Reality TV Crossovers Keeps the Genre Alive


The Big Picture

  • Reality TV crossovers, where contestants from one show appear on another, have kept the genre alive and continue to excite viewers.
  • The Amazing Race has been a catalyst for reality TV crossovers, with contestants from shows like Big Brother and Survivor competing in the race.
  • Uniting reality stars on a single show creates television gold, as seen in shows like The Challenge and The Traitors, where fan favorites from different reality shows come together to compete.

Reality television is a guilty pleasure for many viewers around the world. Whether unscripted documentary or competition reality, the genre serves as an escape from actual reality. Viewers cling to a franchise or a persona and become engaged in their every move. They get excited to see them return for more on their respective show or sometimes, if the star power is there, they can cross over to another franchise. The multiverse of reality television continues to break open as shows smartly rely on casting crossovers. A Survivor contestant enters Big Brother. Big Brother stars join The Amazing Race. The entire Paramount/Viacom reality TV cannon on The Challenge. The list goes on and on. While some fans wish it would stop, the pros outweigh the cons. The ever-expanding Rolodex of reality stars making appearances on other programs has kept the genre alive. And it shows no signs of stopping.

In an article in Forbes from 2022 titled “Reality TV: How the Genre Has Constently Re-Engineered Itself,” author Josh Wilson wrote, “Through reality TV people have a keen sense of being inspired, entertained, provoked, and shocked over the years.” It’s part of why the genre ticks and clicks with the people who watch it. He notes that “the niche is still as popular as ever in the new age of the genre.” Whether it’s a big-name titular character like Kim Kardashian on Keeping Up with the Kardashians or a big competition franchise like Survivor, real-life people who found their fifteen minutes of fame on television have at times found their character reach celebrity status. Unlike Kim and her sisters, many of the characters on other reality shows have risen to fame within the reality television fandom. Just look at all those Bravolebrities! Fans find their favorite character or contestant and champion them. And on that rare occasion, a character or contestant gets a chance to cross over to another show, and worlds collide! The power of introducing contestants and characters into other franchises gives viewers a chance to try out a new show. And that show hopes a new fan is born.

Big Brother

Contestants must compete against each other for a chance to win $500,000 in a house wired with cameras and microphones, capturing their every move for a TV and Internet audience.

‘The Amazing Race’ Effect Started the Rise of Reality TV Crossover

The Amazing Race, a program that has been airing in the United States since 2001, follows teams of two, composed of individuals with pre-existing relationships, as they race around the world for a prize of $1 million. On the fourth season of The Amazing Race, Big Brother 4 contestant Alison Irwin was the first contestant to crossover and compete on The Amazing Race. She competed alongside her then-boyfriend Donny Patrick, where they were the second team eliminated from the race. Two seasons later, Survivor super-couple Rob Mariano and Amber Mariano (nee Brkich) got the call to compete on The Amazing Race. The pair, who are considered the greatest love story in Survivor history after falling in love on Survivor: All Stars, brought a competitive spirit to the race and cemented themselves into the CBS Big Three Reality Television Pantheon as legends. Well, Rob at least. And yes, they came back for more and raced again on The Amazing Race: All Stars. Their success on the show became an instant formula for Survivor and Big Brother players to find a partner, whether romantic or platonic, in their original game that would garner a chance to compete together on a future season of The Amazing Race.

It’s almost become a bit of a fan joke that the moment a pair becomes prominent during their time on Survivor or Big Brother, they will be pegged for a stint on The Amazing Race. Big Brother 11 and Big Brother 13 showmance turned real-life couple Jeff Schroder and Jordan Lloyd raced on The Amazing Race 16 in a slight flop of a performance. Big Brother 12 and Big Brother 13’s Rachel Reilly and Brendon Villegas on the 20th and 24th seasons of The Amazing Race. Reilly would later come back for a third time to race with her sister and Big Brother 15’s Elissa Slater on The Amazing Race 31. Big Brother 19 super couple Jessica Graf and Cody Lee Nickson won The Amazing Race 30. From Survivor, winners Jenna Morasca of Survivor: The Amazon and Ethan Zohn of Survivor: Africa raced as a dating couple on The Amazing Race 19. Lesser remembered Keith Tollefson and Whitney Duncan from Survivor: South Pacific raced around the world as a pair on The Amazing Race 25. And these are just some of the Big Brother and Survivor stars who strapped on their backpacks and wiped out their passports. The Survivor-Big Brother-The Amazing Race has expanded quite a bit over the years. In fact, for The Amazing Race’s 31st season, all pairs came from one of the CBS Big Three Reality shows.


Behind the Scenes and Beyond the Finish Line of ‘The Amazing Race’

There are some helpful tricks for those who apply for the show.

