It’s hard to believe, but we entered into the 21st century just a couple years shy of 20 years ago… yes, you read that right. It seems like just yesterday we were freaking out about Y2k, quoting Elle Woods from Legally Blonde, and watching what probably was the best time for reality TV. Back in the early ’00s, reality stars weren’t quite as sparkly and shiny as they are today (Kylie Jenner… need we say more?). Back then, reality shows were a little more, well, real! Perhaps that’s what made them so fascinating to watch. It felt good to watch other people go through the many stressful things life has to offer instead of us for a change.
Watching reality TV in the first decade of 2000 was similar to what getting a glimpse into someone’s home who left the lights on feels like– but this time, we didn’t have to feel creepy about it. Have you ever wondered what it’s like to raise eight children with someone you seriously can’t stand? Curious about what family life would be like after decades of abusing drugs? How about waking up every morning to see Hugh Hefner’s face smiling back at you? Thanks to reality television in the early ’00s, all those questions were answered, and more. If you love reality TV like we do, but are sick of the fake glitz and glamour of Keeping Up With The Kardashians and Basketball Wives, join us as we take a look back at our favorite reality shows from the glorious first decade of the 21st century.
15. Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica
Normally, being a constant third wheel to a newly married couple as they slowly begin to realize they really don’t care for each other isn’t that fun…. unless it’s with Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson. Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica first graced our TV screens in 2003 and managed to run for three glorious seasons. Oddly enough, the show was originally pitched to Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley in 1994, but they turned it down. It wasn’t until 2002 that Jessica’s father/manager was looking for a show for her and her new husband that the idea got picked up again.
While Nick and Jessica were both fairly well known before starring on Newlyweds, they became extremely popular once the first season aired on MTV. We couldn’t get enough of Jessica’s insanely dumb comments, and sometimes couldn’t even believe the words that were coming out of her mouth. What are some of the most memorable Jessica Simpson moments, you ask? How about the time Jessica politicly declined a buffalo wing due to the fact that she didn’t like to eat buffalo? Or when she was eating tuna and literally said aloud, “Is this tuna that I have, or is this fish?”, after being misled by the tuna brand, Fish of the Sea. We were rolling our eyes right there with you, Nick.
14. The Osbournes
What do you get when you put the Prince of Darkness and his bratty family in front of a bunch of cameras? Reality TV gold. Aside from the Real World, The Osbournes is one of the most classic MTV reality series we could think of. The show aired from 2002 – 2005 and has been cited as the most-viewed series on MTV ever. The main reason why the show was successful, was due to the fact that someone like Ozzy Osborne from Black Sabbath —a metal god in the rock world— could live such a mundane life. For some reason, it was absolutely fascinating.
Ozzy wasn’t the only reason we couldn’t stop watching The Osbournes. Ozzy’s wife, Sharon was quite a character, and complimented Ozzy’s light, “whatever” attitude quite well. Their children, Kelly and Jack had us cringing at their bratty behavior and stupid arguments. Ozzy and Sharon’s oldest daughter opted out of the show and was never mentioned or shown at all. Throughout the course of the show, we watched the family tackle some rather serious issues like Sharon’s battle with colon cancer, general drug and alcohol issues and more. Many criticize the show now for being staged, but either way, we were pretty entertained.
13. Making the Band – O Town
In 2000, MTV produced its first season of Making the Band, giving us a glimpse into the magical process of creating an all-American boy band. O-Town consisted of Ashley Parker Angel (that can’t really be that guy’s name…), Erik-Michael Estrada, Trevor Penick, Jacob Underwood, and Ikaika Kahoano (who was eventually replaced by Dan Miller). Originally, the band was managed by the boy band extraordinaire, Lou Pearlman (who ended up going to jail for leading a two-decade financial scheme) but was later replaced. We loved watching the band start from a handful of weepy, attention hungry young gentlemen and turn into a group of five, well, weepy attention hungry slightly more experienced young gentlemen. O-Town released bubble gum hits like All or Nothing and the infamous Liquid Dreams, from which we received an incredible music video, that took place in what we imagine the inside of an early ‘00s computer would look like. Gotta love those ‘00s graphics.
12. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy
Today, Bravo serves as the mothership of reality television, led by the mighty reality TV king, Andy Cohen. But before the TV station was such a big hit, it gave us little gems that we forever long for in 2016. We’re talking about the one and only Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. At the time, positively portrayed gay characters were just starting to pop into the TV scene (Queer as Folk, Will and Grace, etc.) and Bravo jumped right on the train. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy followed five extremely likable guys who would give straight guys makeovers of the heart and soul (and of course, a new wardrobe and all that good stuff). The “Fab Five” consisted of Carson Kressley, the Fashion Savant (who provided us with tons of comic relief); Ted Allen, the Food and Wine Connoisseur; Thom Filicia, the Design Doctor (how did he paint all those rooms so fast?); Kyan Douglas, the Grooming Guru and of course, Jai Rodriguez, the Culture Vulture (he basically just covered what the rest of the guys didn’t… we’re not sure why he was there).
