Keep it real: Spend a week with our picks for ‘interesting’ reality TV shows
Not all reality TV is created equal.
Some network shows such as “The Bachelor” and “American Idol” have millions of viewers, grabbing tabloid magazine covers and social media headlines.
Others, however, play in relative anonymity on niche channels, where the lead characters rarely, if ever, trend on Twitter or grace a “People” cover.
I have screened Internet clips and episodes of a number of reality shows to help you get out of your television rut and find new or relatively unknown reality shows for your TV-watching routine.
I understand some know about these TV gems, but others may be thinking, “I would never watch a show about duck hunters or human parasites.”
Read on to find out why you just might be wrong.
“Breaking Amish” on TLC.
From the channel that brought you Jon and Kate Gosselin, whose marriage literally unraveled before viewers, and Honey Boo Boo, the 6-year-old pageant princess of a show TV critic Tim Goodman called “awful and soul-crushing,” comes this train wreck.
As the title suggests, the show is about five young men and women struggling with whether to break away from their strict Amish or Mennonite upbringing. To help them decide, producers took the quintet to New York City to experience work, romance and lifestyle choices in “the real world.”
Because, you know, New York City is pretty much like the rest of the world.
The series is seven episodes in and previous episodes and clips are available at tlc.discovery.com.
In true reality TV fashion, multiple scandals and rumors about the show’s legitimacy have surfaced since “Breaking Amish” first aired more than a month ago, so who knows what to think.
Potential lying and deceit aside, it’s fascinating. These five young men and women are not actors and aren’t famous enough to not really care what they say in a city where most could care less who they are. Besides, the show’s subject matter is unique. Most people likely have little understanding of what it’s like to grow up Amish.
“My Shopping Addiction” on Oxygen.
This show promises to be “an intimate look into the lives of young people facing a crisis brought on by a dangerous addiction to spending,” according to the show’s website, my-shopping-addiction.oxygen.com.
Personally, I’m not addicted to buying things I can’t afford. I am, however, interested in the story behind the people who blow rent money on purses. It’s dangerous, and probably more common than even I could guess.
In a clip online, producers showed an intervention with the character Heather, where she broke down with a profanity-laced tirade — bleeped out, of course — aimed at her friend for having the audacity to question her behavior because she’s not going to use her money to sponsor an orphanage like Oprah.
Because, you know, apparently Oprah is the only one allowed to help people.
Shows like this leave you shaking your head, but just maybe they help people realize the danger of addictive behavior.
I didn’t find any obscure shows I liked for this day. So use this time to catch up on episodes of other shows you missed from previous weeks. Or read a book?
“Duck Dynasty” on A&E.
This is my new favorite show. In fact, I could argue the first three minutes of the Season 2 premiere, “The Grass & The Furious,” on Oct. 10, was among the most hysterical three minutes in TV history.
Don’t believe me? Catch past episodes at http://www.aetv.com/duck-dynasty.
Essentially, “Duck Dynasty” is about the Robertson family, founders of Duck Commander. The company makes duck calls and duck decoys, which might seem ridiculously boring, but I can only urge you to watch an episode.
The dialogue is priceless.
The language is clean, and the family dynamic is refreshingly stable and strong. In other words, it’s the opposite of most reality shows nowadays.
“Toy Hunter” on Travel Channel.
Jordan Hembrough is a renowned toy collector, and that alone is a reason to watch.
From Star Wars to Care Bears, Hembrough geeks out on all-things toys and is on a mission to purchase rare toys and sell them to collectors. Boy, there’s a market for collectible toys or film props, based on the clips at, http://www.travelchannel.com/tv-shows/toy-hunter.
For example, Hembrough stumbles upon a rocket firing Boba Fett character from Star Wars in one of the episodes that was never mass produced. What?!! A rare Star Wars toy?!? That was basically his reaction.
Although collecting toys is not for everyone, there may be a sense of nostalgia in this show for people who remember what it was like to play with toys that are now worth tens of thousands of dollars.
Not gonna lie, I’m kind of upset my mother gave me Barbie dolls to play with instead of keeping them boxed up in mint condition.
“Four Weddings” on TLC.
Here is the teaser on the show’s website: “What happens when four brides with four totally different styles agree to attend and judge one another’s weddings?”
The answer? I’m watching.
For some reason, brides cast in TLC reality shows think they are most important people in the history of ever. Whether they are shopping for dresses or showing off their wedding rings, TLC brides are all sorts of catty and braggy.
In this show, they get to judge other brides with the winner getting a honeymoon.
Although “Four Weddings” started in 2009, and TLC bridal shows tend to be popular, I haven’t heard much talk about this one. Maybe that’s because people dislike watching strangers get married, or dislike the idea of brides judging other brides. No worries. These women volunteered to be on the show. Judge away.
“Monsters Inside Me” on Animal Planet.
The good news? This show is educational. The bad news? You may never eat or go outside again.
Since this show began in 2009, “Monsters Inside Me” has documented stories about parasites that live on or in humans. The shows include animated dramatizations of how the parasites work, which, honestly, is about as scary as anything on TV today.
The third season premiered Friday, Oct. 5.
“Yukon Men” on Discovery Channel.
I’m struggling to explain how equally interesting, shocking and empowering this show is particularly for people like me who cringe at the thought of spending one night outdoors.
The show follows the daily lives of the people of Tanana, Alaska, considered one of the most remote villages in Alaska. And, trust me, it is.
The people of Tanana truly rely on each other. I mean, they compete with wolves for food. Wolves!
They work hard just to survive, and the word “hard” might be an understatement. However, you get the impression that these villagers wouldn’t want it any other way. Powerful stuff.
“Too Cute” on Animal Planet.
You win, Animal Planet. This show is pretty cute. After a long week of work, youth athletic games, episodes of “Yukon Men,” whatever, relax with 60 minutes of nothing but baby animal videos.
Seriously. That’s it. “Too Cute” is videos and stories about baby animals.
One warning: I don’t suggest watching “Too Cute” if you are on the fence about buying a puppy or kitten because after this show, you DEFINITELY WILL.
Check your local listings or on screen guide for air times.