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Favorite Reality Shows and Reality Show Segments from 2020

Published January 18, 2021

Here are our top favorite reality shows and reality show segments from the past year, picked then ranked not so much according to these shows' intricacy or level of excitement than to their respective conceptual strengths in relation to tenable political, philosophical, or social theory values we saw in those strengths.

Floor Is Lava

(Released 19 June 2020 / Megan McGrath and Irad Eyal, creators; Brian Smith, director / Haymaker Media / Netflix / Game show)


WE get it. "The floor is lava" is a popular children's game. So, why not upgrade it for TV with some great art direction and witty narration indeed? Something that could have a mini-course that might look like a scene in Uncharted. The result? A gripping watch that also made us laugh at our reactions.
    But, let's face it, for most of us, the chances of a real lava situation in our towns might be zero percent, but this game has actually the same scenarios you'd encounter in floods, and we all know that floods have become more and more a common ground for the citizens of our planet. And while it's true that many would still walk in floodwater, knowledge about leptospirosis has been increasing, and thus avoiding getting parts of our bodies in contact with floodwater of any color is not a sissy thing to do anymore. That's why Floor is Lava is relatable on that angle and pragmatic for our time.
    Note: not even sportspeople and military personnel got a guaranteed win in the matchups. Another thing to know before watching: each game/episode has its own $10,000-winning team; there is no advancing to a next stage and no finale winner of a bigger prize, making for a broader set of individual characters or teams of characters.
    Here's an additional value our readers would love: each set design variation made for the game's episodes could actually pass for a nifty and semantically rich installation art work in a gallery basement.

Love on the Spectrum

(First aired on ABC, November 2019; Released for streaming on Netflix, July 2020 / Cian O'Cleary, creator-director / Karina Holden, executive producer / Northern Pictures / Reality television)


BRETT White of Decider: "This is a fun, romantic look at life on the spectrum that will hopefully shatter some stereotypes."

The Circle (American season 1)

(Released 1-15 January 2020 / Studio Lambert and Motion Content Group, producers / Netflix / Reality competition)


the trailer


EPISODE ONE | Exclusive Cut

INSPIRED by the MTV documentary series Catfish (about the reality behind online dating) as well as social media in general and the "Nosedive" episode of Black Mirror, The Circle (the original version of which premiered in the UK in 2018) is also a Big Brother sort of social experiment. Unlike Big Brother, however, the show is more interested in the elements of social media communication, which would of course include disinformation tactics like "catfishing" and approval-seeking techniques for ratings or likes, all within the social media environment of visibility or false visibleness.
    The show is also quite the social experiment on populism, since the contestants themselves are given the power to eliminate (or "cancel") one of the contestants in almost each episode, and for different (read: democratized) reasons. So it really doesn't matter who gets eliminated first (since that person may simply have been a victim of a kind of "wrongful un-vote"). Nor does it matter who finally wins. The overall takeaway seems to be no more than a confirmation of what might have been the experiment's hypothesis, or otherwise would be observed as having in fact expanded that hypothesis. It could be articulated thus:
    Social media is just like any other media mediated or curated by people (not gods), people whose judgments create losers and winners, losers and winners who would not necessarily be the worst and best elements in their society or social niche. Then again, of course, if we are going to extend our serious takeaway from the show and what it alludes to in real life, . . . there are the fatalist or determinist views that are easily able to find rationalizations for the necessity of losers' losing and winners' winning (winners of certain moments that would include Hitler and Donald Trump). These views are within fatalism's/determinism's overall take on humanity's historical evolution that ostensibly is leading it to a predetermined progress or destiny.

Spy Games

(Episodes released 20 January - 9 March 2020, Bravo, Amazon Prime / Kinetic Content / Reality competition)

KUDOS to Bravo for this and our thanks to judges Douglas Laux, Evy Poumpouras and  Erroll Southers for their insights that contrast so beautifully with the entertainment.

    Decider: "Some people even go with methods so strange and dumb you’ll find yourself wondering if they’re actually… genius?"


Two "Quickfire Challenge" segments from Top Chef Canada season 6

(Videos published 3 and 14 Aug 2020 respectively / Insight Productions, Shaw Media, Bravo, NBCUniversal / YouTube / Reality competition)

Chefs Cook Amazing Food From Imperfect Produce | Top Chef Canada. [Uploaded by Top Chef World, 3 Aug 2020]


These Chefs Fuse Two Food Trends into One Dish | Top Chef Canada. [Uploaded by Top Chef World, 14 Aug 2020]


IN April 2020, a channel called Top Chef World joined YouTube, and thereafter video clips culled from past Top Chef shows were uploaded here. Two of these new videos, taken from Top Chef Canada season 6 (2018) caught our attention and became our favorites. The first, titled Chefs Cook Amazing Food From Imperfect Produce | Top Chef Canada, contains the "Quickfire Challenge" segment of episode 2, while the other video, titled These Chefs Fuse Two Food Trends into One Dish | Top Chef Canada, was the Quickfire challenge segment in episode 3.
    We salute the message or pragmatism in that first segment's challenge, which is quite obvious.
    The anti-nationalist, globalist message being promoted by the second video clip, meanwhile, tugged at our awareness of the zeitgeist, being located in a time where fusion is not as shameful anymore as it was during the Bourdain era, for it has already come to pass that all sorts of cultural purism in the era of Trump have taken on a quite dark context. Thus the celebration of cultural crossroads in many a documentary series like Ugly Delicious.


The "Quickfire Challenge" segment from Top Chef: All Stars episode 10

(Video published 17 Jun 2020 / Insight Productions, Shaw Media, Bravo, NBCUniversal / YouTube / Reality competition)


The Cookie Monster Rates Chef's Cookies | Top Chef: All-Stars. [Uploaded by Top Chef World, 17 Jun 2020]


ANOTHER Top Chef World channel 2020 upload to YouTube was this one from Top Chef: All Stars (2010). It's the Quickfire Challenge segment of that season's episode 10, which focused on cookies, but judged by Sesame Street's Cookie Monster, Elmo, and Telly. We're curious as to who actually did the judging that picked Filipino-American chef Dale Talde as the winner of the $5,000 challenge prize.