The perfect binges for cuffing season are here.
Season 3 of Love Is Blind premiered in October, following the always spicy summer love favorite, Love Island, and it’s clear that America’s guilty pleasure is a good ol’ drama-filled romantic competition series. Whether you’re into a love that is sight unseen or are a realist that says love is blurry, it’s safe to say that there are plenty of reality TV dating shows fit for any and every way you perceive the ideal fairytale.
Perhaps you’re a hopeless romantic and are totally into watching people meet for the first time at the altar. Maybe you’re more of a die-hard Bachelor fan and love the thrill of a catty competition. Or it may be that you don’t even like competition and enjoy the simple pleasures of a matchmaking storyline that follows multiple dates instead of multiple suitors. Then there’s me, who will watch literally anything that includes a happy ending and little tea in between.
Here are 15 must-see love reality competition shows that cover it all, from lust and serendipity to meltdowns and shocking plot twists.
Unlike Love is Blind, this show is not built on a sight-unseen premise — it's all about physical connection. However, both shows do center on first impressions. Created in the U.K., this series now has versions worldwide, including the U.S., Australia, and Nigeria.
In the franchise, 11 singles spend the summer in the ultimate beach house, pair up weekly based on first looks, and continue to switch off until they feel they've found their match. What's different about this show is it is played in real-time and airs most of the week. The public even has a say in the contestants' fate, as voters can influence eliminations and ultimately choose their favorite couple in the finale. That lucky couple walks away with $50k to 100k, depending on which country you are tuning into.
Married At First Sight
If you're a sucker for success rates post-show, this one is for you. The show follows singles who agree to participate in an experiment in which they are matched by professional relationship experts and not given any information about their partner until they get to the altar. The show follows the couple for two months until they decide if they want to stay married or get a divorce.
Though you may be skeptical at first glance, this show has one of the best track records on the list. Their matches have been so successful that they have a spin-off show, Couples' Cam, that follows couples' lives from past seasons. They are now over 12 pairs in counting, who have married and even gone on to have children.
Sometimes all you need is some good eye candy— and a cat-and-mouse game of people pretending that wealth doesn't matter when it comes to love. In Joe Millionaire, contestants fight for a shot at love with two attractive bachelors. But there's a catch: One is rich, and the other isn't. The women have no idea who the millionaire is and aren't made aware until the finale.
The show first aired in 2003 and released its latest season this year.
In India, they separate marriage with two distinctions: You are in a "love marriage" or an arranged marriage. Fighting the stigma that arranged equates to unhappiness, this show follows famed international matchmaker Sima Taparia as she assists Indian bachelors around the world in finding their soulmate.
Are You The One?
This competition series gives you the best of both worlds: Experts choose singles as 10 "perfect matches," but it's up to the contestants to figure out who's their soulmate. As they compete to find their person, they also have the chance to win big money if they're right.
The One That Got Away
While this show doesn't have the longstanding success of past seasons to show its validity, it's definitely something you've never seen before when it comes to reality TV dating. In this unique concept, contestants take a chance at love by revisiting old flames or potential partners. Singles have no idea who will walk through the "portal in time" to shoot their shot, and they date their suitors and send them back to the past until they find someone worth going the distance with.
Their tagline says it all: not single, but ready to mingle. This show follows a group of couples who have reached a point in their relationship where, if there's not a serious change, it's not going to work. So they partake in the Temptation Island experiment, which separates the pairs and throws them into a luxury mansion full of eligible bachelors. The goal? To see if their relationship can really stand the test of time.
The Real Love Boat
Debuting for the first time this year, this reality series is inspired by the original show, The Love Boat — a romantic comedy following the adventures of a crew and its passengers at sea. This competition takes its singles on an international cruise, where they compete to find love with other singles, have outlandishly dreamy dates at each dock station, and say hello or goodbye to singles as they hop on or take the next stop off.
Too Hot To Handle
Unlike most of these reality TV dating shows, the contestants on Too Hot to Handle have no intention of being in a committed relationship and think they've signed up for more of a Jersey Shore-style series. So while they believe they're here for a summer of reckless behavior and casual hookups, they are informed upon arriving that they're actually here to find meaningful connection — and if they don't adhere to the rules, they lose the money.
Their robot host, "Lana," surveils their every move. They are challenged to have no sex or intimacy of any kind, forcing contestants to foster emotional connections before engaging physically. Spoiler alert: They don't have the greatest willpower.
F Boy Island
This is the show you hate to love, sigh. If you’re wondering if these bachelorettes willingly decide to date F boys, they sure do, and the name of the game is being able to figure out who’s playing games and who’s really looking for love.
What you might not know is, F boys are academy-award-winning actors, so this show will definitely keep you entertained.
The Bachelor Franchise
Think of this as the “OG” of dating reality tv. The Bachelor and its sister show, The Bachelorette, now set the standard for love competition series (though dating shows generally have been around forever.) In the classic, female singles fight for the heart of one bachelor, and the roles are reversed in The Bachelorette. These shows originated the coveted “rose ceremony” and have perfected the ideal grandiose date.
Bachelor in Paradise
In the spin-off series Bachelor in Paradise, singles who didn’t find love in The Bachelor franchise are given a second chance by meeting fellow alums on an island. They shack up on a secluded oasis in Mexico where they have no idea which singles will join them, including possible frenemies. The contestants then pair up each week based on connections and are eliminated if not chosen to couple up.
12 Dates Of Christmas
HBO Max decided to give us a holiday-themed reality dating show, so if you’re looking for a festive binge, this one’s for you. 12 Dates of Christmas takes three singles, both male and female, and pairs them with 12 other singles, one by one, while they all live under the same roof in a luxe lodge surrounded by snow.
Last but certainly not least, we give you a themed reality dating show. That’s right — this bachelorette and her singles are in full costume as it recreates the courting season we know from Bridgerton and the regency-era in history. Be transported back in time as the show is filmed in old country England, complete with a castle, her “royal” family, horse and buggy, and formal balls serving as the elimination ceremonies.
Name a better lineup than this...I’ll wait.
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