10 Best MTV Reality Shows of the 2000s, Ranked

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From RuPaul’s Drag Race to Couple’s Retreat, MTV currently has a stellar line-up of reality TV shows that provide an addictive mix of laughter, drama, and unapologetic authenticity. But when MTV first debuted, it was dedicated — as the “m” the name suggests — to music videos and other music-related programming. Now that the years have passed, it has moved away from music and more towards original programming, from beloved scripted series to drama-filled reality shows.


In the 2000s, in particular, MTV’s reality programming included everything from shows documenting lavish birthday parties to career-launching shows following groups of friends, even a look at the day-to-day lives of the decade’s celebrities. The result was not only some of the most memorable reality TV shows on MTV, but ones that defined a generation and are pop-culture touchstones to this day. From the extravagant spectacles of My Sweet 16 to the intimate glimpses into the everyday lives of charismatic Jersey Shore castmates, there have been plenty of iconic reality TV shows to come out of MTV in the aughts.


10 ‘Punk’d’ (2003 – 2012)

Created by Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg

Image via MTV

Hidden-camera prank shows weren’t exactly new when Punk’d first premiered, but what made the show different was its targeting of celebrities. It aired for a total of 11 seasons, first hosted by Ashton Kutcher from 2003 until 2007 — “I have no more friends,” he joked in one episode — then returned in 2012 with rotating celebrity guest hosts each week and a closer look at how the pranks were executed. A reboot hosted by Chance the Rapper launched in 2020.

Punk’d featured a number of celebrities and pranks, ranging from small-scale incidents to large staged explosions. The celebrity victims’ reactions to the staged scenarios could be just as varied, with some reacting calmly and others being quick to anger and attempt to leverage their fame. Some of the most memorable pranks include Kanye West thinking that the police are arresting him for stealing stage equipment and Justin Bieber tricking Miley Cyrus. The end result was always the same — before things could go too far, Kutcher would reveal the ruse, leading to a visibly relieved celebrity. Without a doubt, Punk’d has influenced modern prank shows like Jury Duty and Impractical Jokers.

Punk’d

Release Date
March 17, 2003

Cast
Andrew Santino

Seasons
10

Watch on Hulu

9 ‘Cribs’ (2000 – 2010)

Created by Nina L. Díaz

Cribs

Before shows were giving us a look at celebrities’ everyday lives, MTV first invited us into their homes with Cribs, a show that featured different celebrities offering a tour of their home each week. The show first aired in 2000 and ended in 2010, then returned in 2017 with shorter episodes distributed through Snapchat Discover. It was officially rebooted by MTV in 2021 and is now in its 19th season.

Cribs is a fascinating look at the lives of everyone from sports stars to chart-topping musicians, each home showing off its owner’s personal taste — and their wealth. But it’s not just a look at lavish homes. Because celebrities themselves are giving the tours, they become more relatable as they share information about their favorite parts of their home and how they spend their free time. Some celebrities that have showcased their homes in the show include Playboy tycoon Hugh Hefner and legendary NBA star Shaquille O’Neal.

Watch on MTV

8 ‘My Super Sweet 16’ (2005 – 2017)

Created by Jordana Starr, Lucy J. Lesser, and David L. Bowles

My Super Sweet 16 Teyana Taylor
Image via MTV

My Super Sweet 16 gave audiences a look at the over-the-top parties as a variety of wealthy teenagers celebrated their 16th birthdays, as well as the occasional Quinceanera, debutante ball, and even bar mitzvah. Some of the filthy-rich celebrities who celebrated their extravagant birthdays on screen include Teyana Taylor and Sean Kingston. My Super Sweet 16 ran for ten seasons, from 2005 to 2017.

It wasn’t just the parties that were over the top. For one, the teenagers often wore designer dresses and suits, with some episodes showcasing bespoke outfits that resembled red carpet ensembles. The meltdowns from teenagers whose big day didn’t go as planned, whether it was because there was a hitch in the party or they didn’t get the exact model of the luxury car they wanted as a gift, were also a key highlight of the show. Teens often wielded power over their peers with exclusive guest lists, resulting in confrontations over classmates, sometimes even frenemies, who hadn’t been invited trying to sneak in.

Watch on Hulu

7 ‘Newlyweds’ (2003 – 2005)

Created by Ian McFadyen

Newlyweds

Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica followed the newly married pop-star couple Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson as they navigated starting their lives together. The show aired for three seasons, from 2002 until 2005. Simpson ultimately filed for divorce in December 2005, and both have since remarried and started families.

Newlyweds is responsible for some infamous moments, like Jessica’s confusion about tuna being called “chicken of the sea.” Still, she looks back on the show fondly and has noted that as one of the earliest reality shows, it was more authentic than today’s shows, as the couple was filmed all day, every day, as opposed to the set shooting schedules similar shows have now. In the final episode of Newlyweds, the couple surprised audiences by presenting “Nick and Jessica Variety Hour.” In it, the couple sang and acted in various skits, showing that they’re more than willing to go the extra mile to entertain their fans.

Buy on Amazon

6 ‘The Osbournes’ (2002 – 2005)

Created by R. Greg Johnston, Jeff Stilsonm, Sharon Osbourne, and Lois Clark Curren

TheOsbournes

If you’re in the mood to watch and be entertained by a dysfunctional family on TV, you should definitely check out The Osbournes. From 2002 to 2005, The Osbournes gave viewers an inside look at the day-to-day life of Black Sabbath frontman Ozzy Osbourne and his family — his wife, Sharon Osbourne, and two of their children, Jack Osbourne and Kelly Osbourne. At the time, it was MTV’s most popular show.

