Whether it’s fumbling fugitives, furry friends or faux fights you’re after, the big international reality shows of 2022 had it all.

The baubles are up at the mall and the fake tan is sold out at the Chemist Warehouse, which can only mean one thing: the end (of the year) is nigh. But before we start thinking about clawing our way into whatever horror awaits us in 2023, we must stop and reflect on the good times. And, for me, the good times have largely been spent slack-jawed on my couch watching the trashiest reality television humanly imaginable. To ensure that all those hours weren’t a waste of my precious time on this Earth, allow me to present my findings after many days and nights of important research: these are the greatest international reality shows of 2022.

Listen to The Real Pod discuss the best of the year’s international reality TV:

Married at First Sight Australia (S9)

Al does a shoey on MAFSAU

While Married at First Sight NZ remains but a twinkle in Samuel Levi’s eye, our friends across the ditch continue to diligently carry out their rigorous “social experiment” year after year. This year we met Al, the man-boy fresh from “schoolies” who relied on doing a “shoey” in any and all social situations. We met Cody, the man-boy who pranked his wife into wearing a ghillie suit and made her cry. We met Matt, the man-boy who sheepishly apologised to the entire group for drunkenly knocking on all their doors at 4am. But none of that drama holds a candle to the scenes between Domenica and Olivia, whose rivalry resulted in an explosive dinner party that thrust OnlyFans into the mainstream and opened up a massive conversation about content sharing and consent. Oh, and also never forget Dion’s insanely sparkly jacket

The Dog House UK (S3)

Simply the perfect show: First Dates but with dogs! Set in a friendly dog rescue centre in the lovely English countryside, The Dog House attempts to match all sorts of folks with their perfect dog. There’s families with young kids, oldies looking for a new pal in life and young couples looking to take the plunge. Meeting the dogs in a fixed-rig Big Brother style pen, the UK series takes a more gentle and observational approach, and you are basically guaranteed to cry in every episode at least once. I simply cannot wait for the local version next year. 

Below Deck: Down Under (S1)

2022 has been a huge year for New Zealanders on the world stage (the Black Ferns, Dug the Potato, Taika at the EMA’s), but there was no greater honour bestowed upon our fair nation than when it was announced that Tauranga-born Aesha Scott would be appointed as Chief Stew on the first season of Below Deck: Down Under. Following a crew of yachtie underdogs working for some of the wealthiest and rudest guests on the seven seas, this was a more chilled out charter season than previous instalments of the greatest reality franchise ever made. Although we did get not one but two poonamis, multiple mullet wigs and a guest vomiting in the spa pool. 

Hunted Australia (S1)

The action-packed series sees 18 Australian “fugitives” (read: classic Aussie drongos) go on the run from an expert team of detectives and high-level intelligence tracking their every move. If they manage to avoid capture by the end of the 21-day hunt, they win their share of $100,000. Hunted is shot like an honest-to-god Jason Statham film, complete with chopper shots and crash zooms on the stressed-out suits pacing around back at HQ. I’m only halfway through and sooo many drongos have been caught already, while those who are still in the game are relying pretty heavily on using old lady costumes as decoys. Just good television.  

Love Island UK (S8)

Not the very best season of the juggernaut UK series, but still delivered some incredible returns on our six-episode-a-week investment. Obviously Italian Stallion Davide yelling “LIAR, ACTRESS” at Ekin-Su is an all-timer, but nothing sent a shudder around the world quite like Andrew admitting to Tasha that he had cheated on her in Casa Amor. Through his Guilty Denver teeth he confessed that he may have “sucked a tit or whatever”, later revising the language to “licked a tit” as if that made it better. It’s moment like these that keep the franchise alive, and it is moments like these that make Love Island the perfect show to watch at the pub

The Bridge Australia (S1)

I’m embarrassed to admit that it took about four separate people telling me to watch The Bridge before I realised they weren’t talking about some snoozy Scandinavian murder show. The Bridge brings together a group of Aussies from all walks of life (model, opal collector etc) to work together to build a bridge to an island with their bare hands. On said island? A chest containing $250,000. The twist? Only one of them can do the final walk-the-bridge and retrieve the money. Will they split it or keep it? And will get the bridge done in time? I know it sounds like an early Julie Christie joint (The Fence – which side are you on?) but The Bridge is jam-packed with twists, challenges and tension and is a drop-everything-and-forget-to-eat-dinner kind of show. I’ve only watched one episode but I think it deserves a place on this list. It’s just that good. 

Love Is Blind (S3)

An interesting premise that always peters out halfway through when you remember that – regardless of what Nick and Vanessa Lachey want you to think – love is mostly not blind. But season three makes it to this coveted list purely for an incredible moment that comes in the first five minutes of episode three. Hotshot wildlife photographer and sex guru Andrew has just been rejected by his crush Nancy, and is telling all in his talking head interview. He asks the producer if they are rolling, before pulling out eye drops and dousing his ducts in fake tears. “I never thought I could care for someone that would bring me to tears,” he fake-cries. Love it. 

The Kardashians (S2)

To watch The Kardashians is to travel within two different dimensions of time and space. Given that each and every star of the show is one of the most famous people in the world, most of the storylines are extremely old news, and yet the show still manages to shock, amaze and make headlines with every single episode. How about how Khloe managed to keep her second child to Tristan Thompson a COMPLETE SECRET until the premiere of season two? Or how Kim and Pete Davidson broke up IRL halfway through the season airing, resulting in him being hastily edited out of the show? Or the whole thing with Kendall and the cucumber? Whatever you make of the family, no series chronicles the state of modern celebrity quite like The Kardashians. 

The Mole (S1)

Enter Madeleine Chapman, who watched the entirety of Netflix’s The Mole in one sitting: “I should have hated The Mole for the same reason I avoid most reality TV competitions – I can’t handle watching people lie. It stresses me out seeing people say one thing to the camera and then a very different thing to their fellow contestants. But I also love a competition (Amazing Race is a favourite) so that part of me won out in the beginning.

What kept me hooked was that the mole (aka the liar) was lying to everyone on the show and sabotaging challenges, but they were also lying to the me, the viewer, in their little interviews. And one thing I hate more than lying is being (convincingly) lied to. I watched all 10 episodes in a row to find out who was lying to me and I was not disappointed.”

A strong recommendation… or is she lying to you? Something to think about late at night.

Selling Sunset (S5)

The least relatable workplace comedy on Earth and the second fakest real estate reality show behind Rich Listers NZ, Netflix’s Selling Sunset follows the agents working at The Oppenheim Group in Los Angeles. The series lives and dies on supervillain Christine Quinn, famous for her absurd outfits including using a tiny chair as a handbag, who may not be returning to the franchise after becoming embroiled in a poaching scandal. This season also saw one of the Oppenheim bosses Jason taking a clearly fake call with his camera app open, and Emma revealing her spicy conversation with Ben Affleck on celebrity dating app Raya. What a year we’ve had.

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