It may have started when the reality stars joined The Amazing Race, but The Amazing Race has been known for dropping their racers on the Survivor island or the Big Brother house. The Twinnies aka Nadiya and Natalie Anderson competed twice together on The Amazing Race 21 and later on Season 24. They both appeared in the second Blood vs Water iteration where Nadiya was voted out first while her sister Natalie won Survivor: San Juan del Sur. Natalie’s reputation on The Amazing Race was strong, but after winning Survivor, her stock grew and allowed her to play on Survivor: Winners at War. And fret not, Natalie would crossover again onto The Challenge, but we’ll get to it. Mike White raced alongside his father Mel White twice on The Amazing Race 14 and The Amazing Race 18, but when Mike White got his chance to play a new game during Survivor: David vs Goliath, he became an iconic and often considered robbed winner. Mike White, who already had an established writing career in Hollywood, sky-rocked to even more success post-reality television stints as the writer and director of the critically acclaimed The White Lotus. And let’s not forget the reality of the scripted crossover, as Mike White brought fellow castaways Kara Kay and Angelina Keely to Italy for cameos in the show’s second season. Over on Big Brother, The Amazing Race twist on Big Brother 17 introduced blind date couple Jeff Weldon and Jackie Ibarra into the Big Brother house, but their individual performances were quite dismal.

And then there’s the Big BrotherSurvivor crossover. Jeff Probst was able to watch a dominating gameplay by two legendary alpha males in Big Brother history compete and survive. Hayden Moss, winner of Big Brother 12, entered Survivor: Blood vs Water with his Survivor partner Kat Edorsson of Survivor: One World, where he made the merge while Kat did not. This made her “undateable” and the pair ultimately split. From Big Brother 16, Caleb Reynolds was medically evacuated and removed from Survivor: Kaoh Rong. This move was considered a game changer as he was brought back for Survivor: Game Changers where he was, united with his pal Tai Trang. This odd couple, sadly, have never traveled the world together on The Amazing Race, a major missed opportunity. The only Survivor player to enter the Big Brother house was four-time Survivor legend and The Traitors winner Cirie Fields. She appeared, secretly, alongside her loved one, her son Jared Fields. Fans were granted the opportunity to watch Cire on the live feeds where she was the gift who kept on giving. These crossovers from The CBS Big Three truly brought a viewer crossover that has lasted. By continuing to bring fan favorites to their other properties, the excitement level rises. It is never a surprise to see familiar faces back on your screen. While some may believe they may have an advantage over the new civilian players, truly, the only advantage they have is the knowledge of how to be on television.

Uniting Reality Stars on a Single Show Creates Television Gold

Bringing reality stars together to compete against one another is not a novel idea. Back in 2005, Bravo, the future home to your favorite Bravolebrities, aired a series called Battle of the Network Reality Stars, an updated and loving tribute to the popular 1970s and 80s show Battle of the Network Stars. Reality stars from shows like Survivor, The Apprentice, The Real World, American Idol, Joe Millionaire, and many more, proved that when a conglomeration of reality stars battle it out, television gold is made. MTV took their landmark franchises of The Real World and Road Rules and invited their stars to compete against one another on the show that would later be called The Challenge. As the show evolved, The Challenge invited stars from other MTV reality IP such as Are You the One? and Ex and the Beach into the season’s battles. This was partially due to the loss of the original source properties, The Real World and Road Rules, ending. The Challenge expanded as a brand with multiple similar series spin-offs where CBS reality stars from Survivor, The Amazing Race, and Big Brother were given a chance to compete alongside the established Challenge legends. The Challenge inherently allows competitors to reappear season after season, where many of the Big Three stars become better known for their appearances on The Challenge. Paulie Callifiore competed on Big Brother 18, two seasons after his brother and future reality legend Cody Callifiore played, but when Paulie became a challenger, his past on Big Brother fell to the wayside as he established himself as the face of the franchise. Oh and Cara Maria Sobello’s other half. Since its inception in 1998, The Challenge has proven longevity. Alongside multiple spin-offs, The Challenge is currently celebrating its 39th Season as they are looking for a new champion.

The winning formula of uniting reality stars into a single game is currently being seen in the second season of The Traitors. During its first season, the cast of The Traitors comprised half civilians and half reality stars, but it was the reality star who prevailed as the previously mentioned Cirie Fields found victory as a traitor in historical fashion. Currently airing on Peacock, the second season of The Traitors is comprised solely of reality stars and the result, thus far, has been wickedly perfect. Once again, legends of Survivor like Parvati Shallow and Sandra Diaz-Twine have brought their longstanding rivalry to a new program. For those viewers who may not be familiar with their infamous battle of who the queen of Survivor is are now inclined to go back and watch Survivor. With an abundance of Real Housewives franchises and other Bravo properties on both seasons of The Traitors, viewers have found a new Bravolebrity to fawn over. I wasn’t a viewer of Below Deck, but Kate Chastain’s performance during the first season convinced me to make the move over to Bravo and watch her antics on the yacht. Her presence in the first season was so impressive, that a new twist for season 2 of The Traitors has brought her back. Once again proving the strength of crossover appeal.

There truly isn’t enough space to discuss just how much crossover reality television has had in this century. A whole conglomerate of villains partook in a battle for money and the title of America’s Ultimate Supervillain on House of Villains. Reality stars have strapped on their dancing shoes on Dancing with the Stars, and some have even won. The Bachelor and The Bachelorette franchise borrowed from The Challenge and placed their still singles in paradise for another shot of love on Bachelor In Paradise. If the formula didn’t work, networks wouldn’t be doing it. New reality shows come and go, but the reality star crossover has been the pulse that has kept the genre alive. And we can’t wait to see where these stars end up next!

New episodes of The Traitors air Thursdays at 9pm EST on Peacock. The Challenge, Survivor, The Amazing Race, and Big Brother can be streamed on Paramount+

Watch On Paramount+


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