reality tv

From Geordie Shore to Survivor to MAFS: A look back at the reality TV shows that defined this decade.

In 2009, Aussies would sit down after dinner and switch on the TV, likely to watch a competition-based reality show.

MasterChef Australia was fresh on screen, it’s first season premiering in April 2009. We were five seasons into Australia’s Next Top Model, and Ajay Rochester still hosted The Biggest Loser Australia. There was also Australia’s Got Talent, then judged by Tom Burlinson, Dannii Minogue and Red Symons and the final season of Australian Idol.

That, or they’d have to switch to MTV or E! for their reality TV dose: Keeping Up With The Kardashians, The Hills and Jersey Shore were the top shows of the time.

An honest reality TV job interview. Post continues below video.

Video via Mamamia

While many of those reality shows have survived – or died, and been resurrected years later – the reality TV landscape looks very different ten years on.

As we prepare to leave the 2010s, it is clear this decade was the decade of reality TV.

At the beginning, the thought of watching strangers marry each other after meeting at the altar, or seeing celebrities perform in giant prawn costumes would’ve been absolutely wild.

To be fair, they’re still wild concepts, but the difference is in 2019… we love wild. To prove the point, we’ve rounded up the most influential reality TV shows of this decade, from Australia and beyond:

Australian Survivor.

There have been arguments made that Survivor is the greatest reality show ever. And well, we can see why.

australian survivor
Image: Ten.

The Aussie version began in 2002, mainly because it was a contractual obligation if Nine Network were going to be allowed to continue to air the American version. It was a bit sh*t, honestly, and criticised for its low production value. It was not renewed, but in 2005 Seven produced a celebrity version of the show (and again... did not renew it).

After more than a decade of hiatus, Network Ten decided to give the show a go and well, it smashed. In 2016 and 2017 we had two seasons of 'regular' people battling it out in Samoa, before 2018 and 2019's top rating Champions vs Contenders version filmed in Fiji.

Survivor is the perfect combination of all the genres and elements that test the human condition. Drama, tick. Athletic challenges, tick. The elements, tick. Love and betrayal, tick. Drama, triple tick.

Sure, you won’t find romance (except in 2016 when contestants Lee and El got together) or roses on the remote Fijian island, but there’s a certain magic to Survivor that makes it so addictive and so thrilling, without dipping into, well, low-brow territory. We love trash. Like, love trash, but Survivor is on another level.

Geordie Shore.

Geordie Shore came after the American version Jersey Shore, but it was just so much better.

First broadcast in 2011, Geordie Shore followed the lives of housemates living together over a number of weeks in Newcastle, in northeast England. Like its New Jersey-based predecessor, there was lots of partying, sex and drama, but it had far less body-shaming grossness and toxicity.

Plus, Geordie Shore introduced us to absolute icons like Charlotte Crosby and Vicky Pattison, who were portrayed in all their multifaceted glory: Hilariously funny, often grotesque, openly sexual and kind, good friends (Don't roll your eyes, it's true).

charlotte crosby geordie shore
We have no choice but to stan. Image: Giphy.

Most of the original cast have moved on from the show now, but their legacy of tashing on and getting mortal lives on.

Married At First Sight.

When you really think about it, strangers signing up to (not legally) marry another stranger who they first meet at the altar is truly ridiculous. And that's why we love Married At First Sight so much.

Based on the Danish program of the same name, MAFS first aired in 2015 as an interesting, weird and semi-wholesome show about four couples matched by experts. The couples didn't meet each other until much later in the season, which was only six episodes long.

Six seasons in, 2019's MAFS still followed couples matched by experts, but there was less focus on them exploring their relationships and more on cheating scandals, drama and smashing fruit bowls. Plus, the whole season ran four days a week for nearly three months. It was exhausting.

MAFS contestants Cyrell and Martha infamously had a wine-throwing fight at the final dinner party. Image: Nine.

MAFS is the trashiest of the trash, and that's why we keep coming back for more.

The Bachelor and The Bachelorette Australia.

