4 British Reality TV Shows to Watch if You Need a Hug RN

A couple years ago, I moved from Toronto, the home of Drake, to London, the home of actual royalty. It’s probably the best decision I’ve ever made in my life. One thing I’ve especially taken to? Their charming reality shows. I’m not saying a British accent magically fixes everything — Geordie Shore (the British Jersey Shore) and Ex On The Beach are counter-proof enough — but in the right setting it really can make the world seem like a better place.

Join me in stepping into a world where reality means nothing, and charm and a well-placed smirk makes everything feel special again. Consider adding these four to your Sunday Scaries streaming line-up.

1. The Great British Bake Off

Allow me to ease in with a classic.

Thanks to The Great British Bake Off, I am now the kind of person who cares about a good victoria sponge and bad, soggy pie crust bottoms. In other words, I am insufferable when it comes to baked goods.

I blame the horribly-humble amateur bakers who compete for the title of Britain’s “Best Amateur Baker,” a trophy in the form of a cake stand and a cash prize of nothing. How simply un-American!

I’ve shed real tears over beautiful bakes and heart-breaking failures, beamed over a contestant’s confidence-building progress, and laughed at hosts Mel and Sue’s bad innuendos. I’ve even dreamt of a day where judge and British icon Mary Berry cooked one of her famous meals for me.

Britain loves this show so much that it became a national scandal when it was announced that Bake Off was moving from its home at the BBC to competitor Channel 4, taking only judge Paul Hollywood (the show’s version of Simon Cowell) with them.

It premiered there just last week, to good reviews. But I can’t help but wonder: Could the charm endure without Mel and Sue’s signature “BAAAAAKE” cry? Will everyone be talking about new co-host goth-comedian Noel Fielding’s outfits more than the actual bakes?


2. First Dates

We, my friends, are in a rom-com drought. The only way we can fill this gaping hole in our hearts is not with the roses and dried tears of former Bachelor contestants, but rather, with steak dinners and endearingly awkward conversations on First Dates. It’s the Brit reality show where singletons are matched up on blind dates and viewers glean the motivation we need in order to continue dating in the age of Tinder.

There’s always something sweet to learn on First Dates. Maybe it’s a cliché said in French by Fred, the resident Frenchman and dapper maître d’, what love looks like according to a 90-year-old widower or the kind of courage it takes to find love in the face of incurable cancer. Why yes, I am crying over the thought of it. Thank you for the box of tissues.


3. The Secret Life of Four, Five and Six-Year-Olds

I love kids. I think they’re funny up until they start throwing tantrums in the middle of the toy aisle at Walmart.

Luckily for me, I have found The Secret Life of Four, Five and Six-Year-Olds. It’s a show where cameras and child experts watch as kids play with each other while they develop social skills, giving me the opportunity to be a “kid person” without the poop, the yelling and the tears.

It’s also a great way to pick up on the innocent, wise and completely relatable wisdom of tiny humans. Take, for example, this apt description of my current dating life: “I have two boyfriends and they’re both cats.”

4. The Great Pottery Throw Down

The Great Pottery Throw Down is an absolute DELIGHT and perfect for anyone in dire need of a new hobby.

It’s set up exactly like Bake Off as twelve amateur potters compete for nothing but the glory of becoming Britain’s Best Amateur Potter. It has the same kind of light-hearted vibe and friendly camaraderie between contestants in Bake Off, but the innuendos seem more poignant when clay is involved. (I’m still waiting for someone to recreate that scene from Ghost).

Not convinced? Well, the following are actual words that were once uttered on the show: “During the day, I’m the mild-mannered person doing people’s mortgages. In the evening, I’m the mad potter.” It’s sincere and unintentional. In other words, comedic gold.

Do you watch British reality TV? Please share your uplifting recommendations below. I’ll take ‘em all.

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  • Hannah

    As a British girl, this has made me a little bit proud of us!
    (Just don’t mention Ex on the Beach)

    • VanMann

      I am a Brit Chick too, and love First Dates with a passion 😁 and I agree
      Hannah, it is one of our shows to be super proud of 😚

  • meme

    I love love love TGBBO, so this is right up my alley. If only it were easier to acces BBC programing from France -come on BBC, give us the good stuff.
    Also, not a reality show, but QI is “brilliant”.

  • GBBO is my life but I haven’t started the new series bc I’m scared of how it’ll be without Mary/Mel/Sue. However, I’ve heard good things so far so I’m gonna give it a go!!! One of my fave things of living in the UK now is the great shows, honestly. Also, MIRANDA. I love that show so much. You all must watch it immediately. (It’s not new though!)

    • Mya Patel

      the level to which i adore miranda are slightly unreal. i will never be able to say allure properly thanks to that show. also GBBO is soooooo good. the talent is rather unreal, not quite the same but still good.

