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20 Best Reality TV Shows On MTV


20 Best Reality TV Shows On MTV


Summary

  • MTV’s groundbreaking reality TV shows like The Real World set the stage for the genre’s popularity today.
  • Shows like Teen Mom and The Challenge cemented MTV’s reputation for authentic storytelling and riveting competitions.
  • From Jersey Shore to True Life, MTV continues to produce reality TV content that resonates with a wide audience.



While reality TV has been one of the most rapidly growing genres in the last several decades overall, the reality TV genre wouldn’t be as popular as it is without the influence and work of MTV. Throughout the last several years, reality TV has found entire networks, like Bravo, dedicated to unscripted content. Before it was so widely accepted, though, reality TV had homes on very few networks, as it wasn’t as popular as it’s become in recent years.

Despite knowing that reality TV was frowned upon during the 1990s and early 2000s, MTV took a risk on the genre and began to create shows that appealed to their audience. Though its original aim was to bring music videos to TV, MTV’s demographic got wider throughout its first decade, and in its second, the viewership broadened further. With interest in reality TV on the rise in the younger generation, MTV added some unscripted content to their roster.


Beginning with shows like The Real World and Road Rules, the content that MTV was producing was groundbreaking and revolutionary. Bringing people together from all walks of life and discovering what would happen when they were faced with circumstances that weren’t entirely in their control, people were able to grasp the true breadth of human nature while being entertained at the same time. Reality TV created a niche of entertainment where the people were real, which made every decision more nuanced, and every comment more dissect-able.

Once The Real World began to take off and more reality TV shows were popping up on other networks, MTV was able to begin to expand its reality roster. Ushering in the most reality TV heavy time in entertainment history, the network began producing other shows and bringing different concepts to their viewers. From observational content like True Life to aspirational content like MTV Cribs, the network had shows for everyone and everything. Though the market began to change in the late 2000s and early 2010s, MTV always had its finger on the pulse of reality TV.


After the tremendous success of shows like Laguna Beach and The Hills, as well as Jersey Shore and The Challenge, MTV has become one of the premier networks for reality TV. Sharing authentic stories and riveting competitions, the network knows how to appeal to its audience and continually revamp its content from season to season. Here are some of the most incredible MTV reality shows, both past and present.

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20 The Real World

33 Seasons Available


A landmark reality TV series that pushed the boundaries of what the genre could be, The Real World began its long run in 1992. The concept of the series is simple: a group of strangers are picked to live in a house together, work together, and have their lives filmed as they navigate their way through personal and professional conflicts. The Real World took place in different cities all over the world, beginning in New York during its first season.

Throughout the 90s, 00s, and early 2010s, The Real World was one of the most sought-after reality TV shows in the world. Creating celebrities early on in its run, The Real World went on to introduce the world to some of the most notable reality TV stars into the industry. The series ended after 33 seasons, but many feel that The Real World is still the best reality TV show MTV has created.


19 Teen Mom

19 Seasons Available

A spin-off of 16 & Pregnant, Teen Mom has become one of the most beloved shows on MTV. Following the lives of women who originally appeared on its parent show, the series documents teen mothers’ real-life struggles as they and their children grow up. Originally documenting the lives of 16 & Pregnant‘s Maci Bookout McKinney, Catelynn Lowell Baltierra, Amber Portwood, and Farrah Abraham, the series set out to be open and honest about the difficulties of teenage motherhood.


While the show has expanded to shows like Teen Mom 2, Teen Mom 3, and eventually transitioned into the catch-all show, Teen Mom: The Next Chapter, the premise has been the same. Following some of the most notable cast members of 16 & Pregnant as their lives shift and change, the show has been an authentic look at young motherhood. As the cast members have left the show and returned, MTV audiences are attached to the Teen Mom crew.