Ah, Bachie. How we love you.

First of all, The Bachelor franchise is steered by Osher Gunsberg, an angel without whom we would not make it through the dog c*** scandals and the betrayals from ex-professional footy players. Bless you, Osh.

the bachelorette recap
Sweetie. Image: Ten.

When The Bachelor came to Australian shores, it was hardly a new concept. The show had been going in the US since 2002. That's a lot of failed relationships. We first got our own version in 2013, with hot chiropractor Tim Robards cast as the man with many roses. It worked out, with him and Anna Heinrich now married and living their best lives on Instagram.

In fact, the Aussie version is pretty successful, at least in comparison to its American parent. There's two other enduring Bachelor couples out there - Sam Wood and Snezana Markoski and Matty Johnson and Laura Byrne - meaning the show has a 42.8 per cent success rate. And look - we don't talk about a certain Honey Badger, okay.

Its sister show, The Bachelorette, has always been seen as the slightly lesser of the two: It's always a shorter season, with less dudes competing for one woman than we see the other way around on Bach. But with the past season, featuring bachelorette Angie Kent (and Australia's new boyfriends Ciarran Stott and Timm Hanly), that could all be changing.

the bachelorette australia 2019 recap ryan
This is the content we NEED more of of please @Ten. Image: Ten.

Plus, The Bachelorette has a 60 per cent success rate, with 3/5 of the couples still together, so it has that going for it.

The Bachelor and Bachelorette seasons (and Bachelor in Paradise, purely for Osher's tropical shirts) are always a highlight of our reality TV calendar.

Keeping Up With The Kardashians.

Talking about reality TV without mentioning the Kardashians is simply not possible. We've seen reality shows following famous families before - remember The Osbournes? - but nothing comes close the KUWTK.

best proposal stories
Same Kris, same. Image: Giphy.

It began in 2007 and has survived the entirety of the 2010s, and honestly, we can't see it going away... ever. Kris is simply too savvy. Cameras have followed the Kardashian-Jenner family for 13 years, through multiple weddings, babies, divorces and scandals.


Is it a good TV show? Absolutely not. But we've all watched it regardless, because we absolutely needed to see what happened with the Khloe/Tristan/Jordyn drama and no matter what you think of them, the Kardashian-Jenner clan is fascinating.

As much as people - a lot of people - talk sh*t about KUWTK, it is undeniably a cultural phenomenon. It's one of the longest-running cable TV series in the US with more than 250 episodes and its spawned about nearly a dozen spin-offs and TV specials.

My Kitchen Rules.

We first watched My Kitchen Rules in 2010 and it has lasted the entire decade, making chefs Manu Feildel and Pete Evans household names.

pete evans my kitchen rules
Image: Giphy.

There is something relatable about watching amateur - though usually much better than us - chefs stress out as they cooked meals for a dozen others, with pasta falling on the floor or forgotten ingredients. We'd all been there... even if it was when we were just baking a cake for a friend, with little to no time pressure and no professional chefs to taste test it.

But hey, kitchen pressure is real and we admire watching others go through it.

More recent seasons have been criticised for focusing more on drama between the teams than on actual cooking, and this year's season went full MAFS when a contestant revealed two contestants… from different pairings … were having sex behind the scenes. It caused a whole heap of mayhem and ahem, remember when the biggest scandal in MKR was someone using pasta sauce from a jar?

The show will continue into 2020, but in a revamped version that sees Manu and Colin Fassnidge named as 'team mentors', leaving Pete to hosting duties. It'll also see the return of past contestants and more of a Big Brother vibe... with the teams living together in either House Manu or House Colin. What could possibly go wrong?


The Block.

Does anyone remember the original The Block, which aired for two seasons in 2003-2004? Absolutely not me, but apparently that was an actual thing that happened.

But The Block as we know it, presented by Scott Cam and Shelley Craft, was revived by Nine in 2010 and it too has made it through an entire decade.

Image: Nine.