    • Kate Seward Chambers

      GBBO is almost as good, missing Mel & Sue but it’s still a lovely warm hug 🤗

  • Alisha

    First dates is LIFE. Forever wondering when Cici and Sam will declare their undying love for one another…

    Love Island aside, we have a lot of TV to be proud of!

    Love from Wales 🙂

    • Andrea Raymer

      But like… Love Island is amazing though.

      • Portia Baladad


  • Jane

    Please tell me I’m not the only one who thought for a second that the man in the photo for First Dates was Ewan McGregor in character??

  • Love. Them. All.


  • JennyWren

    Is the Great British Sewing Bee still running? I am a lapsed home-sewer and it’s wonderful therapy for when you just can’t be bothered to heave the machine out from it’s nesting place at the back of the spare wardrobe, covered in a protective blanket of winter coats, spare air mattresses and Christmas decorations. Much better to watch someone else have to deal with turning a French seam…

    • Audra

      Love the Great British Sewing Bee! I was about to recommend it myself 🙂

  • Svenja

    TGBBO is amazing, I always loved watching it. The antiques roadshow and bargain hunt are also 2 of my faves though.

  • Nathalie

    I LOVE First Dates. To the point where I binged watched it last winter and all of my friends asked me to stop cause it gave me false expectations of what the dating life is in reality (speaking from a 25y old Berlin perspective)

    • Brennah

      Ah, the Berlin dating scene… one of the only things I do not miss about living there!

      • Nikelle

        Anyone know anything about the Milan dating scene?

  • Amber MB

    Can confirm these are all 10/10

  • WHAT ABOUT LOVE ISLAND THOUGH?!!! Love island is a bit like ‘batchelor in paradise’ (I think) but very much more kind natured and everyone becomes lovely friends by the end and they do silly challenges involving hot dogs. It has become the most popular reality show in the UK over the past two years and belongs on this list. Seriously it is a UK cultural phenomenon why is it not here.

    • Portia Baladad

      Hi Maddie, I absolutely LOVE LOVE LOVE Love Island too! Unfortunately, I wrote this before I fell for Iain Stirling’s perfect narration, Dr. Marcel’s advice and yes, those ridiculous challenges. Truth be told, I thought it was another trashy reality show until Camilla’s “Shouldn’t we all be feminists?” moment hooked me in.

      • Marta Millere

        Camilla is everything. I’d send my horny single friends off on dates and say “Think Camilla.”

      • Good. I feel I can move on now that LI has been paid is due respects. x

  • Erin

    YES for First Dates! I put this on every time I need an evening in to destress.

  • gracesface

    But the quiz shows!! Big Fat Quiz of the Year, Was It Something I said?, Would I lie to you (sooo good), and QI are all Youtube staples for me. We really don’t have anything like it here in the US except for Hollywood Squares. I really enjoyed the first season of Bake-off and I’d love to see Noel Fielding on the new season! And I’d never heard of First Dates!

    • Portia Baladad

      I love Big Fat Quiz of the Year! It’s definitely a must-watch during the holidays and I get really excited with I see Noel Fielding or Richard Ayoade on it.

      • gracesface

        Those two are my favorite. I LOVE Richard’s shows Gadget Man and Travel Man, definitely worth tracking down on youtube.

  • Hil

    I’ve watched the great british bake off on netflix, but where can americans access the rest of these?

    • Jessica

      I cannot for the life of me understand why it is listed on US Netflix as The Great British Baking Show.

      • Hil

        I think it’s because netflix has the pbs version not the bbc version

      • Hil

        from wikipedia: “The change of name was necessary due to the fact that “Bake-Off” is a registered trademark of Pillsbury in the United States.”

  • Aydan

    MADE IN CHELSEA!! its my reality british tv show guilty pleasure! it used to be amazing before and though the characters are not as enviable, it is still amazing!!

  • Thamsa

    Bake off and first dates are both wonderful series.

  • Lindsey

    My friend living in the UK told me about Gogglebox and sent me a clip of it the other day and it sounds hilarious. Basically, it’s a show where you watch people watch reality TV. They center it around several different families and record their reactions to the show. On the surface you’re probably like…..But why? Because why not I say! Sounds brilliant to me.

  • Hannah Thiessen

    BUT DOES GRAND DESIGNS COUNT AS REALITY TV??? BECAUSE IT’S GREAT. So sorry for that, I just really love Grand Designs. It should at least be an honorable mention on here, for Kevin Mcloud’s sake.

  • Marta Millere

    Ok but what about Love Island? So.bad.but.so.good.

  • Natalie Rebecca E

    The great interior design challenge, and the undateables are two more British reality gems.

  • Natalie Stark

    Where can I find these in the US? I know GBBS is on Netflix, but I’ve searched high and low for Secret Life and its impossible to find unless you are in the UK.

  • Jenna Louise Rush

    Escape to the Chateau. Such warm cosy escapism.

  • padutchchick

    There’s an interior design competition that is far more creative and interesting than absolutely anything on HGTV. Can’t recall the exact name.