Queer Eye for the Straight Guy wasn’t just another light-hearted, silly reality show; it was one with real heart. The show managed to take gay stereotypes and turn them on their heads. It enabled viewers to see that men could be fashionable, and culturally in tune and still be regular people just like them, no different. How can we convince Bravo to do another reunion show?
11. Girls Next Door
If you were ever curious about what it would be like to live in the Playboy mansion (and if you say you’ve never thought about it, you’re lying), The Girls Next Door answered a lot of your questions. In 2005, E! opened the door to Hugh Hefner’s bedroom, introducing us to Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt and Kendra Wilkinson. For some reason, it was fascinating to watch these three bombshells groom their pets, plan parties and call into the kitchen downstairs for grilled cheese at two in the morning. Must be nice.
Actually, life in the Playboy mansion wasn’t so great according to Holly Madison’s tell-all book, Down the Rabbit Hole: Curious Adventures and Cautionary Tales of a Former Playboy Bunny. In the book, she talks about Hugh Hefner’s mistreatment of this girlfriends and other unsavory details. Kendra Wilkinson went on to star in her own reality series, Kendra and Kendra On Top as well along with Bridget who hosted Bridget’s Sexiest Beaches. While imagining life living as one of Hugh Hefner’s many girlfriends makes us sick to our stomachs, it’s hard not to stop and watch when the re-runs come on— that’s why they call them guilty pleasures.
10. Laguna Beach
What is it about watching spoiled rich kids that makes such good TV?! Riding on the coattails of the hit melodrama, The OC, MTV’s Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County made its debut in 2006. The show aired for three seasons and followed the lives of a group of Laguna Beach High School students— although we sure didn’t see them go to class much, if at all. While there were a few different storylines, the show mainly chronicled the love triangle between Lauren Conrad (L.C.), Steven Colette and Kristin Cavallari.
We watched the young teens as they went through unforgettable milestones like going to prom (and getting asked more elaborately than most women get proposed to), going off to college and getting brand new cars. The best part of the show was all the petty drama, and wondering what stupid thing they’d say next. But the biggest question we all had was, what on earth did all those girls see in bad boy, Jason Whaler? I guess we’ll never know.
9. The Hills
You didn’t think we’d talk about Laguna Beach without talking about the most successful reality spin-off ever, The Hills, did you? For those of us who couldn’t get enough of Lauren Conrad on Laguna Beach—admit it, you were definitely one of them— The Hills was the answer to our prayers. The show followed Lauren and her best friend Heidi Montag, as they navigated through their new life in the glitzy, hope-filled Los Angeles. Over the six seasons we watched the girls get their hearts broken, hit career milestones and of course, deal with major drama.
Perhaps one of the best things that came out of The Hills was Heidi’s relationship with her now husband, Spencer Pratt. The two were like an evil duo, out to ruin any friendships that came their way. Spencer’s rude, ofttimes volatile behavior was sometimes truly unbelievable. Actually, quite a bit of the show was unbelievable because it was heavy scripted. In season six, after Lauren was replaced with Laguna Beach veteran, Kristin Cavallari, the finale revealed that the show was potentially scripted thanks to its moving backdrop in its final seen. Scripted or not, we still believe “the rest is still unwritten”. You be the judge.
8. Anna Nicole Show
Nothing says good reality TV like watching a total hot mess hit rock bottom— in fact, the term ‘hot mess’ was most likely thought up after watching an episode of The Anna Nicole Show. After publicly fighting for her late, elderly husband’s money she believed was owed to her, the former actress and Playboy model let cameras follow her around as she did, well, not much, for three years. We watched Anna as she struggled with her weight gain and tried to get back into the Hollywood scene after being shut out of the public eye for a number of years. We grimaced as Anna fought with her interior decorator, Bobby Trendy (who should have been fired immediately… remember those oversized chairs?) and tried to be a friend to her toothless family member who would come to visit. For some reason, we couldn’t stop watching the show, wondering when she would admit to having more than a friendly relationship with her assistant, Kim and what trouble she would get her attorney, Howard Stern into. Sadly, Anna passed away in 2007 at the young age of 39.
