Do you love drama as long as you’re not involved in it? Is your favorite conversation starter in the world, “It’s none of my business, but...?” Well then, if you’ve never given reality dating shows a shot, it’s time that you dive in. Because maybe you’re not the type to
cause a complete scene when the person you’re supposed to be exclusive with flirts with someone else, but these contestants are, and they rarely hold back.
Reality dating shows are the TV version of a steamy beach read: low-stakes drama, problems easily solved by healthy communication (which no one chooses to engage in), and summery settings galore. The fact that social media exists now makes these shows even juicier.
The Bachelor and its many spinoffs predate Instagram, but now they can’t film a season without the main man DMing with at least one of the ladies before the show starts.
We get to watch our favorite contestants’ lives unfold after the show, and see how the tea spills over into their actual, real lives. With shows like
The Ultimatum: Queer Love, where a year passes between the filming of the finale and the reunion, you can even sleuth a bit to try and uncover who’s still dating who. The truly devoted can listen to weekly recap podcasts about their fave shows too (I recommend Your Mom & Dad and Two Black Girls, One Rose).
So, while it may not be the most scholarly genre on TV, reality dating shows are
100% worth obsessing over. When there’s so much tragedy in the real world, watching a little “reality” where 20-somethings have lovers’ quarrels on camera with margaritas in hand is a spicy way to unplug. 1 Love Island
Like children, it’s impossible to pick a favorite reality dating show, but for most avid watchers of the genre,
Love Island reigns supreme. A group of young, single, violently hot people move into a multimillion dollar tropical villa intending to have an amazing summer and maybe fall in love.
Of course, there are surprise twists: games designed to expose the contestants’ darkest secrets and reddest flags, and new singles entering the villa. Near the end of the show, they split up all the happy couples and send them to Casa Amor, a new house full of somehow even hotter people, to test the players’ loyalty to their new loves.
You can stream past seasons of Love Island U.S. on Netflix and Peacock. Love Island U.K.’s previous nine seasons are available on Hulu. 2 Love is Blind
There’s no shortage of binge-worthy dating shows on Netflix these days —
Love is Blind is now going on its fifth season. Eligible singles enter “the pods,” booths in which you can hear one another but not see each other. When two contestants get engaged (yep, they really propose to one another), they meet face-to-face for the first time. All the couples go on a big honeymoon together where they get to know each other (and all the other people they dated) before heading home to plan their weddings, meet families, have massive fights, et cetera. You can stream Love is Blind on Netflix. 3 The Bachelor
The classic. The OG. The one about which
entire books (yep, plural) have been written. One eligible man dates 30 eligible women, and through weeks of romantic (and sometimes purposefully weird) dates and international travel, he’s meant to find his new fiancé. There are so many seasons of The Bachelor available to stream — 23 to be exact — with a plethora of meme-able moments from each one.
Each installment promises to be “the most dramatic season yet,” and they’re usually not exaggerating. But perhaps the most fun in watching this franchise is considering just how heavy-handed the producers must be to get some of these reactions from normally stable human beings.
You can watch The Bachelor on ABC or stream it on Hulu. 4 The Bachelorette
What started as a spin-off of
The Bachelor has taken on a life of its own. The newest season of The Bachelorette premiered in June 2023 on ABC. In it, Bachelorette Charity dates a pool of 30 men from around the U.S. to find her other half, who will hopefully propose at the finale. As always, it’ll be a bumpy ride. You can read the cast bios to predict who will win her heart, and even start a bracket with your friends. You can watch The Bachelorette on ABC or stream it on Hulu. 5 Bachelor in Paradise
If you’re looking for shows like
Love Island, you need to try Bachelor in Paradise. Single men and women descend a staircase onto a beach in Mexico, where they’ll spend all day, every day for three weeks trying to find love. There’s always at least one love triangle.
You’ll enjoy it most if you watch both
Bachelor and Bachelorette, because all of the cast members are contestants from past seasons, but you can still get into the drama on the sand without 100% of the backstory. ABC has confirmed there will be a new season of BiP will premiere on Sept. 28, 2023. You can watch Bachelor In Paradise on ABC or stream it on Hulu. 6 The Ultimatum & The Ultimatum: Queer Love
In this series, couples arrive after one partner has issued the other an ultimatum: get married, or get out. The couples temporarily split up and date amongst each other. Each person chooses a new trial marriage partner from the dating pool and they move in together for three weeks. After that, they rejoin their original partner for three weeks, and ultimately decide whether they’ll leave engaged or single...or maybe, with someone else entirely.