Teen Mom The Next Chapter Key Poster

Teen Mom: The Next Chapter

Teen Mom: The Next Chapter is an MTV reality television show that premiered in 2022. The supersized series follows the lives of Teen Mom OG and Teen Mom 2 stars Amber Portwood, Catelynn Baltierra, Cheyenne Floyd, Maci Bookout McKinney, Ashley Jones, Briana DeJesus, Jade Cline, and Leah Messer, as they experience parenthood at various stages.

18 Jersey Shore

13 Seasons Available


Likely one of the most notable MTV reality shows of all time, Jersey Shore is a long-running show that’s created its own place in the cultural zeitgeist. Originally following a group of people through their summer vacation in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, the show has evolved into an entirely different series. The show, which brought together stars like Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, and DJ Pauly D DelVecchio, was meant to document the lives of people who live and party at the summer hot spot.

As it continued, Jersey Shore took its cast to places like Miami and Italy, allowing the cast to create drama wherever they traveled. Though the show wasn’t always taken seriously by audiences, the cast was happy to contribute their time and energy into making things entertaining. Although the original Jersey Shore ended in 2012, the series returned as Jersey Shore: Family Vacation in 2018, and is still running.


Jersey Shore Family Vacation Poster

Jersey Shore: Family Vacation

The cast of Jersey Shore is back for this installment in the long-running reality TV franchise. In Jersey Shore: Family Vacation, cast members like Pauly D, Snooki, Jwoww, Mike, Vinny, Angelina, and Deena all reunite to take various vacations across the United States with one another.

17 True Life

21 Seasons Available

One of MTV’s original reality TV shows, True Life shared the real stories of people dealing with specific issues or working in specific areas. True Life was a docu-series that documented particular topics, like participating in pageantry, operating in a love triangle, and training to be a muay thai fighter. There have been over 140 topics covered on the show, which has done some of the most fascinating investigative journalism in reality TV history.


True Life ran for nearly 400 episodes, lasting for almost 20 years of MTV’s history. With new episodes airing from 1998 to 2017, the breadth of topics and people that are covered on True Life is massive. The series has broken new ground on topical issues that weren’t socially acceptable at the time they aired, giving voices to those who were struggling to speak up for themselves.

16 The Challenge

39 Seasons Available

The first ever cross-over MTV reality series, The Challenge was the first competition of its kind. Originally putting together stars from The Real World and its sister series, Road Rules, in a head-to-head competition, the show has changed throughout the years to become one of the most-watched reality TV competitions on the air. A strategic game, The Challenge combines tests of physical strength and fortitude with mental strategy. With cast members from all over the world, it’s become a global game.


Throughout the nearly 40-season run of The Challenge, the cast members have been able to experience different countries and cultures as they complete increasingly difficult physical competitions. With stars like Chris “C.T.” Tamburello, Wes Bergman, Cara Maria Sorbello, and Aneesa Ferreira, The Challenge has been able to bring stars from different shows together to compete. Still on the air, The Challenge season 40 is the next set to air.

15 MTV Cribs

19 Seasons Available

MTV’s most aspirational series, MTV Cribs, invites the general public into the luxurious homes of celebrities. Though the show originally aired from 2000 to 2010, it was revived in 2017 and 2021 for different types of new episodes. Joining various celebrities, entertainers, athletes, and personalities in their homes, Cribs gives viewers a tour of the luxurious spaces their favorite stars inhabit.


While MTV Cribs was, at times, fabricated, the series was able to give an insider-esque feeling to viewers who were excited to learn more about the luxurious way their favorite stars lived. Episodes always featured a look into the stars’ kitchens, especially the refrigerator, living areas, garages, and bedrooms before moving into the more unique parts of their homes. From stars like Mariah Carey to Martha Stewart, MTV Cribs was able to get in the front doors of some incredibly elite celebrities.