The original format featured four couples with a prior relationship renovating a derelict apartment block in the Sydney suburb of Bondi, with each couple renovating a separate apartment over a period of 12 weeks and with a budget of $40,000. The apartments were then sold at auction, with each couple keeping any profit made above a set reserve price and the couple with the highest profit winning a A$100,000 prize.

The current format is basically the same, but there's usually now five couples, it's based in Melbourne and the budget is much, much higher because... 2019 house prices, you guys. Also, the size of the renos are outrageous.

The latest series had contestants doing up a building nearly twice the size as the year before, with barely a bump in budgets, and it coped a bunch of criticism for some questionable segments and the sheer saturation of product placements.

Plus, like so many other shows, it's definitely amped up the drama as the decade has gone on. These days, we see just as much of the scandals and disagreements between the teams as we do the renovations.


The Masked Singer.

A 2019 addition to our reality TV roster, The Masked Singer was a success that no one, except maybe Osher, could've predicted.

When ads started dropping for the show, which saw celebs perform songs while wearing weird and a-lil-bit scary costumes, Australian audiences collectively cocked our heads, squinted our eyes and wondered why on earth anyone would think such a concept would work on free-to-air television.

The Masked Singer Australia finale
Celebs were inside these costumes and it was WEIRD. Image: Ten.

Then, on the night it premiered, over 1.5 million of us tuned in. The show is Ten's highest rating program of the year and of course it is.

Lindsay Lohan, local celebs, Miley Cyrus' boyfriend dressed as a robot. It was a winning recipe, and it took us only five minutes to see it.


Catfish is one of those shows where you've watched all the episodes, without realising you've watched all the episodes.

It's the definition of escapism: For half an hour, you watch two men track down the internet boyfriends and girlfriends of someone who has, most of the time, been royally duped. At the end, the catfish is exposed and a lot of the time, their reasoning is bonkers.

Us, literally every episode. Image: Giphy.

Highlights from the seven seasons and 137 episodes, include Mike, who spent 18 months speaking online and over the phone to Caroline. Despite living in the same city, however, the pair's attempts to take their relationship out of the digital realm continued to fail - that's the biggest Catfish red flag, by the way.

Anyway, Nev and Max tracked down 'Caroline', whose real name was Heather and it turned out Mike knew her... because she'd catfished him once before.

Is there anything more thrilling than watching the catfish confrontations? Not that I'm aware of.

Big Brother Australia.

Big Brother was one of the original reality TV phenomenons. Originating in the Netherlands in 1999, the format went worldwide including our own Australian version which began in 2001.

big brother australia 2020
Big Brother is returning to our screens in 2020. Image: Nine.

It involves housemates living isolated in a house together for several months, where every moment is filmed. First airing from 2001-2008, the show returned for three seasons from 2012-2014 so yes - it did air this decade, even if it doesn't feel like it.


Big Brother is one of those shows we simply can't look away from, whether we're watching a bunch of people sitting on a couch doing... not a lot, or having a major bust-up. And in our current reality TV landscape, Big Brother is a major omission, so Seven have our backs and are bringing it back for 2020.

The Voice.

While so many other singing competitions have, well, died (See: The X Factor Australia and Australian Idol), The Voice is still going strong.

We have plenty of well known Idol stars: Guy Sebastian, Jessica Mauboy and Matt Corby come to mind, and The X Factor gave us Samantha Jade, but those formats didn't survive. Meanwhile, starting in Australia in 2012, none of The Voice winners have really gone on to mainstream success.

the voice australia winner diana
Diana Rouvas was announced the 2019 winner of The Voice Australia. Image: Nine.

It's maybe a little weird, considering the ratings success of Nine's singing show but it has seen a number of major international judges, which helps, we guess.

So there we have it: The reality TV shows that defined the decade. And how things have changed: It seems that in 2019, we value drama over actual competition, or at least, network's think we do. Gone are wholesome competitions. As 2020 approaches, we can expect more drama, scandals, and smashed fruit bowls.

Feature images: Nine/Ten/E!

What were your favourite reality shows of the decade? Let us know in a comment.

00:00 / ???