7. The Simple Life
Here’s yet another example of how entertaining spoiled rich kids can be. The Simple Life starred socialites Paris Hilton and best friend, Nicole Richie as they attempted to do the simpler things in life. The creators of the show weren’t stupid; they knew putting these idiotic, bedazzled celebrities in the middle of nowhere on a farm would make for excellent television. We watched the girls serve fries at a fast food joint, milk cows and clean bathrooms. Believe it or not, the show ran for five seasons between the Fox and E! networks. While the show was pretty popular, by the fifth season things were getting messier than Paris’ room during her house-keeper’s day off. Shooting became complicated due to Richie’s health problems and both girls’ DUI charges. What a mess.
6. Sorority Life
Sorority Girls was one of MTV’s earlier reality shows that followed a bunch of girls pledging the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Pi, a Jewish sorority at the University of California, Davis. The show had two more seasons with two different sororities. We watched as the girls fought with each other and tested themselves to see how far they’d go to be a part of this exclusive group. The show was jam packed with alternative- pop ballads by the likes of Natalie Imbruglia and of course, Michelle Branch. Who could forget Michelle Branch’s “You Get Me” featured on the show’s opening credits? We bet if you turned it on now after not hearing it all this time, you’d still know every word.
5. Rich Girls
While MTV’s Rich Girls only aired for one season in 2003, most reality TV junkies remember the show well. The show circled around two rich best friends, Allie Hilfiger and Jaime Gleicher (both had extremely successful daddies) as they went through their ridiculously privileged lives. While it would be easy to dismiss these two as boring, spoiled brats, they actually gave us some great quotable gems. Like the time they talked about cargo pants and their importance: “People buy cargo pants in the midwest, not to say ‘Oh, I could wear these with stilettos and a sexy top’… they buy them because they have a lot of pockets because they work in the fields and they need them.” Classic.
4. Kathy Griffin- My Life on the D-List
Whether you like her or hate her, you have to admit that watching Kathy Griffin- My Life on The D-List had you rolling. Even though she can be kind of ridiculous, her quick jabs and cunning asides are right on the mark. My Life on the D- List first aired in 2005 and went on for six seasons until its end in 2010. We watched as Kathy shamelessly tried to maintain a name for herself in Hollywood, and she did make progress throughout the show’s run. Whether it was a small hosting gig, or winning an Emmy, Kathy ate it all up. Her supporting cast was honestly just as funny as she was— how could we forget her adorable parents? While the show was light most of the time, we also witnessed Kathy go through some rather dark moments in her personal life, like her surprising divorce and her father’s death. Seeing this side of Kathy helped us understand her soft-side, which honestly made her cutting humor a lot easier to handle.
3. Real Housewives of Orange County
While Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Orange County is still on today, we couldn’t not include them in our list; it’s a reality TV icon! The show first aired in 2006 and was the first of its kind on Bravo, opening doors to a certain style of reality show we hadn’t seen yet. While the cast changes slightly year after year, the original Orange County Housewives cast will forever be engrained in our mind— especially “OG of the OC” housewife, Vicki Gunvalson (can I get a “whoohoo”?) Watching these women make horrible parenting mistakes (like when Vicki surprised her son, Michael in his frat house in college) and questionable fashion decisions (bedazzled halter tops, anyone?) was just a part of the show’s appeal. We also never get sick of the drama. These women treat their girlfriends worse than we treated ours in middle school, and yet we literally can’t stop watching. There’s a reason why The Real Housewives of Orange County just completed its 11th season.
2. Jon and Kate Plus Eight
Just in case you were wondering what it would be like to bear six children at once and raise eight of them all together— it doesn’t end well. Jon and Kate Plus 8 originally aired in 2007 on TLC after filming multiple one-hour specials on the Discovery Health Channel. There were many things about this show that both fascinated and terrified us: the number of daily diaper changes they endured, the time consuming lunch making, Kate’s sassy haircut, etc. No matter how dreadful things got, you just couldn’t look away.
Unfortunately, many viewers began losing interest in the show after Jon left Kate and the kids for a life off-screen. The break-up was very public, and probably not great for the kids. Many people criticized the show for exploiting the children at such a young age, and it was only a matter of time before things snapped. The show is now called, Kate Plus 8 and is entering its tenth season.
MTV’s Diary gave us a glimpse into the crazy, hectic lives of our favorite celebrities. The show’s format allowed the featured actors and musicians to talk directly to the camera, allowing viewers to really connect with them on an intimate level. Every episode would open with a voiceover of the featured artist saying, “You think you know, but you have no idea.” And boy did we get an idea. One of the more memorable episodes was the one that followed the late R&B singer, Aaliyah. Viewers were lucky enough to get to know Aaliyah on another level before her tragic, untimely death. Diary also featured big-time musicians like Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez and Britney Spears.