Let’s just be honest: Black reality TV shows have often gotten the short end of the stick. Rarely do they get enough exposure, investment or love.
For example, back in March of 2022, NBC launched a new reality series starring a Black woman called “The Courtship”, only to remove it from NBC after airing just 2 episodes.
And even trying to include Black people in mainstream reality TV shows proves difficult. “Big Brother” has a long history of racism and exclusion during its 25-season U.S. run. And “The Bachelor(ette)” has had just a couple of Black people as the central figure, and even in those cases, they still load the cast up with non-Black “contestants” in a way that seems incongruent with typical dating customs, even by modern standards.
Yet, every now and then, there is a Black Reality TV show that rises above the rest. In the love category, while not exactly love, we all enjoyed watching Flavor Flav’s “Flavor of Love”, which still echoes the halls of reality TV today. MTV’s “Run’s House” was a pleasant surprise, one of the earliest reality shows to focus on a Black family with a positive view on them and on life. And who can forget VH1’s “I Want to Work for Diddy”, which should’ve been on the main channel at MTV, but that’s a story for another day.
So while we may not always have the reality TV shows we want, Black people always have THE reality show we need. That includes some of the top Black reality TV shows of today. All of these are the ones you should be watching in 2024…and beyond!
The Real Housewives of Atlanta
Let’s start with the OG of the crew, and perhaps the modern day exemplar of successful reality TV. Many people don’t remember this, but the entire Bravo network “Real Housewives” franchise was inspired by “Desperate Housewives” which was at the height of primetime television back in 2004. The franchise started off in Orange County, then came to New York City, but it was the Atlanta crew that took it to the next level. In its first season, the ladies of Atlanta just had a knack for integrating themselves in the burgeoning social media culture, serving as the inspiration for memes, new colloquialisms, and crossovers with Black celebrities that made the show the talk of reality television immediately. The show just celebrated 15 seasons of RHOA. With a cast that barely resembles the people the show started off with, its long-term success can be attributed to Atlanta’s preeminent position in “the culture”, the sheer entertaining abilities of Black women, and a dark, twisted, thirst to see thriving Black woman go at each other in a, more or less, harmful way. Because of all that, it’s hard to imagine, even in this world of short vertical videos and streaming, user-generated-content, that RHOA won’t still be around 15 years from now.
Summer House: Martha’s Vineyard
This was one of my favorite additions to the growing list of Black Reality TV shows. For those not already in the know, “Summer House” has long been a franchise on Bravo that featured, largely, young, white coeds living together for a few weeks in a somewhat palatial summer vacation house. As usual, hilarity, arguments, and some sex ensues. Now imagine that same scenario, but this time, everybody is Black. That’s “Summer House: Martha’s Vineyard”. And the “Black” part makes it quite a different show. And unlike many other Black reality TV shows out there, the group of friends on this show are almost exclusively buppies—young, upwardly mobile Black professionals. Although, I do use the term professional somewhat loosely, given some of the behavior that takes place.
But of course, it’s that very behavior that makes it a great show, as the friends fight, have deep conversations, huge laughs, fall for one another, experience growing pains, and talk about past triumphs and tribulations. It’s actually quite the roller coaster ride, and truthfully, it probably lacks the same level of spice as its origin show, or even some of the other reality shows on Bravo. But I guess that’s…progress? For once, a reality TV show featuring Black people is less about how wild and crazy their circumstances may be, and instead, you have a show of people really trying to find their place in the world and hopefully solidify some friendships along the way. It’s actually a lot more like “Real World” than it is “Real Housewives”, and it’s that nostalgic take that probably makes me, an elder millennial, a fan of the show. A new, second season of “Summer House: Martha’s Vineyard” is expected to air in the summer of 2024.
