The Best Reality Dating Shows to Watch on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, HBO Max, and More

Harry and Beaux, Too Hot to Handle

Netflix

The reality dating show is a genre unto itself, with dozens of TV series about people looking for love and/or fame on television. There are competition shows, and more documentary-style shows. They all have in common certain character types — mean women and skeevy guys — and an air of disreputability, no matter how acclaimed they are (Love Is Blind was nominated for an Emmy!). These are considered guilty pleasures, to be watched instead of more “serious” fare. But we say there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure, and these shows are all worth watching on their own terms for their entertainment value. And honestly, if you watch an entire 50+ episode season of Love Island, the characters get as developed as any HBO antihero — and they’re real people. 

All reality dating shows exist in the shadow of The Bachelor, the undefeated 20-year champ of the genre, but if you’re clicking on this list, you’re probably looking for shows beyond The Bachelor, so it’s not included (though Bachelor in Paradise, the less-watched, more raucous spin-off, is). Some other addicting reality TV binges are here, though, like the reigning Netflix hit Too Hot to Handle and the infamous mid-00s institution Flavor of Love. We guarantee you’ll find something here you’ll feel a little embarrassed for watching but also can’t wait to talk to everyone you know about.

We also have hand-picked selections based on shows you already love, as well as recommendations for Netflix (movies/shows), Amazon Prime Video (movies/shows), Hulu (movies/shows), Disney+ (movies/shows), HBO Max, Apple TV+, and Peacock.

Joe Millionaire: For Richer or Poorer 

Joe Millionaire: For Richer or Poorer

Joe Millionaire: For Richer or Poorer

Wilford Harewood/FOX

On this currently airing Fox dating competition, a group of women compete for the affection of two young men who are both successful blue-collar businessmen. The catch is one of them is a multi-millionaire and the other is not. The women don’t know which is which, and they won’t find out for sure until the end. So as they all get to know each other, the men have to suss out who’s there for love and who’s there for money, and the women have to choose which man they like and decide if they’ll still have feelings for him if it turns out he’s not rich. This is a reboot of the original Joe Millionaire, which premiered in 2003 during a crueler era of reality television. It had a similar premise, except the women were told a broke construction worker was a millionaire. “Last time, Joe Millionaire was about deceiving women into believing a fantasy,” the show’s host says early in the premiere of the reboot. “This time, we’re focusing on what matters: human connections.” It’s a nice sentiment, but the fact of the matter is that Joe Millionaire is a show about men trying to hide the truth about who they are from women who aspire to be gold-diggers. It’s a misanthropic show. It follows many moves from The Bachelor‘s reality dating competition playbook, but with less polish (which is to say the leads are less charismatic and people do more tequila shots on-camera). All that being said, if you are predisposed to reality dating shows, you will inevitably find yourself sucked into the addictive drama as the men fall for multiple women and the women fight amongst themselves. It’s hard to look away from a televised drunken meltdown! –Liam Mathews [Trailer]

My Mom, Your Dad

My Mom, Your Dad

My Mom, Your Dad

HBO Max

MILFs meet DILFs in this cutesy twist on dating reality shows in which Gen Z kids push their single 50-ish parents to live in a house with each other to find love. What the parents don’t know is that their kids are watching their every move from a house down the street and meddling in their dates to help their parents spit game and not be totally lame. It’s the ultimate in “Mommmmmm, you’re embarrassing me!” but it’s held together by the kids’ genuine interest in seeing their parents happy (and the natural love triangles and unnatural eliminations that grow from the environment). -Tim Surette [Trailer]

FBoy Island

FBoy Island

FBoy Island

Julie Corsetti/HBO Max

This really seems like one of those shows that came up with its title before anything else, or maybe we’re living in a universe where fake shows from 30 Rock become real programs. The reality show FBoy Island — yes, FBoy Island — follows three women who are wooed by an onslaught of hunks at a tropical resort, with the twist that half of the men aren’t actually there for love and are only trying to win the women’s hearts to take home a cash prize. It was created by former The Bachelor executive producer Elan Gale, a man who knows how to make reality dating shows. -Tim Surette [Trailer]

Too Hot to Handle

Too Hot to Handle

Too Hot to Handle

Tom Dymond

In this reality competition, a gaggle of hot and horny singles from all over the world have to live together in a villa, but they’re forbidden from sexual activity of any kind. No snogging, no wanking, and certainly none of the ol’ in-out, in-out. And these young folks have a really, really hard time with it. They have to look within and find a spiritual solution for the emptiness they feel. Not all holes can be filled physically. A YouTube commenter on the trailer described this as “basically Love Island but Amazon’s Alexa is controlling everything,” which is incredibly on point. It’s somehow in its third season already. –Tim Surette [Trailer]

90 Day Fiancé / Before the 90 Days

90 Day Fiancé

90 Day Fiancé

TLC

One of the darkest reality show franchises out there (which is saying a lot), 90 Day Fiancéand its six (!!) spin-offs are perfect to watch when you need to feel better about your own life. Because no matter what you’re dealing with right now, at least you aren’t one of these people. This isn’t to say that the 90 Day Fiancé is a gloomy binge. It’s filled with juicy drama, some real screwball comedy, and occasionally genuinely moving moments as the couples try to figure out how to make their relationships work. When it comes to where to jump in, we recommend you start with the flagship, which follows an American and their foreign fiancé throughout the 90 days they have to get married before the foreigner’s K-1 visa expires, and its spin-off Before the 90 Days, which follows an American traveling abroad to meet their online significant other for the very first time, usually in the hopes of getting engaged. Both of these premises are obvious recipes for disaster, but that’s precisely the point. –Sadie Gennis [Trailer]

Love Island (U.K.)