14 Laguna Beach

3 Seasons Available


Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, typically shortened to Laguna Beach, was MTV’s answer to the popularity of the FOX teen drama, The OC. Rather than following fictional high school students, Laguna Beach was a docu-series that filmed a friend group at Laguna Beach High School, documenting their real-life drama as they moved through their teen years. The show, which became a cultural phenomenon, launched the careers of Lauren Conrad, Stephen Colletti, and Kristin Cavallari.

The first season of Laguna Beach documented the second semester of the class of 2004, with the infamous love triangle between Lauren, Stephen, and Kristen ruling the drama of the season. The second season, after Stephen and Lauren had graduated, documented the class of 2005 and introduced Kristin’s group of friends, including Jason Wahler. Throughout the run of the show, Laguna Beach’s soapy drama kept audiences captivated.

13 The Hills

6 Seasons Available


A spin-off of Laguna Beach, The Hills documented Lauren Conrad’s life as she moved from her Orange County hometown to Los Angeles, California. Lauren, who attended a semester of college in San Francisco before returning home and regrouping, moved to LA to study fashion at FIDM. Lauren had already experienced some MTV fame due to her high school years being documented on the show, but the level of fame that would come to her because of The Hills was unpredictable.

The first season of The Hills introduced viewers to Lauren’s friend and roommate, Heidi Montag, along with co-star Audrina Patridge. After the first season, Heidi’s boyfriend Spencer Pratt came into the picture and changed the entire series. The issues between Lauren and Spencer & Heidi became massive, creating an irreconcilable rift in their friendship that was documented throughout the show.


The Hills TV Show Poster

The Hills

The Hills is an American reality TV show that began in 2006 with MTV’s The Hills. The original series ran for six seasons until 2010. The series focused on various women living in Los Angeles, California, and is a spinoff of Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County. The Hills led to three spinoffs series: The City, The Hills: New Beginnings, and Kell on Earth.

12 Jackass

3 Seasons Available

A reality TV stunt series, Jackass featured a group of men who did extreme stunts and controversial pranks. Starring Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Steve-O, and several other members of the Jackass crew, the series was one of the most controversial on MTV for years. Each episode would feature the cast members participating in highly dangerous stunts, and though there were disclaimers and warnings put on screen throughout the episodes asking viewers not to attempt the stunts, viewers still went against the warnings.


Jackass was one of the most controversial shows on the network for years, with the cultural footprint that the series created spreading with each season. The US Government even reached out to MTV with their concerns about the series, making it clear that the show had been responsible for major injuries in the young people who watched the show. Jackass spanned just three seasons but made a huge impact.

Jackass Poster

11 Next

6 Seasons Available


MTV’s lineup of dating shows has always been an interesting mix, but Next was one of the funnier concepts the network came up with over the years. On Next, one single chose their date from a group of singles who were waiting on an RV bus. Each single walked off the bus and introduced themselves, knowing that at any moment, the single in charge could say “next” to end their date and invite another single from the bus to take their place.

While the concept of Next was simple, it caused some hilarious moments for the contestants and viewers. The contestants aboard the bus were typically open to sharing more about themselves as they waited to see if they would be invited on the date. Because of how open they were, the Next bus would sometimes be wilder than the dates themselves.


10 Punk’d

11 Seasons Available

Another prank series, Punk’d came from the mind of actor Ashton Kutcher and played high-level pranks on celebrities of the time. Each episode of Punk’d featured several different pranks, pulling in some of the most famous stars of the time. For each prank, actors would be given their roles and wore earpieces in order for Ashton and the producers to feed them lines or give them different actions to intensify the situation. Featuring stars like Mila Kunis, Justin Timberlake, and Beyonce, Punk’d had some of the biggest stars of the time.

Using a hidden-camera style, Punk’d took the same approach as the popular hidden-camera series of the past and gave it new twists, including the celebrity prank element. While some of the pranks put MTV in hot water with celebrities, the majority of the participants cooperated with the series. Spanning 11 seasons, Punk’d is an MTV classic.