Ready to Love
“Ready to Love” is one of the many dating reality TV shows on OWN, but in my mind, it is certainly the best. The show features Black men and women in their 30s and 40s (sometimes 50s), who are professional, single and ready to mingle. Beside the fact that most, not necessarily all, of the people on the show are upstanding contributors to society, the interesting part about the show is that many of them often come with some sort of “baggage”. The baggage can include any and all things, like an ugly divorce, failed long-term relationship, several kids, in-between jobs, some f-boy tendencies, a dose of narcissism, or a lack of self confidence. Whatever it is, it makes for a really interesting show, because you often have people who get along on the surface, where everything seems like they’d be the perfect match. But then once the two get the digging, they see their incompatibilities. However, because they’re, relatively, so far down the path to a real relationship, coupled with the fact that many of them are at least somewhat “desperate” to find love, you then get to witness these individuals trying to work past their differences for the sake of a relationship. Now, whether that’s healthy or not, and I can see both sides of it, is up for debate. But it 100% makes for good television, so make sure you get caught up on Season 8, which is out right now.
Love is Blind
I’ll admit, “Love is Blind” isn’t really an all-Black reality TV show. In fact, it’s largely not Black, as well as questionably Black (we’ll get into that), making its selection on this list all that more interesting. But I bring it here, because while much of the cast isn’t Black, the bulk of the entertainment tends to come from the Black characters on the show. If you’re not in the know with millions of Netflix subscribers that watch “Love is Blind”, the show is as it sounds: it gets people to fall in love, sight unseen. Essentially, they take 30 people and put them in pods, where they then are able to converse with all of the gender they’re interested in, but they cannot see them. Ultimately, in order to meet one another, the couples have to agree to get engaged. Once they do that, they are shipped off to a resort to get see each other for the first time and plan their wedding. Some couples actually do end up getting married, and of course, some don’t. Either way, it makes for extremely interesting television as viewers watch the process of falling in love minus the sense of sight.
The “questionably Black” part comes into play because there are a lot of questionable things that happen with the Black castmates on the show. Chief among them is that as a Black man, it’s very hard watching this show sometimes, as the brothers they choose can sometimes be out of bounds weird, misogynistic and Eurocentric—often all in one package. Every now and then, there’s a brother we can rest assure that will make us “look good” in front of white people and not embarrass our sisters, but those are few and far in between. Then with the Black women on the show, well, they usually get next to little air-play. It’s as if the show has done next to nothing to understand that, while still casting plenty of Black women, their inability to put them in situations where they can find love at the rate of other people, and/or be featured throughout the show when they actually do fall in love, is a turn off to me, many others, and particularly, Black women.
Nevertheless, it’s still a good entertaining watch. I have faith in recommending it, as it seems like the producers have gotten the word, and they’re ready to rectify some of the issues from seasons past. The last thing they can do is afford to lose their appeal with Black viewers, and in particular, Black castmates, as they drive a great deal of chatter and entertainment, respectively, into what is Netflix’s premiere reality TV franchise.
Real Housewives of Potomac
I recently got into an argument about which show was better, “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”, or its pseudo-spin off, “The Real Housewives of Potomac”. I can’t help but give the nod to the OG RHOA sub-franchise, but I do recognize that RHOP is certainly coming for the throne. With many of the same shenanigans you get from RHOA, the ladies of Potomac tend to be a lot more dynamic, interesting, social media inclined, and dare I say, younger. That all has lad to them quickly becoming one of Bravo’s biggest extensions of the “Real Housewives” franchise, with their recent appearance at BravoCon in Las Vegas giving credence to that.
While the RHOA cast may be in somewhat of an upheaval due to several of its long-time castmates departing the show over the past 2 seasons, Potomac seems to purely be in “addition” mode, bringing on new castmates to sit along the already burgeoning group of mainstay Black women on the show. This has certainly helped the show avoid getting stale, as well as avoid having to go back to the well to fall on some of the historic tropes and storylines from seasons past. Instead, Potomac is introducing new twists and turns every season, rotating who’s the “villain” and who’s the “superhero” time after time, with anybody able to catch this smoke. Quite frankly, while I still have faith RHOA, if you’re asking me which show is still going to be around 10 years from now, serving up intrigue, youth, and vigor, then I have to give the nod to Potomac, because as a show, it’s currently in a very good place castwise, and that’s almost always the only thing that matters.
Find More Entertaining Characters
While BlackOakTV may not have slew of reality TV shows for you to check out, we definitely have no problem creating some entertaining Black characters of our own. Check out shows like The Closet B!tch to see some of the more eccentric characters ever to grace a TV screen. And don’t forget to check out our full Black TV show catalog to find more of the episodes and movies you’re looking for!