You can stream The Ultimatum and The Ultimatum: Queer Love on Netflix. 7 Temptation Island
If you’re looking for shows like
The Ultimatum, queue up Temptation Island next. Four couples who are at some sort of crossroads in their relationship split up and move into mansions with sexy singles who are there to find love with them. They couples have no contact during their stay, but they do get a weekly peek at their partner’s worst behavior in the other house. At the end, they decide whether to leave together, separately, or with someone new. Bonus: this show also has arguably the best host in all of reality TV, Mark Walberg (no, not the actor from Boston). You can watch new episodes of Temptation Island on USA and stream it on Peacock. 8 FBoy Island
Three women arrive in paradise to date 24 single men and find their person. The catch: half of them are nice guys and half are F boys trying to fool them. You see, if the women pair up with a nice guy, the couple splits $100,000. If they choose an F boy, he keeps it all, and she goes home heartbroken. This show is special because it knows it’s ridiculous and totally leans into it (which is why comedian Nikki Glaser is the perfect host).
Rent FBoy Island on Amazon Prime. 9 Too Hot To Handle
More hot people in tropical mansions? Coming right up. Netflix’s
Too Hot To Handle dupes a bunch of singles into moving into a big ol’ house under the guise of dating each other and just having a summer to remember. After 24 hours of canoodling, they’re informed that there’s a cash prize of $100,000 on the line, and every act of physical intimacy docks money from the total. Will the group put emotional connection (and big money) over their physical desires? (Generally...no.) You can find Too Hot To Handle on Netflix. 10 Are You The One?
If you grew up loving
The Real World, you’ll be pleased to know that Are You The One? is an MTV show that really feels like an MTV show. Here’s the deal: a fancy dating algorithm determines which contestants are perfect matches for one another. The singles enter the house and must date around and guess who their match is. At the end of each week, they’ll test how many matches they’ve unlocked. If they can do it within the timeframe of the show, they unlock a massive cash prize. The drama here: almost no one ever agrees on exactly who the matches are, and housemates are always trying to break each other up. You can stream Are You The One? on Paramount+ and watch it on MTV. 11 Perfect Match
Contestants from Netflix’s other dating shows (and even non-dating reality shows, like
The Circle) move in together, couple up, and compete in challenges. The most successful ones earn the power to break up other couples and send them on dates with new singles. Everyone is constantly matching up with someone new in order to find the person they’re most compatible with and be crowned The Match in the finale. You can watch Perfect Match on Netflix. 12 Dated & Related
This show starts with the usual concept: single people, big fancy house, palm trees and sandy beaches. But in
Dated & Related, each contestant brings their sibling with them, who has the ability to act like a wing person or a complete saboteur. There is a $100,000 prize involved (as is the going rate for Netflix, you’ve probably noticed by now) for the couple left standing at the end. You can stream Dated & Related on Netflix. 13 Married At First Sight Married At First Sight is many, many seasons deep, so clearly it has been hooking viewers for years. The premise: expert matchmakers pair up couples who have never met before, and the first time they ever see each other is at their wedding. Over the next few weeks, they take a honeymoon and live life as husband and wife. At the end of the experiment, they have to decide whether they’ll stay lawfully wed, or break it off ASAP. You can stream Married At First Sight on Lifetime, Netflix, and Hulu. 14 Farmer Wants A Wife
One of the few reality dating shows not filmed on or near a beach,
Farmer Wants A Wife is different from other dating shows in more ways than one. Each season, an eligible bachelor (indeed, a real working farmer) would date a pool of 10 single women from big cities to find his future spouse. The show debuted on the CW in 2008 and just got a reboot from Fox in 2023, which sees four farmers searching for love in one season. You can stream Farmer Wants A Wife on Hulu. 15 MILF Manor
Remember when TLC stood for The Learning Channel? Well now they make
MILF Manor, in which single women ages 40 to 60 sign up to date single men in their 20s while living in a luxury villa. The surprise twist is that their sons are part of the dating pool, and, well, things quickly devolve from there. This show is not for the faint of heart or quick to cringe, but if you love mess, by god you’ll find it here. You can stream MILF Manor on Discovery+.
Whether you’re looking to zone out for a bit in the evenings or find a steamy new obsession, reality dating shows might be juuust the thing you’re looking for. So sit back and relax, islanders *wink wink*.
This article was originally published on
June 18, 2023