The 2000s was an iconic decade for many reasons, and quality reality television is certainly one of them. Over those ten years, audiences were able to experience just about every type of reality TV show imaginable — from following the lives of elite Orange Country teens, to traveling across the country to spend time with eccentric, attractive Italians in New Jersey, to watching aspiring chefs duke it out for a once-in-a-lifetime shot at working in one of Gordon Ramsay's kitchens — the options were endless! A particular favorite, though? None other than "Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica." In celebration of the 25th anniversary of the show's finale on March 30, 2020, Wonderwall.com is taking a look at the best reality TV series of the 2000s. Kicking off our list is the aforementioned series that starred pop stars Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey. The series, which ran for three seasons, followed their marriage and gave fans a look into the everyday happenings of the successful singers as they try to balance married life and their careers before their marriage ultimately ended in 2006. While Jessica wasn't always painted in the smartest light (long live the Chicken of the Sea reference), the show is quintessentially early 2000s. Keep reading to see more…
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We don't know what's better — the fact that this show's theme song was "Come Clean" by the one and only Hilary Duff or that it gave us the iconic Lauren Conrad (better known as L.C.), Kristin Cavallari, and Stephen Colletti love triangle. The show branded itself as the "The Real Orange County," having debuted in 2004, just one year after the teen drama series "The O.C." premiered on Fox. "Laguna Beach" was responsible for launching the careers of many of its stars, including those in the aforementioned love triangle (Lauren went on to become a fashion designer and author, Kristin became a television personality, and Stephen took up acting). The MTV series, which ran for three seasons, not only gave us quality high school drama, but it also gave us this famous spin-off series…
Fans were ecstatic to hear that they would get the opportunity to see Lauren Conrad after high school as she ventured to Los Angeles to pursue her dream of working in fashion. "The Hills" chronicled Lauren's new life in the City of Angels, as audiences watched her live the LA dream with her besties Heidi Montag, Audrina Patridge, and Whitney Port. While there were many memorable moments from the series, the most notable one is perhaps the infamous blow out fight between Lauren and Heidi that gave us the iconic "I want to forgive you, and I want to forget you" line. "The Hills" premiered in 2006 and had Lauren as its protagonist until she left in 2009. From 2009 until the show's conclusion in 2010, "Laguna Beach" alum and former rival of Lauren, Kristin Cavallari, took over as the main character.
"The Simple Life"
Two words: That's hot. "The Simple Life," which ran from 2003 to 2007 saw privileged LA socialites Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie try to experience life without luxury. Stripped of their unlimited supply of money, extravagant parties, wardrobes, and vehicles, Paris and Nicole were forced to spend time with families who may as well have lived on a different planet. It's hard to pick just one favorite moment from the series — from the time Paris literally thought Walmart sold walls to when the girls worked at a tanning salon — there are just too many iconic ones to pick from!
While this series is currently in its 18th season, the earlier seasons hold a special place in our hearts. Premiering in June 2002, "American Idol" not only left a lasting impact on popular culture, but on the reality television landscape as a whole — the series served as a pioneering example of what it meant for audiences to be able to engage and interact directly with the content they were consuming. Fan interaction was huge for "American Idol," which also boosted the career of pop music expert, Simon Cowell, who famously went on to create groups like One Direction and Fifth Harmony. And winners like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and Jennifer Hudson went on to craft immensely successful music careers.
Given just how many seasons and spin-offs there's been, it's hard to believe that "The Bachelorette" premiered 17 years ago in 2003. While the series continues to grow its fanbase, there's something particularly special about its earlier seasons. The first season had Trista Rehn — now known as Trista Sutter — as its bachelorette, and she was an absolute sweetheart. What's more adorable is that she's still married to the man she met and fell in love with on the series, Ryan Sutter, with whom she shares two children. Throughout the 2000s, "The Bachelorette," along with its male-counterpart "The Bachelor" were among the two most popular reality television series of the decade.
"Big Brother," the CBS reality game show which gave beloved television personality Julie Chen her start, premiered at the start of the '00s on July 5, 2000. The concept alone was enticing to watch unfold — a handful of contestants referred to as 'Houseguests' enter a home where they are under 24/7 surveillance and must form alliances and compete against each other for the $500K grand prize. The series was a favorite because of its focus on the importance of game play — while reality television shows are often mindless, enjoyable sources of escapism, "Big Brother" was refreshing in that it required strategy and game play. The series' 22nd season is set to premiere in 2020.
"Keeping Up With the Kardashians"
"Keeping Up With the Kardashians," which debuted in 2007, introduced us to the famous Calabasas family. Consisting of Kim, Kourtney, Khloe, Kendall, Kylie, and their 'momager' Kris, the series was addictive to watch largely because of the way in which the sisters interacted with each other — it was hard not to be enticed by the family's interpersonal dynamics and the luxurious Californian lifestyles they led. "Keeping Up," which just premiered its 18th season, captured the essence of the 2000s — from Kim Kardashian's frosted lips to her velour tracksuit and multi-colored Louis Vuitton bag, the show's earlier seasons serve as a total blast from the past.
Just as "American Idol" gave aspiring singers the opportunity to showcase their vocal prowess, "Project Runway" gave burgeoning fashion designers the opportunity to hone their craft. The series, which premiered in 2004, was hosted by supermodel Heidi Klum for a whopping 13 years until 2017. What makes the fashion reality series so special though, is the way in which it gives unknown designers the platform to further their careers — the show incorporates contestants from various walks of life that come together in New York City to pursue their dreams. Another reason to love this '00s reality series? Tim Gunn!
