Reality TV shows are the guilty pleasure of many (including me!). The thing about these shows is that we can relate to the cast since they’re average joes like me and you. For every famous reality show, like Survivor or Amazing Race, there is an underrated show which didn’t catch the ratings. Low ratings lead to cancellation, and so these shows are eventually forgotten. However, that does not necessarily mean that they are of awful quality. Here are three underrated reality TV shows – probably ahead of their time – that deserve an audience.
King of the Nerds
King of the Nerds, as is standard in the reality TV world, follows a group of contestants who compete in challenges over the course of weeks. The show eliminates one contestant each week until only one remains. The victor is crowned the titular King of the Nerds. What’s special about the show, however, is the subject matter, all things nerdy.
Contestants have diverse background, but the common thread is that each can be classified as a nerd. Some contestants have PhDs in Computer Science and Astrophysics, while others are comic book writers and professional cosplayers. They’re grouped into two teams and have to figure out how to combine their strengths in order to outplay, outwit, and outlast the other team, just like in Survivor.
The show’s challenges have a different theme each week. One week may be video game week, while the other could be chemistry week. And so, some contestants shine one week more than the others because the particular week’s theme is their specialty. This is certainly a plus for the show since the limelight shines not just on one contestant, but rotates among all of them.
King of the Nerds, like many typical shows in the genre, has its fair share of drama. Feuds between contestants erupt here and there – some due to the fact that if their team loses, the members have to vote among themselves who to nominate for elimination. But these feuds don’t really detract from the show’s glory. The show is an unabashed love letter to nerds and geeks.
The heart of the show is the two hosts – Robert Carradine and Curtis Armstrong, which you may recognize from the movie Revenge of the Nerds. They embody the nerd stereotype, and are very much proud of it.
If you are interested in all things nerdy, then this is the show for you. There is also a British version of the show, but it’s not as good as the original US version.
Solitary has a very unique concept – a group of contestants is placed in 24-hour solitary confinement, each one placed in his or her own pod. Their only contact is a disembodied voice which facilitates the tests that they have to go through.
Each week, two challenges are conducted – a “test” and a “treatment” – which are supposed to test the physical and mental endurance of the participants. In a test, contestants compete among themselves for reward and immunity from the treatment. In a treatment, contestants face an endurance challenge. Examples of these tests are consuming a large quantity of food in a short time interval (failure to do so would result to a penalty) and spinning on a chair for a certain number of rotations.
The twist is, contestants don’t get voted out, but voluntarily elect to exit. Usually, the way the show presents tests is via split-screen. One by one, each contestants reaches his endurance threshold and eventually quits – the first quitter is eliminated.
Unlike other reality shows which heavily depend on drama among the contestants to boost ratings, by design, Solitary focuses on the contestants’ focus and drive to win. It’s certainly a unique show in that aspect.
Child Genius pits a group of children against one another in a grand quiz bee. Each week is a round of the quiz bee. Two categories are selected, and questions are drawn from said categories. In standard reality TV format, the two lowest scorers are eliminated, until four remain. The four remaining children battle it out in the olympiad to be the titular Child Genius.
I know, based on the description above, the show seems boring. Who would want to watch a weeks-long quiz bee? Well, the real star of the show is not the quiz bee itself, but the children who participate and the stage parents who support them week to week.
Before each round begins, the show allows us to have a peek on how the participants and their parents prepare for the round. The contestants invite us into their home and show us what the children’s day-to-day lives are like. We can see how strict some of the children’s regimens are – they barely have any time for fun.
Interspersed between rounds are break-time scenes between the parents and the children. Usually, anxiety sets in with the children, partially due to the pressure from the parents. And this is where drama kicks in.
The show is an entertaining peek at the lives of young achievers and their parents.