From 'Love Is Blind' to 'The Bachelor': Our Definitive Ranking of TV Dating Shows
Reality TV dating shows might provide a temporary escape from everyday life, but their flaw in failing to generate genuine lasting love remains a critical issue. Despite problems ranging from racism to fatphobia to ableism, viewers stay hooked and demand change.
From "Love Island" to "Married At First Sight," we've watched them all and ranked them for you, starting from worst to best.
At number 17, we have "The Courtship," a show that follows Nicole Rémy's search for love while dressed in period costume amid English countryside settings. While whimsical and fun, the show fails to embrace contestants' authentic selves and reinforces outdated ideas of chivalry and gender roles that are arguably outdated in today's world.
At number 16, "Sexy Beasts" takes an even more bizarre approach of hiding contestants' looks with animal prosthetics, focusing instead on their personalities.
While fans continue to call for increased diversity and inclusivity in reality TV dating shows, it's clear that the lure of escapist romance keeps viewers coming back for more.
15. '5 Fellas a Week' (Lifetime)
"5 Fellas a Week," a popular UK series, delves into the unique concept of personality-based love. This show is about a single woman who invites five men to stay with her in her house for a week in pursuit of finding true love. Over the course of the week, the woman eliminates men until she finds the perfect match.
Why we love it: For people who don't have the time or patience to watch a full season of "The Bachelor," "5 Fellas a Week" offers the same excitement and drama in just a few self-contained episodes. Plus, there are a number of contestants in their 60s, which is rare for dating shows, ensuring a more diverse group of people in the search for love.
Why we hate it: To some, it comes off as a bit boring.
Season 1 is now streaming.
The evolution of reality TV: The revolution of reality TV
14. 'The Bachelor' (ABC)
"The Bachelor" is an ABC classic that has been airing for 20 years, featuring one man in search of true love among a group of 25 or so women. The lead dates each contestant both in group and individual settings. Every week, the lead hands out roses to the contestants who will continue on his quest for love, until he chooses a winner at the end of the season.
Why we love it: "The Bachelor" has been around the longest out of all the dating shows, and it has paved the way for many others.
Why we hate it: The contestants lack diversity in everything from race to body type, which can make the show bland. Additionally, the producers tend to highlight the women's feuds with each other over their connection with the lead. (We have to admit, the lead is usually pretty boring).
Seasons 14-16, 22-23 are now available on Hulu.
13. 'Cosmic Love' (Amazon Prime)
"Cosmic Love" is the show to watch if you are one of those people who swears by their zodiac sign and believes in "Love Island" and "Are You the One?" This new Amazon Prime series follows four contestants from each of the four elements: air, water, fire, and earth. Noel Allen (Pisces), Phoebe Davis (Leo), Connor Shennan (Gemini), and Maria Rodriguez (Capricorn) meet 16 contestants throughout the season to discover their perfect astrological match, decided by the AstroTwins Ophira and Tali Edut.
Why we love it: "Cosmic Love" is perfect for astrology believers who thrive on drama. With the show's fun and flirty premise, it's bound to be a hit among its online audience.
Why we hate it: The show missed out on the opportunity to include LGBTQ+ contestants hoping to find love. In addition, if you're not a fan of astrology, the premise is likely to leave you unimpressed.
Season 1 is now streaming.
12. 'Back in the Groove' (Hulu)
"Back in the Groove" targets a specific group of women in their early 40s who have achieved everything they want in life but are still looking for true love. Host Taye Diggs introduces the show playfully, which is inspired by the 1998 rom-com "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," starring Diggs. Throughout the series, three lead contestants date a series of younger men ranging in age from their early 20s to early 30s.
Why we love it: This show caters to an age group that has been overlooked in the dating show genre, highlighting the women's accomplishments in life rather than feeding into negative cougar stereotypes. Additionally, the show is more diverse in terms of race than others in the same category.
Season 1 is now streaming.
Why we hate it: "The Bachelorette" perpetuates traditional gender roles and toxic masculinity. The show portrays women as passive objects of desire, with male contestants competing for their affections through performative displays of dominance and aggression.
Season 18 currently airing on ABC.
7. 'The Circle' (Netflix)"The Circle" is a social media competition that takes place on a specially designed app. Contestants live in an apartment building and can only communicate with each other through the app, where they create profiles and interact anonymously. Players vote on who they want to be eliminated, with the winner taking home a cash prize.
Why we love it: "The Circle" is a fascinating exploration of online identity and the performance of self on social media. The game mechanics are addictive, and the contestants are often surprisingly genuine and vulnerable.
Why we hate it: The show can be overly manipulative and contrived, with producers engineering fake drama and forcing players to engage in cringe-worthy stunts and challenges.