Who knew watching celebrities get pranked could be so entertaining? Hosted and co-created by Ashton Kutcher, "Punk'd," which premiered on MTV in 2003 and ran until 2007, was a hidden camera-reality television series that saw celebrities being put in puzzling situations only to find out that it was all a practical joke. The series' first episode, which showed Justin Timberlake being made to believe that the American government was seizing his property due to unpaid taxes, was listed as #3 in Time Magazine's 32 Epic Moments in Reality-TV History list. Ciara, Rachel Bilson, Tony Hawk, and Ryan Cabrera were also pranked on the show.
If you're anything like us, you've seen far too many compilation videos of Gordon Ramsay giving his contestants on "Hell's Kitchen" some serious tough love. The reality television cooking series, which premiered in 2005, shows two teams of chefs — the red team and the blue team — as they duke it out against one another in hopes of being the sole winner that gets to become the head chef at one of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants. While it premiered in the 2000s, the series has gone on for 18 seasons and its 19th season is reportedly set to premiere sometime in 2020.
"Flavor of Love"
"Flavor of Love," which debuted on Jan. 1, 2006 and ran for three seasons, followed rapper Flavor Flav of Public Enemy on his journey to find love. Aside from the meme-worthy moments Tiffany "New York" Pollard gave us, the show also incorporated the iconic "clock ceremony" (similar to "The Bachelor" franchise's rose ceremony) where contestants who were not eliminated received gold clocks to wear around their necks to symbolize safety. Up until its series finale on May 26, 2008, "Flavor of Love" was a memorable '00s reality dating show that was as cringeworthy as it was addictive.
"What Not to Wear"
When we think of 2000s reality television shows this is one that instantly comes to mind. "What Not to Wear," which premiered in January 2003, follows sartorially-inclined individuals Stacy London and Clinton Kelly as they help unsuspecting 'fashion felons' makeover their wardrobes. Each episode, the contestant is given $5K to spend on new clothes under one condition: they must throw out their entire existing wardrobe. The series was a delight to watch — it not only incorporated fun and informative fashion tips, but it also showed contestants facing their fears and growing more confident by the end of the episode.
We couldn't create a list of best reality television shows of the 2000s and not include this one. Hosted by Jeff Probst, "Survivor" premiered on CBS in the year 2000, and is currently in its 40th season. The reality competition series sees a group of strangers in an isolated area, where they must fend for themselves for however long they're on the show. The contestants have the opportunity to compete for resources, rewards, and immunity from elimination, with the last person standing being awarded the grand prize of $1M. Similar to "Big Brother," the US version of "Survivor" has amassed a cult following over its 20 years of being on the air. Aside from having charismatic television personality, Jeff Probst, as its long-running host, the concept itself is also fascinating — the intricate game play mixed with the social experiment aspect of the series makes it both intriguing and rewarding to watch.
"America's Next Top Model"
Created by American supermodel Tyra Banks, "America's Next Top Model," which premiered in 2003, is a reality television series that showed aspiring models competing for the coveted title and a chance to kickstart their career in the fashion industry. While the show was entertaining to watch in its earlier seasons, past winners have since come out and slammed the series for not helping its winners further their modeling careers. That being said, the show had no shortage of dramatic moments (i.e. Tyra's melodramatic "I was rooting for you" rant in Season 4).
"The Osbournes," which premiered in 2002, is often credited for paving the way for the slew of family-based reality television shows that followed — without the television series that showcased the eccentric dynamics between the 'unconventional' members of the Osbourne family, we might never have gotten "Keeping Up With the Kardashians." "The Osbournes," which focused on family members Ozzy, Sharon, Kelly, and Jack, served two purposes: it gave audiences a more intimate look at the rockstar's family life and helped MTV rebrand itself as more of a reality television channel.
"Pimp My Ride"
Note to self: Go to West Coast Customs for a car upgrade. If there's one series that perfectly captures the essence of MTV reality television during the early 2000s, this is certainly it. Hosted by rapper Xzibit, "Pimp My Ride" premiered in 2004, and lucky contestants got their cars upgraded in the most extravagant and often unnecessary of ways. From multi-colored flame throwers to chocolate fountains, these newly customized cars were the definition of 'extra,' but that's exactly what viewers enjoyed tuning in for.
"Making the Band"
Co-created by con-artist Lou Pearlman, "Making the Band" was a reality television series that ran from 2000 to 2009, and created musical acts like O-Town, Danity Kane, Da Band, Day26, and Donnie Klang. Except for the first iteration of the show which featured O-Town (pictured here), rapper-record producer Diddy, oversaw all subsequent seasons of the series. Under Diddy's guidance, the show was seen as a cultural phenomenon for the way it revolutionized the public's understanding of what it meant to create a breakout musical act. In 2019, it was announced that "Making the Band" would return to MTV sometime in 2020.
It was always a relief when you made it to the end of the 1-hour episode and heard Joe Rogan say the words, "Fear is not a factor for you!" to the more-than-deserving winner. Initially hosted by UFC commentator Joe Rogan, "Fear Factor" premiered in 2001, and saw contestants competing in unusual and often disgusting stunts in hopes of winning the grand prize of $50K. If you had the stomach for it, "Fear Factor" made for a pretty entertaining watch.
Never have we ever wanted so badly to live in a beachside house with seven complete strangers. "Jersey Shore," which premiered just before the end of the decade in December 2009, was among the last great shows to debut before the 2010s. From the now-famous phrase of "Gym, Tan, Laundry" to the intricate tutorial Pauly D gave us for how he does his hair on a daily basis, the series was iconic in its own right. With all of its drama, tears, and cringeworthy moments, it was hard not to love this crazy bunch.