The Most Iconic Reality TV Franchises

Whether you’ve loved reality TV since the first season of The Bachelor aired on ABC back in 2002, or you’re more of a fan of recent Netflix shows like Selling Sunset and Love is Blind, you’ll know that it’s almost impossible to miss out on the deception, drama, and chaos that surrounds some of the biggest reality TV shows.

While some shows have only lasted for one or two seasons, others have stood the test of time and show no sign of being taken off the air any time soon. This got us thinking: which reality TV shows are truly the most iconic?

To answer this question, we took a seed list of popular shows and compared them. We ranked them on factors such as how many awards they’ve been nominated for and won, the size of their social media followings and the volume of mentions they’ve earned, how many series they’ve been running for, Google search volumes, and audience ratings. We then normalized these rankings to create the Most Iconic Reality TV Show Franchises Report. 

Highest-Rated Reality TV Shows According to Audience Scores and Ratings 

To discover which reality TV shows audiences love the most, we took a seed list of popular titles and assigned each a score out of 20. These scores were determined by combining the shows’ IMDb ratings out of 10 with their Google ratings at the time of data collection. 

Impractical Jokers was the most highly rated show, with a score of  19.4/20. This came down to an IMDb rating of 8.6/10 IMDb, and a 94% score on Google. Boasting 10 seasons since its 2011 launch – and complete with spin-off shows and even a movie – the premise of the series centers around a group of friends challenging each other to perform cringeworthy undercover dares and stunts in front of a camera. 

Following closely behind with a score of 19.3/20 was The Great British Bake Off, also known as The Great British Baking Show. The format revolves around a group of amateur bakers completing weekly challenges that test their technical and creative skills until a winner emerges. Like Impractical Jokers, the show’s success has resulted in an array of spin-off productions, including Junior Bake Off, Bake Off: The Professionals, and Bake Off: An Extra Slice.

In third place with a score of 19.1/20 is Clarkson’s Farm, a relatively new show. First premiering in 2021, it follows British Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson as he attempts to run the 1,000-acre farm he purchased in the Cotswolds in 2008. The first episode of the show’s second broke viewing records for Amazon Prime Video in the UK, with 4.3 million people tuning in to watch within the first week of its release. 

With scores of 18.5/20 and 17.8/20 respectively, Love on the Spectrum US and The Traitors UK rounded off our list of the top five most popular reality shows based on audience ratings. 

With an impressive Google rating of 90%, and proving a huge hit worldwide, Love on the Spectrum US follows a group of autistic people as they attempt to find love and build their confidence while dating and building relationships. 

The Traitors UK is the British version of a Dutch show. A group of ‘faithfuls’ work together to find and banish the ‘traitors’ hidden among them before a ‘murder’ takes place each evening. Hosted by Claudia Winkleman and with a current IMDb rating of 8.8/10, the three weekly episodes had viewers hooked during the first two seasons. 

To watch the highest-rated reality TV shows, you need access to streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, ITVX, and Amazon Prime Video. To protect your privacy while bingeing your favorite shows, consider using a VPN for smart TV, which keeps your data safe and protects your privacy while you stream. 

The Most Award-Worthy Franchises 

While you could argue that the number of award nominations and wins netted by reality TV shows doesn’t necessarily reflect their longevity or popularity, they can help shows reach new audiences and acquire larger production budgets for subsequent seasons. 

We researched how many nominations and wins each title received according to IMDb. We then collated this data and assigned a score out of 20 to help us determine which franchise is the most prestigious.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, American Idol came top. With 167 nominations and 55 wins in total, it scored an almost-perfect 19.8/20. With 21 seasons under its belt since launching in 2002, the show has launched the careers of Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, Adam Lambert, and Amber Riley to name a few.

In second place with a score of 19.6/20 is the original RuPaul’s Drag Race, which has received 125 nominations and 76 awards – including 27 Primetime Emmys – since its 2009 premiere on Logo TV. In introducing the art of drag to more mainstream audiences, the show has had a massive cultural impact, and this has been reflected in the huge amount of recognition it’s received at award ceremonies over the past 15 years.  

With 142 nominations and 45 wins since first airing on screens in 2000, the US version of Survivor came in third place. Now in its 46th season, the show sees a group of contestants arrive on an isolated island where they have to find food, shelter, and fire for themselves, all while competing in mental puzzles and physical endurance tasks.

As well as being popular with audiences, The Great British Bake Off also places in the top five most-awarded franchises. The show emerged in joint fourth place with 25 nominations, 10 wins, and a score of 18.3/20. 