Seasons 1-3 now streaming.
6. 'Bachelor in Paradise' (ABC)"Bachelor in Paradise" brings together former contestants from "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" for a second chance at love in a tropical paradise. The show features new arrivals and eliminations every week, with couples either staying together or splitting up.
Why we love it: "Bachelor in Paradise" is a guilty pleasure that's impossible to turn away from. The constant drama, hookups and breakups are addictively entertaining, and the show often takes on a self-aware, tongue-in-cheek tone.
Why we hate it: The show has been criticized for its lack of diversity and representation, with most contestants conforming to conventional beauty standards and heteronormative relationship structures.
Season 7 currently airing on ABC.
5. 'The Amazing Race' (CBS)"The Amazing Race" is a globe-trotting competition that pits teams of two against each other in a series of challenges and tasks. The show emphasizes cultural immersion and exploration, with contestants traveling to new countries and interacting with locals.
Why we love it: "The Amazing Race" is a thrilling adventure that keeps us on the edge of our seats. The challenges are creative and often physically demanding, and the show's international scope allows for a wide range of cultural experiences.
Why we hate it: At times, the show can be overly formulaic and predictable, with contestants conforming to established roles and archetypes. The competitive aspect can also lead to cutthroat behavior and interpersonal strife.
Season 33 currently airing on CBS.
4. 'Survivor' (CBS)"Survivor" is a classic competition show that strands contestants on a remote island and forces them to compete in challenges for rewards and immunity. Each week, one contestant is voted off the island by their peers, with the ultimate goal of being the last one standing and winning a cash prize.
Why we love it: "Survivor" is a masterclass in strategic gameplay and alliances. The show's social dynamics are endlessly fascinating, and the physical challenges are often grueling and impressive.
Why we hate it: The show has faced criticism for its portrayal of contestants from marginalized communities, as well as instances of bullying and harassment. The constant manipulation and backstabbing can also be exhausting to watch.
Season 41 currently airing on CBS.
3. 'RuPaul's Drag Race' (VH1)"RuPaul's Drag Race" is a competition show that features drag performers competing in a variety of challenges, ranging from lip syncing to fashion design. The contestants are judged by a panel of celebrity judges, and each week one performer is eliminated. The winner receives a cash prize and the title of "America's Next Drag Superstar."
Why we love it: "RuPaul's Drag Race" is a celebration of creativity, self-expression and individuality. The show's contestants are incredibly talented and hilarious, and the challenges often showcase their ingenuity and resourcefulness.
Why we hate it: The show has faced criticism for its handling of trans and non-binary performers, as well as instances of racism and cultural insensitivity. The judging can also be arbitrary and inconsistent, with some contestants seeming to receive preferential treatment.
Season 14 currently airing on VH1.
2. 'Queer Eye' (Netflix)"Queer Eye" is a makeover show that features a team of gay experts – known as the "Fab Five" – helping people transform their lives. Each episode focuses on a different individual or family, with the Fab Five offering advice and guidance on everything from fashion to cooking to personal growth.
Why we love it: "Queer Eye" is a heartwarming show that celebrates the power of self-improvement and human connection. The Fab Five are charming and relatable, and the transformations are consistently emotional and inspiring.
Why we hate it: The show has been criticized for its narrow focus on traditionally masculine, cisgender, and heterosexual subjects. Some viewers have also questioned the ethics of using people's personal struggles for entertainment purposes.
Season 6 now streaming.
1. 'Nailed It!' (Netflix)"Nailed It!" is a baking competition that features amateur bakers attempting to recreate elaborate desserts and treats. The contestants are judged by comedian Nicole Byer and pastry chef Jacques Torres, with the winner taking home a cash prize and a trophy.
Why we love it: "Nailed It!" is a hilarious and lighthearted show that doesn't take itself too seriously. The contestants are relatable and endearing, and the judges' commentary is always entertaining.
Why we hate it: The show can be repetitive and formulaic, with each episode following a predictable structure. Some viewers have also criticized the show for emphasizing spectacle over actual baking skill.
Seasons 1-6 now streaming.
The Bachelorette: Retaining Power or Creating Chaos?
The Problem: Despite the efforts to level the playing field by having the women as the leads for Season 19 of "The Bachelorette," the men still seem to maintain control with the expectation that the winning contestant will propose. This season follows the former finalists Gabby Windey and Rachel Recchia, who both were chosen as leads after Clayton Echard's season of "The Bachelor." However, it seems like the male contestants are pitting the women against each other, creating more chaos than empowerment.
Stream past seasons on Hulu, including 8, 10, 12, 13 and 19.
