Reality TV: You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

July 17, 2012

Reality TV has captured audiences worldwide, firmly lodging itself in today’s pop culture landscape. But did you know that one of the first reality TV shows dates back to the 1970s? An American Family, a television documentary on PBS from 1973 in the style of cinéma verité, chronicled the trials of a suburban family.

Today, reality TV takes us on wild adventures to exotic destinations, gives us a chance to choose our next pop star, and even promises to help us find love. It has reinvigorated careers, created celebrities, and democratized talent. But most importantly, it continues to entertain and often amazes us.

We’ve put together a list of the must-see reality TV shows this season—so make sure to tune in or add them to your DVR.

The Great Escape
NFL’s Ron Eisen hosts the latest adventure reality competition. Follow three teams as they try to escape labyrinthine sites that include Alcatraz, the USS Hornet, a Titan missile silo, and a Louisiana swamp in a race to win $100,000. Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on TNT.

Beverly Hills Nannies
If you’re a fan of the Housewives, now you can catch all the drama… of their nannies. From shopping for baby designer duds to ladysitting, go inside some of Hollywood’s glitziest homes and see what it’s really like to take care of kids in California’s wealthiest ZIP code. Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on ABC Family.

Opening Act
Nigel Lythgoe, producer of American Idol and a judge on So You Think You Can Dance, hosts the newest reality talent competition. Along with a team of talent hunters, he scours the Internet for videos of undiscovered stars, and surprises the lucky ones with a chance to open for Rod Stewart, Nicki Minaj, LMFAO, and Jason Aldean. Mondays at 10 p.m. ET on E!.

The newest dating show follows three women from different stages in life on their quest to find true love. Inspired by an Israeli reality show, 3 promises to take a more realistic approach to the dating process, avoiding the fairytale elements of The Bachelorette. Premieres Thursday, July 26, at 10 p.m. ET on CBS.

The Franchise
The docu-series is back for its second season, taking us inside the MLB by following players on and off the field. This season will feature the Miami Marlins in their new park. Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET on SHOWTIME.