In joint fourth place, Top Chef has only won seven awards since its 2006 launch – despite being nominated for an impressive 98 awards and being ranked by Variety as #97 in its list of the 100 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. Like many of the most enduring reality TV shows, Top Chef has maintained a fairly straightforward format over the past 18 years. Each series sees a collection of some of America’s best chefs competing in elimination cooking challenges until one emerges victorious. 

Most Searched-For Reality TV Shows

To determine which reality TV shows audiences can’t stop reading about, we analyzed each title in our seed list to see which shows garnered the highest volume of Google searches between March 2023 and March 2024. 

With 51,950,000 annual searches, American Idol emerged as the most commonly searched for reality TV show during the twelve months studied, followed closely behind by Love Is Blind, with 44,230,000 searches, and Vanderpump Rules, with 34,100,000.

The concept of blind dating isn’t new, but Netflix put a fresh spin on it with their social experiment-style format. Love Is Blind has attracted a huge global audience during its six seasons to date, who presumably take their love of the show online to hunt out further insights. 

Another dating show making the top 10 was Too Hot to Handle – it came in ninth place with 16,290,000 Google searches. The show follows a unique format in which contestants have to refrain from physical contact with one another to win a substantial sum of money.

Vanderpump Rules stars English television personality and entrepreneur Lisa Vanderpump and her staff. It follows them as they run her collection of bars and restaurants while dealing with personal relationships and life dramas. 

The show was originally launched as a spin-off of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. It’s interesting that it received nearly 30,000,000 more Google searches than its predecessor, which received 4,300,000 searches, in the timeframe we analyzed. 

In fourth place was Kitchen Nightmares, a cooking show spearheaded by Gordon Ramsey, arguably one of the world’s most instantly recognizable chefs. Boasting 32,100,000 annual searches, the show follows Ramsey as he visits struggling restaurants and offers no-nonsense advice in attempts to revive their businesses. Although the original series ended in 2014, it was announced in May 2023 that Kitchen Nightmares would reenter production for a brand new season. This goes some way to explaining the significant amount of online search interest for it in the past year. 

Reality TV Shows Generating the Most Social Media Hype

Reality TV now has the unique ability to bring audiences together on social media in real time. Fans take to socials to bond over everything from mutual love of a format to shared disdain for a contestant. 

We wanted to determine which shows were sparking the most conversations across social platforms. We analyzed the number of Instagram hashtags, TikTok posts, and Reddit threads dedicated to each reality TV show. Each show was assigned a ranking score out of 10 for results across each of the three platforms studied. These were combined to give an overall score out of 30.

The top three included RuPaul’s Drag Race, Love Is Blind, and 90-Day Fiance, with respective scores of 29.8, 28.5, and 28.1/30. 

Interestingly, a drag race spin-off also made the top 10: RuPaul’s Drag Race UK took ninth place with a score of 23.3/30. While the British version of the show has generated 322,000 Instagram posts and almost 54,000 TikToks, its American counterpart boasts a staggering 4,600,000 Instagram posts and almost 759,0000 TikToks.

Another British reality TV show to make the top 10 of the ranking in terms of social media dominance was Love Island UK. The original show in the Love Island franchise – which has spawned an astounding 22 versions worldwide – the UK version came sixth place, thanks to its 103,000 Instagram posts, 115,600 TikTok posts, 446,000 Reddit thread followers, and an overall score of 24.3/30. 

Rounding off the top ten with a score of 23.1/30 is the hugely successful Netflix show Selling Sunset, which centers around an LA real estate brokerage and the agents’ professional and personal lives. Since its 2019 premiere, the show’s seven seasons have been the focus of almost 208,000 Instagram, 239,000 Reddit thread followers, and 40,700 TikTok posts. 

The Universal Appeal of Reality TV Shows 

It’s evident from the findings of our report that well-produced, engaging reality TV is still as engaging as ever for audiences looking for escapism in the form of entertainment. 

Social media and internet forums give viewers around the globe the opportunity to seek out content that they can relate to, and the universal appeal of reality TV means that they are no longer limited to shows produced and released within their home country or even continent. 


    • Number of Series It Has Run For
    • IMDb Rating
    • Award Nominations
    • Awards Won
    • Instagram Hashtags
    • TikTok Posts
    • Reddit Thread Followers;
    • Google Rating
    • Google Searches

The team then used a normalized ranking function to score each data point out of 10, to get overall scores out of 20, and 30. The shows were then ranked from highest to lowest based on their score, with the highest score revealing the most iconic shows.

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