A Bachelorette First: Gabby and Rachel will simultaneously search for love on Season 19 of "The Bachelorette." Stream now on streaming platforms.
7. Are You the One? (MTV): Love or Money?
This show puts contestants on a mission to find their "perfect match," based on the opinions of expert matchmakers. The catch? The contestants have no idea who their "perfect match" is until the end of the 10-episode season. If all couples match correctly, they could win up to $1 million.
What We Love: All-queer cast in Season 8 created a safe platform for various sexual orientations and gender identities. The show overall brings to highlight the struggle that arises between love and the need for the perfect match that the contestants may not necessarily find.
What We Hate: The show focuses more on partying than creating genuine connections that could lead to the winning prize. Stream all seasons on Paramount, with limited seasons on Netflix and Hulu.
6. Love Is Blind (Netflix): Love on Blind Trust?
This show aims to eliminate the superficiality of regular dating by challenging individuals to make real-world decisions to work together without ever seeing each other first.
What We Love: The show challenges the shallowness of dating apps by encouraging bonding with someone's heart before physical appearance.
What We Hate: Despite the aim to alleviate superficiality, the contestants still try to sneak peeks at each other and make allowances for the appearance of the individual in the pods. Vanessa Lachey has suggested that the lack of body diversity is due to contestants being insecure about their appearance, which further promotes body shaming. Additionally, there are many marriages that don't make the final cut.
Stream now on Netflix.
Stream seasons 1 through 3 today and catch up on all the Bachelor drama!
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5. Bachelor in Paradise (ABC)
Bachelor in Paradise, the hit spinoff of the Bachelor and Bachelorette shows, offers contestants another chance at love on a tropical island. The competition features men and women alternating giving out roses in a quest to find lasting love.
Why we're hooked: The highest success rate of any Bachelor show, with more couples remaining together and tying the knot than any other ABC show (11 at last count!).
Why we're not convinced: Contestants sometimes join Paradise with the aim of pursuing specific partners, which doesn't always make for a happy ending. Remember when Pieper James and Brendan Morais appeared on Season 7 as singles, even though they were already an item? Awkward!
Stream seasons 1-3 and 8 on Hulu, and seasons 4-6 on HBO Max.
4. Indian Matchmaking (Netflix)
Sima Taparia, Mumbai's most renowned matchmaker, sets out to help Indian singles find their perfect match in this hit Netflix series. Based on family values, traditional practices, and preferences, Taparia hopes to unite couples through arranged marriages.
Why we love it: This unscripted series showcases the real-life struggles of Indian singles as they navigate family pressure, tradition, and modern dating.
Why we're hesitant: Though fascinating, the show fails to address the issues of the Indian caste system and only features Hindu participants, excluding other religious groups like Muslims, Christians, and Dalits.
Stream seasons 1 and 2 now.
3. 'Love Island UK' (Hulu)Contestants from all over Europe face off in the original British version of "Love Island" to become the top couple and win a whopping £50K prize for finding love.
Why it's a hit: The wit and playful banter of the British contestants make for entertaining conversations, and their accents don't hurt either. They're not afraid to shake things up and cause drama, making for compelling viewing.
Why it's controversial: "Love Island" has faced multiple complaints to the U.K. media regulator, Ofcom, largely due to perceived misogyny in the show. People of color have been underrepresented, with many sent home early or limited to same-race relationships.
Stream seasons 1-8 on Hulu now.
2. 'Married At First Sight' (Lifetime)
Married At First Sight sets up five or more couples with the help of dating experts and has them exchange vows sight unseen. After eight weeks, they must decide if they want to stay married or get a divorce.
Why it's addictive: While marrying a complete stranger may seem a bit extreme, the show presents couples with realistic challenges that they may face in real life, and includes couples therapy as a resource for them.
Why it's not for everyone: This isn't as salacious as other dating shows, so it might not be for viewers hoping for explosive drama and love triangles.
Stream seasons 1-15 on Lifetime.com. Various seasons are streaming on Netflix, Pluto TV and Hulu.
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1. 'Love on the Spectrum' (Netflix)Follow seven adults on the autism spectrum as they navigate dating and romance by going on matchmaking, speed and online dates. The show began in Australia before a U.S. version premiered in May.
Why it's a must-watch: This heartwarming and authentic portrayal of people on the autism spectrum aims to break down stereotypes and shows their unique perspectives on love. The show also encourages honesty and openness in relationships.
Why it's not perfect: With only five episodes per season, viewers may be left wanting more. There's also no dedicated reunion show to check up on the love stories.
Stream Seasons 1 (US) and 1-2 (Australia) on Netflix now.
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