in a villa and wearing bathing suits while competing in what might be called “the dating Olympics.” It took me so long to watch this show out of a sheer need to maintain my sense of self-respect. However, I have come to understand that self-respect is an illusion and, ironically, this stupid show is what taught me that. What makes it so goddamn fun to watch is that shit ALWAYS hits the fan. In the second season of the show, two girls are kicked out of the villa for literally assaulting each other because one of them accidentally spilled wine on the other. 

In another episode a couple has sex on camera because they assumed it would never be aired and guess what? It was  aired! Another time, Miss. Great Britain Zara Holland was stripped of her title because of her behaviour in the villa. Absolute craziness. Whether it be the trashy outfits, the comically dramatic ends these people will go to in order to achieve their goals, or the sheer amount of alcohol that’s consumed on screen, this show’s hilarity is never-ending. The unpredictability is unmatched, in my opinion, by any other dating show. You never know what’s going to happen, and the parameters are so loose that you find out quickly that anything can and does happen. The way the islanders interact with each other is so raw and blunt, some of the things they do and say simply cannot be legal things to do and say. If you’re looking for something light and simultaneously absurd, watch this show. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!


Brendan W. Clark '21 is the current Editor-in-Chief of the Trinity Tripod, Trinity College's student newspaper.

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