9 Making The Band

12 Seasons Available

Making The Band originated as an ABC series, creating the popular 2000s boy band O-Town, but the show switched from a network program to a cable one after being taken over by the now-controversial Sean “Diddy” Combs. MTV began airing Making The Band in 2002, with Diddy trying to create another supergroup as they rose in popularity. Creating Da Band, the members were chosen in the first season of the series, and their careers were documented in the subsequent seasons.


The next season of Making The Band was likely the most popular, creating a girl group called Danity Kane. The third iteration of the series began in 2005, and while the group’s members were switched out between the first and second season, they were the most successfully selling group from the series. Introducing stars like Aubrey O’Day to the industry, Making The Band was iconic.

8 Catfish

9 Seasons Available


Based on host Nev Schulman’s own experiences being duped by an internet dating site, Catfish investigates the dramas of online dating and the ability for people to mask their identities entirely. Catfish, which was originally a film Nev starred in investigating his own online deception, has been helping people discover the realities behind their online relationships for years. Traveling to different locations around the country, Nev and his co-host gather information about the potential catfish before helping their subject discover if the person they’ve been talking to are legitimate or not.

Throughout the years, Nev has worked with both filmmaker Max Joseph and Kamie Crawford in hosting the series. Though not every episode has a conclusive ending, the subject is typically able to make a judgment on whether they want to stay in their online relationship or let it go. Throughout Catfish’s run, over 200 episodes have been released.

catfish

Catfish: The TV Show

Developed by Nev Schulman, Ariel Schulman, and Max Joseph, Catfish is a long-running MTV-based series that chronicles the ups and downs of the online dating world, helping people to get closure by exposing “catfish” as people who aren’t really who they say they are.


7 Are You The One?

9 Seasons Available

A series that combines reality TV competition and romance, Are You The One? asks a group of singles to find their potential perfect match while competing for a cash prize of up to $1 million. The cast of Are You The One? are matched up by an algorithm before moving into the house they’re competing in but are unaware of the pairs they’ve been sorted into. As they use clues about each other and their connection to try and figure out the perfect matches, contestants participate in competitions in order to go on dates that will give them more information.


Throughout the run of the show, some AYTO? cast members were able to gain notoriety and move into The Challenge as competitors. Though the show lasted for 9 seasons, it hasn’t aired in years, but there have been talks of the series coming back over the years. Are You The One? seamlessly combined reality TV competition and dating all at once.

Are You the One Promo Poster

Are You the One?

Are You the One? is a reality TV series made for MTV that puts young singles together in an attempt to create the perfect pair. Producers utilize a unique matchmaking algorithm that helps them pair men and women together to prepare them for the ultimate test. If the participants discern each “perfect match,” they will receive $1 million. Singles would go through a series of challenges to enter dates with prospective partners – and then onto a “truth booth” where they can find out if they’re the match for each other – if so, they’ll be paired together for the remainder of the ceremonies in the season. 

6 Ex On The Beach

6 Seasons Available


Ex On The Beach, another series that combines reality TV competition and dating together, is based on the British series of the same name. It began airing in 2018 with host Romeo Miller, and brought together a group of exes who were under the impression they’d simply be on a reality TV dating series. Throughout the show, contestants’ exes are brought in to cause chaos, or to see if they’re able to rebuild a connection with their former flame.

The American version of Ex On The Beach features contestants who have been on other reality TV shows in the past, including The Real World, The Bachelor, Big Brother, and Are You The One?. The stars are able to make connections with their exes, or move into new relationships throughout their time on the show. As a concept, Ex On The Beach has some incredibly high-stakes.


5 Road Rules

14 Seasons Available

One of the original competition shows on MTV, Road Rules invited a group of competitors onto the road trip of a lifetime. Living in an RV, the contestants had to travel from location to location in order to complete missions and earn money for their prize fund. Some of the missions were social experiments while others were physical competitions. Throughout its run, Road Rules introduced some of the now-standard tenants of reality TV competition, making it a classic.

