This year, like so many years before it, was overflowing with reality TV. But, amidst the usual screaming Housewives and singing competitions, a new niche really took hold in a substantive way. Yes, 2012 was the year of redneck reality, and just as you might expect, it’s something you either love or hate. I’ll admit that I veer into the love end of the spectrum pretty often (and a few of these shows even made my top ten). Some of these shows do tend toward exploitation, but more often they capture something sorely lacking in so-called reality TV these days; people who don’t appear to be acting. It turns out a little reality in our reality TV can be compelling. Go figure.
The “Honey Boo Boo-ization” of reality TV wasn’t the only trend going, of course. I found, as I did last year, some of the most captivatingly weird shows can be found in the upper reaches of the dial, and these were the ones that were almost always impossible not to watch. People who exist on the far spectrum of our society are compelling for countless reasons, but the good news is that shows seem to be leaning away from making fun and toward finding the common thread of humanity in outsiders.
Given the ratings for some unlikely hit shows, people are clearly responding (producers wouldn’t have caught on otherwise), and I hope this signifies a movement away from the cruelty trend that’s made so much of reality TV almost unwatchable. Really, if a show doesn’t make me want to take a shower immediately afterward, I consider that a win.
There were many returning shows I wanted to include in this round-up (and many of my top 10 shows from last year, though I didn’t repeat much from that list, are still worthy of inclusion), but I’m glad to have found a surplus of TV worth watching. Here’s hoping there’s even more good stuff for all of us in 2013.