1. Extreme Makeover: Home Edition: What was intended to be a temporary series actually did much better than the series it was spun off from. The original Extreme Makeover series was about men and women going through extreme makeovers that involved plastic surgery, wardrobe changes, exercise habits, and hairstyles. In the Home Edition spinoff, the focus was families in need that truly need a home upgrade but can’t afford to do it either on their own or can’t bring in a contractor and pay them a lot of money for labor and material. Riding on whatever success the original EM did have, they took the concept to that of the home, brought on Ty Pennington who worked as a carpenter but also was model (a regular on the home improvement show “Trading Spaces” before getting the host gig on EM:HE), and even an artist. A true jack of all trades, and that modeling and carpentry would pay off. The producers did list the help of volunteers and much of the building materials were donated. Depending the situation if the house could be salvaged then only the interior is upgraded…but if the house is beyond repair then the whole house is destroyed and a whole new house is built. The use of skilled and unskilled was key to building the house within a week. The family featured is usually sent away on vacation (paid for by the producers) while the labor works round the clock. It was a staple on ABC’s Sunday night lineup during the mid-2000’s and altogether it ran for nine seasons and 200 episodes. The original EM was a drop in the bucket with four seasons of a total of 54 episodes (52 made it to air).
2. Duck Dynasty: Who would have thought that a series that documented the lives of middle American entrepreneurs would be perfect material for a reality series. But it was, and it was for those who could not care one bit about the nameKardashian (or even Jenner), and for the person that has bought any Duck Commander products and subscribes to the magazine “Sports Afield.” Others might have watched because of their strong Christian beliefs. The success of Duck Dynasty made the Robertson family a true household name (and not just another hunting business), and in spite of their success the family patriarchPhil Robertsonwould not back down from his convictions; even when the consequences of those convictions could have cost him his spot on the show or possibly the immediate end of the show. The fans and their sympathizers stood up, and helped push this show to a total of 11 seasons of 130 episodes. This was indeed middle America’s reality show.
3. Real World: The template of many documentary styled reality TV shows (other than Cops) goes back to this long running series created by Mary-Ellis Bunim and Jonathan Murray, who were actually inspired by the documentary series (and one of the forerunners to reality TV) “An American Family” which PBS aired in the winter of 1973.“An American Family” was intended to document the perfect family so called, actual turned into a documentary about the family being featuring truly breaking up and torn apart. Real World’s earlier years were also inspired by the hit dramas “Beverly Hills 90210” and its spin off “Melrose Place.” Rather than film a series about people that knew and/or were related to each other, Real World takes a group of seven or eight young adultswho have not known each other prior to being cast into the show. They are chosen among a broad range of spectrums (race, gender, sexual orientation, Faith, political and/or cultural convictions, and yes even levels of sexual experiences from the virgin to thepromiscuous). In most seasons, we see these young ones picked up one by one from their hometowns on their way to their temporary home whatever that might be. Usually a major city or a small upper-class community like Key West, Florida. They are shot around the clock and because of the use of an aquarium in every season (if not most of them) they are reminded that they (the Real World cast) are in a fishbowl of sorts for this period in their life. In spite of the controversies that arose within this culture clash coupled with the show’s ageing decline Real World continues to be a staple in MTV’s programing schedule and is the longest running TV series on MTV. To date it has a ran for 32 seasons and produced a total of over 600 episodes.
4. Kate Plus Eight (Originally “Jon & Kate Plus Eight”): Two shows on this list dealing with parents and a full quiver (depending on what you consider to be a full quiver), and this one we really don’t know if they believe in God, attend Church or synagogue, or whatever spiritually. If I had to guess I would say, that they were at least not the Church going type of family and it’s not because the marriage of Jon and Kate Gosselin eventually collapsed, it’s because it was never really talked about. Jon and Kate first met at a company picnic in 1997. Two years later, they marry. Over a year later, they give birth to twins. In 2004 enter the sextuplets and wallla you have the eight kids of Jon and Kate. Television exposure came quickly for the Gosselin’s, beginning with the short lived “Home Delivery” that aired on NBC. That program however proved to be a stepping stone as Discovery Communications took interest in the Gosselins and were featured in a Special that chronicled the Gossleins life of giving birth to twins and sextuplets. There were the talk of the country. After a follow-up special, Discovery Communications offered the couple their own reality show that first aired on Discovery Health and later moved to sister channel TLC. The fifth season premiere scored 9.8 million viewers in the ratings and was one of the most watched shows of the night of May 25, 2009. In spite of the backroom drama (mostly family) and decline in viewership there is still interest (viewers and Discovery Communications) in the Gosslein children, even if Jon has faded out of the spotlight.
5. Cops: Before “Plus Eight” or even the“Real World,” this reality series that chronicled the men and women of law enforcement across the United States (although in its early years Cops did feature special episodes of law enforcement in Russia and in the UK’s capitol city of London). The show’s creators John Langley and Malcolm Barbour, had a hard time selling the show to a proposed network. Thanks to a late 1980’s writers’ strike, FOX agreed to pick up the show in started in the Spring of 1989. The show featured a day or night in the life of officers out on their beats and other duties. The segments are raw with no narration or scripted dialog. It relies solely on the commentary made by the police officers and the people they encounter (their identities can be masked if requested). It would become a staple on FOX’s Saturday night lineup for 25 seasons until FOX canceled it in 2013. MTV’s sister channel Spike would soon pick up the show, and the strains of Inner Circle’s “Bad Boys” continued to be heard in the opening titles, along with the disclaimer (spoken by Harry Newman) that; “all suspects are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.” Cops is currently in its 30th seasons with over 1,000 episodes produced.
6. The Osbournes: Eldest daughter Aimee wanted nothing to do with this series featuring her family in front of the camera, but if it did anything at all, it really made buffoons of the Osbournes themselves…especially Ozzy. The show did have its serious moments as well, including Sharon’s battle with cancer and an ATV accident that almost took the life of Ozzy. Up until the Osbournes we thought of Ozzy spending his time dabbling with the forces of darkness and eating bat heads or whatever those critical of the original Black Sabbath lead singer could come up with. Yes, he did have his own demons to fight, including drug and alcohol abuse. But anyone who accused of Ozzy of devil worship or whatever had those accusations shot down, thanks in part to The Osbournes. Their might have been staging, but if that was truly the case…The Osbornes could be their own version of Larry David’s improvisational comedy series “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”
7. 19 Kids and Counting: With the success with “Jon & Kate Plus Eight” Discovery Commutations decided to build a TV series around another big family. This time it was a family that truly embraced the Biblical Command to be “fruitful and multiply.” While the Quiverfull advocates might applaud Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar for giving birth to 19 children they have made it clear that they put a good distance between themselves and anyone in the “Quiverfull movement.“They did use birth control early in their marriage. Eventually they decided to allow God to decide how big their family should be…and that number between Jim and Michelle would eventually would be 19 although there was a possible 20th child which was attempted but failed twice via miscarriages. The Duggar’s are Independent Baptists and homeschool their children and limit what they and the kids can watch. The show which aired on TLC from 2008-2015 gave viewers a snapshot on their very conservative lifestyle and how they took their faith, and the upbringing of their children seriously. It did have its controversial moment with oldest child Josh Duggar and his confessions of sexually molesting members of his family, thus killing this incarnation of the show. However, a spinoff and sequel series “Counting On” (also airing on TLC) was created in the aftermath of the scandal, and its focus is on the elder Duggars (expect for Josh) and how they carry on their parents’ legacy.