While Road Rules was similar in nature to The Real World, the series incorporated competition which wasn’t an aspect of its parent show. Throughout Road Rules‘ run, some of the cast members were invited to compete on The Challenge. Some of the most successful Challengers, like Darrell Taylor and Derrick Kosinski, came from the original run of Road Rules.


4 16 And Pregnant

6 Seasons Available

A controversial series from the start, 16 And Pregnant documented the journeys of young teen mothers throughout their pregnancies and shortly afterward. The series began airing in 2009, sharing the stories of a few young mothers who were preparing for their lives as parents to begin. Tackling big issues like adoption, abortion, and the stigma associated with becoming a young parent, the series was filmed in a personal, docu-series style.


Throughout the run of 16 And Pregnant, the stories ranged from heartwarming to heartbreaking. Some of the cast members had support from their families, which allowed them to continue working on their education and living their lives as teens, while others weren’t afforded the same luxury. Despite having to handle some of the most difficult circumstances, the stars of 16 And Pregnant proved they were able to overcome adversity.

16 and Pregnant

16 and Pregnant is an MTV reality television series that aired from 2009-2014. The show was revived by the network in 2020. 16 and Pregnant shares the stories of pregnant high school teenagers, with each episode featuring a different girl. The show follows the young woman through her pregnancy and the first few months of her baby’s life.16 and Pregnant has led to several spin-off series including Teen Mom, Teen Mom 2, Teen Mom 3, Teen Mom: Young and Pregnant, and 16 and Recovering. 

3 Snooki & Jwoww

4 Seasons Available


After the success of Jersey Shore left them incredibly famous, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and Jennifer “Jwoww” Farley were given their own spin-off series, Snooki & Jwoww, to document their lives as they started their families. Snooki and Jwoww were close during the filming of Jersey Shore, and their friendship expanded during their day-to-day lives as they realized they had more and more in common. Documenting their lives as they moved through the world in New Jersey, Snooki and Jwoww’s biggest moments were aired on the series.

Though some of the show was fabricated, it was clear that the reality of Snooki and Jwoww’s lives was playing out on camera. From Snooki’s engagement and wedding to her husband Jionni LaValle to Jwoww’s engagement to her ex-husband Roger Matthews, some of the women’s biggest milestones. The series ran for four seasons, giving viewers a look into the women’s lives.

2 Room Raiders

8 Seasons Available


Room Raiders, a reality TV competition that has a dating show twist, was an MTV series that pushed the network into a more provocative lineup. The series brings an element of surprise into play when three singles are taken out of their homes with no time to clean up their spaces. The three contestants are put into a van together and driven around as another single is given a set of tools to investigate the contestant’s bedrooms.

Searching for items that would clue them into the contestants’ personalities, the searcher on Room Raiders would look through their personal belongings and make assumptions about their personalities. At the end of each search, the searcher would share what they liked and didn’t like about each room, eventually coming face to face with the trio of contestants in their own bedroom. Each episode would send the winning single on a date with the searcher, potentially creating a romantic connection.


1 Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica

3 Seasons Available

As one of the first reality TV shows documenting a relationship, Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica,focused on the lives of pop superstars Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson throughout the early years of their marriage. Nick, a member of the boy band 98 Degrees, and Jessica, a pop superstar who was looking to revamp her career, opened their home to MTV and allowed them to film their most intimate moments. Nick and Jessica’s relationship had been tabloid fodder for years, so their reality TV appearance wasn’t a stretch.


Throughout the course of the series, Nick and Jessica were faced with the trials and tribulations of every day life and, at the same time, the issues they faced in being in the public eye. While Nick and Jessica’s relationship struggled during the series, the couple were able to make it through three seasons before the series ended. After Newlyweds came to an end, the couple divorced in 2006.

Sources: MTV Vault/YouTube, MTV Vault/YouTube, MTV/YouTube

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