Very few Netflix original series seem to make it past a third season anymore, but there’s one genre on the streaming giant that seems to buck that trend with relative ease: Reality shows. We’re talking long-running Netflix hits like Queer Eye, Selling Sunset, and Love is Blind, the latter of which just got renewed for a sixth and seventh season. And there’s no big secret to understanding why. Such shows are comparatively cheap to produce, and they’re usually built around an addictive dynamic as opposed to drawn-out storylines with high-priced actors.
In the case of Love is Blind, for example, it’s built an enduring franchise that will run for at least seven seasons on Netflix, anchored around the notion of people meeting each other and falling in love sight-unseen. The thing is, though — look, I enjoy reality TV as much as the next person, and if that’s what you’re looking for from Netflix, there are, in my humble opinion, some much better options worth checking out instead of Love is Blind’s emotionally manipulative schlock-fest.
In fact, it’s a show built around a fatally flawed premise from the outset: Love may be blind, but the participants here very much are not. Make of that what you will.
I recommend skipping it so that you can check out these four other Netflix reality series instead. Starting with one of the streamer’s biggest shows in the world right now — the reality show spinoff of Squid Game.
It’s the #3 Netflix show in the world this week — moreover, the 10-episode Squid Game: The Challenge is now going on its third week of ranking among the Top 10 Netflix series in the world.
Four hundred fifty-six players begin the competition in this show in pursuit of $4.56 million, the largest cash prize in the history of reality and game show TV. “As they compete through a series of games inspired by the original show — plus surprising new additions — their strategies, alliances, and character will be put to the test while competitors are eliminated around them,” explains the official Netflix synopsis. The entire season, by the way, is available to watch now, so I won’t spoil who ended up walking away with that staggering cash prize.
I wondered whether taking away the threat of death that was ever-present in the original show would make this reality series feel like a pale imitation, but it’s still quite a nail-biter in its own right. The show includes games that are familiar to Squid Game fans — such as Red Light, Green Light, ushered in by the animatronic doll Young-hee — as well as new surprises that are deployed and which lead to eliminations.
This next Netflix series is also a competition, one in which 12 contestants, including poker players, gamers, actors, and even one K-pop idol, live together in a swanky house while trying to outwit each other in a series of maddeningly complicated games. In addition to the games, they also collect and trade gold pieces, form alliances, and work toward building up a pot of money that one winner will eventually go home with.
Two kinds of matches take place each day: A prize match, where players compete for gold pieces, and a main match — the point of which is to eliminate a player. As an example of the kinds of games that are played herein: One of them is a “rules race,” where players move game pieces around a giant board, and the first one to cross the finish line wins. The catch: The pieces move according to rules that the players themselves created. Some of the rules were meant to serve as countermeasures, while other rules simply supercharge a player’s own game.
In another turn-based game, players have to figure out who among them has been designated a “terrorist” and who is an “ordinary citizen,” and to do so before the “terrorists” have “killed” everyone. There are 12 episodes in all, and I couldn’t be happier that Netflix has green-lit a second season.
Moving right along, we come to Is She The Wolf, a Netflix series that repurposes a 13-season hit series from Japan (Who Is The Wolf?) as follows:
Five men and five women embark on a search for true love, spending time in a group house while also going on dates and working on a group project. The twist is that (at least) one of the women has been designated as a “wolf.” She’s not allowed to fall in love and must make it to the end of the game without being found out by anyone.
Per Netflix, “That means all the contestants who are not ‘wolves’, as well as the audience, are constantly trying to figure out if the connections that are blossoming on the show are really the beginnings of true romance, or simply the deceptive maneuvers of the ‘wolves’.” Oddly enough, the Japanese setting made this 10-episode show one of the most Zen-inducing Netflix series I’ve watched in quite some time.
The final Netflix series I want to mention for reality genre fans out there is Single’s Inferno — another Korean title, which is almost always an automatic stamp of quality as far as streaming series go.
The dynamic: Basically, Netflix brings together a group of attractive and ambitious singles, and they get to know each other while living on a secluded island. The show refers to that island as “inferno,” even though that’s kind of a misnomer as it nevertheless offers a relaxing setting and gorgeous vistas. The singles who hit it off together hook up and are whisked away for one night’s stay in a lavish hotel on another island nearby.
Throughout the show, a panel that includes Korean celebrities like Lee Da-hee provides a running commentary. And that panel is one of the many things I enjoy about the show, as the commentary is never mean-spirited — the panelists, for example, swoon when they see couples fall in love.