Scripted shows are great, but sometimes you just want to binge some good reality TV. Long-running reality television series such as The Bachelor, Survivor, and Say Yes to the Dress are popular options for scratching that unscripted drama itch, with all of them easy to flick on and devour. However, if you’re looking for a change of pace, consider casting your hungry eyes farther afield — like across an ocean.
Reality TV shows are deliciously addictive regardless of where they’re from, but different countries’ fresh approaches can make familiar formulas exciting and new. There’s also a ton of engrossing reality formats that haven’t yet found popularity in the U.S., offering a whole new world of engaging unscripted television to explore.
From cooking competitions to dating shows to wholesome everyday life, here are some of the best reality series from around the world.
1. Australia: MasterChef Australia
You wouldn’t expect it if you were only familiar with MasterChef U.S., but MasterChef Australia is hands down one of the most wholesome reality shows in the country. It’s also one of the most popular, having had a notable impact on the country’s food culture since its 2009 premiere.
Starting with 24 amateur cooks, each episode sees contestants take part in challenges such as cooking in teams, inventing meals from assigned ingredients, and recreating complicated dishes by professional chefs. Their food is judged and cooks gradually eliminated throughout the season, until one is crowned the title of MasterChef Australia.
MasterChef Australia has all the excitement of a competition, but is more concerned with food and friendship than spectacle and sabotage. Contestants actively help and encourage each other, sharing cooking tips and even ingredients. It’s heartwarming to see everyone just trying their best to make incredible, mouthwatering dishes.
That isn’t to say things can’t still go terribly wrong. Who could ever forget Season 7’s infamous white chocolate velouté?
Where to watch: MasterChef Australia unfortunately doesn’t have any official U.S. streams, but a dig around on YouTube or the r/MasterChefAU subreddit should help you out.
2. Britain: Taskmaster
Many reality show fans have at least heard of delightfully understated stalwart The Great British Bake Off. However, the iconic baking competition isn’t the only unscripted British show worthy of your Sunday afternoon.
In Taskmaster, a panel of comedians are asked to complete a variety of strange missions, such as eating as much watermelon as they can in one minute, putting something surprising inside a chocolate egg, or identifying whether they’re being poked by a sausage or a finger. Most tasks are pre-recorded, with contestants then watching it back and attempting to justify their actions — or persuade hosts Greg Davies and Alex Horne that they deserve more points.
The show gets very silly, with much of the humour coming from the bizarre ways the comedians approach their tasks. Taskmaster is a great series if you’re a fan of dry, British humour, and is hilarious regardless of whether contestants dither about or throw themselves in with gusto.
Where to watch: iTunes, The CW (from August 2)
3. China: If You Are The One (非诚勿扰)
Image: If You are the one
If You Are The One is arguably less of a reality show than Youth With You, the Chinese girl group competition which gained international attention for featuring Blackpink’s Lisa. Still, this savagely funny yet strangely sweet dating show is impossible to ignore, and has gained a cult following in Australia.
In If You Are The One, a single man is presented to a lineup of 24 single women. As the bachelor introduces himself with pre-prepared video packages, the women can turn off their podium lights to indicate they aren’t interested. If he makes it to the end of his presentation with lights still on, he can choose a date. If not, he leaves the stage while sad music plays. It is amazing.
The series’ cast are hilariously, brutally honest, while host Meng Fei doesn’t hesitate to skewer anyone who deserves it. Yet If You Are The One can still be surprisingly romantic. It’s unexpectedly cute when a couple walk off hand-in-hand, shyly eager to learn more about each other. Some men even tailor their videos to directly declare affection for a specific woman. It’s very endearing — when it doesn’t stray into stalker territory.
Where to watch: Full episodes are available on Jiangsu TV’s official YouTube channel, though you’ll have to do a little more searching if you want English subtitles.
4. Japan: Terrace House (テラスハウス)
This gentle Japanese series starts with a group of young strangers moving into a house together, but that’s where the Big Brother similarities end. Terrace House has no tasks or eliminations, and participants are free to continue working and go on outings. Instead, the appeal is in watching the everyday interactions of the three men and three women as they settle into their new home and get to know each other.
Terrace House is slow-paced and soothing yet incredibly addictive, following real, personable people navigating familiar interpersonal problems. It isn’t technically a dating show, but you’ll probably find yourself hoping certain people pair off — and certain people certainly do. There’s also a panel who observe and comment on the housemates’ interactions, giving Terrace House that Gogglebox element of communal judgement.
If you’re tired of excitable, artificial drama and want something sweet and calming, Terrace House is like a warm cup of tea at the end of a long day.
Where to watch: Netflix
5. Netherlands: Who Is The Mole? (Wie is de Mol?)
Remember The Mole? The Netherlands never forgot. The Dutch version of this reality game show has continued to run long after other countries retired the format, fostering distrust and paranoia for over a decade.
In Who Is The Mole?, 10 contestants are given various missions they must work together to complete. However, one is a mole secretly tasked with sabotaging the others’ efforts throughout the season. Players attempt to deduce who among them is the mole, with the person who is most off track eliminated every episode.
The audience isn’t told the mole’s identity until the finale either, letting you hunt for clues and fiercely debate theories with friends as well. Who Is The Mole? is a fun show for when you want to engage a bit more in your binge watching, or need a new subject for your Always Sunny conspiracy board.
Where to watch: There aren’t any official, subtitled Who Is The Mole? streams in the U.S., but a quick YouTube search is likely to reward you.
6. South Korea: The Return of Superman (슈퍼맨이 돌아왔다)
The Return of Superman is possibly the most wholesome reality show in existence, and that includes a British series about rescue dogs finding their forever homes. The premise is simple: Celebrity fathers care for their children for two days without any help, while their wives leave to enjoy some time off. These Supermen aren’t neglectful parents forced to look after their own kids for the first time, though. The dads are loving, hands-on parents taking their children on fun outings, and giving us a peek into their family life.
Watching these caring fathers play with, teach, and comfort their children is like soaking your soul in sunshine. The kids are adorable as well, innocently exploring the world and unintentionally making their dads’ lives more difficult by doing things like washing his keyboard in the sink to help him clean.
The Return of Superman is the kind of funny, feel-good, gently uplifting show that everyone needs now and then. It’s absolutely bursting with love, and will leave you happy for the rest of the day.
7. The U.S.: Kitchen Nightmares
There’s no shortage of bingeable U.S. reality shows, but one that never fails to suck in an audience is Kitchen Nightmares. In this show, chef Gordon Ramsey gives struggling restaurants massive, satisfying makeovers within just a few days, changing the decor, training the staff, and, scarily often, giving the kitchen a desperately needed clean.
It’s gratifying to watch Ramsey help struggling restaurant owners who are sincerely trying their best. It’s also viciously delightful and much more common to see him chew out incompetent, careless people for dragging down the standards of the entire restaurant industry. Ramsey may be harsh, but you get the impression his targets deserve it.
Kitchen Nightmares focuses on interpersonal drama more than culinary skill, a slight differentiating point to its British predecessor Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares. If you’re interested in food wizardry though, MasterChef Australia might be more your speed.