Love Island

Love Island

ITV2

Even though there is technically prize money awarded to a winner at the end, this U.K. sensation isn’t concerned with the competition aspect at all. Instead, Love Islandfocuses on the ups and downs of a revolving group of hot singles living as couples in a gorgeous villa. As new sexy singles come in, the couples will find themselves tested and perhaps splitting for good during one of the show’s intense recoupling ceremonies. Adding to all this are ruthless twists, goofy games, and the madly brilliant Casa Amour, where the boys and girls are separated for a week and must live with a new batch of singles before deciding whether to stay in their original couple or not. With nearly 50 episodes in a standard season and seven seasons already streaming, watching Love Island seems like an overwhelming project. But once you start, you’ll find yourself grateful for the bountiful episode count and probably even wishing there were more. –Sadie Gennis [Trailer]

Back With the Ex

Back with the Ex

Back with the Ex

Netflix

The problem with dating shows is that most start with strangers kicking off relationships based on instant, new attraction, and then falling into the predictable formula of small talk, make-out sessions, and eventually, boredom with each other. Australia’s Back With the Ex creates a ton of new drama by following groups of former flames who want another shot at being together, skipping the triviality of getting to know each other in favor of wondering if their ex has changed at all. (They haven’t.) The history between the two, both good and bad, becomes the defining characteristic of their attempts to reignite the flame, whether they’ve been broken up for a year or decades, like one older couple that somehow exudes the most sexual energy of the bunch. It’s a blast to see these couples fall into the same traps that ended their relationship before or promise that they’ll change even though everyone knows they won’t — like the gym rat who cooks at home but still doesn’t own plates somehow. You’ll be shouting, “GIRL, that’s why you broke up with him in the first place!” over and over. –Tim Surette [Trailer]

Bachelor in Paradise

Bachelor in Paradise

Bachelor in Paradise

ABC/Craig Sjodin

One of the greatest examples of recycling comes in this Bachelor and Bachelorette spin-off, in which rejected losers from those franchises fly to a resort in Mexico where they give love via reality TV another shot. The game is actually a sinister social experiment on the part of the producers, because they know the contestants’ biggest crushes and use that info to bring in fresh meat just when people begin to couple up, causing instant jealousy and second thoughts. It’s brilliant, really. Any member of Bachelor Nation who knows what they’re talking about will tell you this is the best series in the franchise by far. –Tim Surette [Trailer]

Love Is Blind

Love Is Blind

Love Is Blind

Netflix

If you somehow missed Netflix’s wild romantic reality series, well, now’s as good a time as any to find out what everyone has been obsessing about on social media — actually, now’s an even better time to watch it because the formatting is more relevant than ever in the wake of social distancing. The series features singles going on dates in isolation “pods” wherein they can’t see or touch their suitors, but instead talk to them through a big blue wall. (Yes, the coronavirus jokes have already been written about this one.) Those who decide to get engaged without ever laying eyes on one another eventually get some face-to-face time, but then they’ve got the added pressure of a rapidly-approaching wedding date ahead. You might be surprised by how well this unique formula actually works for some of the couples on the show. Season 2 is coming on Feb. 11. –Amanda Bell [Trailer]

Married at First Sight

Married at First Sight

Married at First Sight

FYI

If you enjoyed Love Is Blind, may we introduce you to Married at First Sight? The FYI/Lifetime series, which premiered in 2014, goes one step further than the Netflix hit, having a team of relationship experts pair up three couples who meet for the first time at the altar before exchanging any words or personal information (other than their ring sizes, of course). The series then chronicles the couples as they go on their honeymoons before returning home and living together for eight weeks, at the end of which time they must decide whether or not they want to stay married or get divorced. If this sounds kind of brutal, it’s because it is! But despite what you may suspect, there are some real genuine relationships that come from this series, so the schadenfreude you feel is balanced out by some actual earnest investment in certain romances. -Sadie Gennis [Trailer]

Flavor of Love / Rock of Love / Charm School

Flavor Flav, Flavor of Love

Flavor Flav, Flavor of Love

Filmmagic/VH1

In the mid-’00s, VH1 landed on the genius idea of plagiarizing the format of The Bachelor, but casting unappealing weirdos (Public Enemy hypeman Flavor Flav, Poison frontman Bret Michaels) in the lead and having desperate people who weren’t classy enough for The Bachelor fight over them. The result was glorious nihilism and anarchy. The success of flagship program Flavor of Love spawned a small galaxy of low-budget, self-replenishing shows, including standouts Rock of Love and Charm School.Liam Mathews [Trailer]

I Love New York

I Love New York

I Love New York

VH1

While we could have easily grouped I Love New York in with the rest of VH1’s Flavorverse, Tiffany “New York” Pollard deserves to be so much more than a footnote; she’s the main attraction and then some! Pollard shot to stardom on Flavor of Love before getting her own series in which 20 misfit men competed for her affection. While it’s the norm to see heightened versions of people on TV, no one has ever been quite as successful as Pollard when it comes to embracing an authentic, unapologetic extra-ness. It’s why she’s still one of the most popular sources for reaction GIFs, why there was a New York museum dedicated solely to her, and why you should watch her just being her on I Love New York, a truly important cultural touchstone. So go ahead and educate yourself on the magic of Tiffany Pollard. -Sadie Gennis [Trailer]

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