The Osbournes was one of the most influential early reality shows and made the whole family — not just Ozzy — famous. It was an entertaining, expletive-filled glimpse at the family’s relationships with each other with plenty of memorable moments. From Ozzy’s confusion to using modern technology to the family’s attempt at keeping multiple pets, a lot of delightful scenes will surely encourage viewers to binge-watch the show. The family is set to make a return to reality TV to document their move from Los Angeles to England for BBC.

Buy on Amazon

5 ‘Jackass’ (2000 – 2001)

Created by Jeff Tremaine

Steve-O, Johnny Knoxville, and cast laughing and wearing orange jumpsuits on Jackass
Image via MTV

MTV kicked off the decade with Jackass, which over the course of three seasons featured a variety of dangerous, over-the-top stunts, equal parts cringe-worthy and hilarious. The cast pulled off unforgettable stunts, like launching Steve-O into the air in a portable toilet filled with human waste and turning a taxi into a terrifying experience for unsuspecting passengers. Each episode made it clear viewers were not to recreate them at home — even though plenty of people did.

Despite it’s popularity, Jackass sparked debates about the ethics of prank-based entertainment and the responsibility of creators in ensuring viewer safety. Members of the crew went on to other reality shows, including Bam Margera’s chaotic Viva La Bam and Steve-O and Chris Pontius’ wildlife show, Wildboyz, while Johnny Knoxville appeared in a number of other TV shows and movies. They also released multiple movies, including Jackass Forever in 2022.

Watch on Paramount+

4 ’16 And Pregnant’ (2009 – 2020)

Created by Lauren Dolgen

Jenelle Evans on 16 and Pregnant

MTV highlighted the struggles of teen pregnancy with 16 and Pregnant, which debuted in 2009. Each episode featured a different girl from partway through her pregnancy to shortly after giving birth, and multiple Teen Mom spin-offs followed some of the girls as they navigated life as new parents. Some of the most memorable cast members include Sarah Palin’s daughter Bristol Palin and reality TV star Farrah Abraham.

Episodes showed everything from the girls navigating their relationships with their babies’ fathers and their own parents to planning for the future. What’s notable about 16 and Pregnant is that it didn’t shy away from controversial storylines, such as financial struggles, tense relationships, and even drug use. The authenticity and realistic painting of what teenagers go through resonated with viewers, making it a hit MTV show. The show made stars of the young moms, especially those from it earliest seasons, with most of them still making headlines today.

16 and Pregnant

Release Date
June 11, 2009

Seasons
5

Watch on Paramount+

3 ‘Laguna Beach’ (2004 – 2006)

Created by Adam DiVello

LagunaBeach

Airing for three seasons starting in 2004, Laguna Beach followed the lives of a group of teenagers living in Orange County as they navigated their friendships and romantic relationships during their senior year of high school. The show’s first season starred Lo Bosworth, Stephen Colletti, Morgan Olsen, Trey Phillips, Christina Schuller, Kristin Cavallari, and Talan Torriero. Later seasons focused on different students, but many of the original cast members went on to star in other reality shows, including spin-offs of Laguna Beach.

Perhaps what struck viewers most with Laguna Beach was its picturesque cinematography and landscapes that set a tone for future reality TV shows, making them more aspirational and influential than closer to reality. The show took some liberties with its narratives and it was later revealed, particularly when it comes to Torriero, who originally refused to participate in the show and then later was included in scenes that had already been shot. More behind-the-scenes information has been revealed in the podcast Back to the Beach, hosted by Cavallari and Colletti.

Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County

Release Date
August 13, 2007

Cast
Lauren Conrad , kristin cavallari , Stephen Colletti

Seasons
1

Watch on Paramount+

2 ‘The Hills’ (2006 – 2010)

Created by Adam DiVello

Audrina Patridge and Heidi Montag Partying Early seasons of The Hills
Image via POPSUGAR

After Laguna Beach ended, Lauren Conrad starred in The Hills, which ran for six seasons starting in 2006 and chronicled her life in Los Angeles after high school trying to build a career in the fashion industry. The Hills also featured reality TV stars Audrina Patridge, Heidi Montag, Whitney Port, Spencer Pratt, Brody Jenner, and Lo Bosworth. It was rebooted as The Hills: New Beginnings in 2019 and ran for two seasons.

One of the most notable things about The Hills was its opening sequence which showed an aerial view of Los Angeles while “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield played in the background. Despite its entertaining scenes that showed the glamour of Hollywood, not everything on The Hills was real, though — the cast has admitted that many of the show’s storylines, from career setbacks to romances, were scripted for drama, and the series ended with a shot of a soundstage.

The Hills

Release Date
May 31, 2006

Seasons
6

Watch on Paramount+

1 ‘Jersey Shore’ (2009 – 2012)

Created by SallyAnn Salsano

Jersey Shore-Season 2 (1)

Jersey Shore first aired as the decade was ending, premiering in December 2009. Jersey Shore followed eight housemates in a shared summer house in New Jersey who pass the time working out and partying, plus their fair share of now-infamous fights. Some of the antics of the Jersey Shore cast has impacted pop culture in unexpected ways. Such include Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino‘s “GTL” lifestyle, which simply means Gym, Tan, and Laundry. There was also Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi‘s unique phrases and vocabulary, which included terms such as “grenade” and “smashing.”

Despite its appearance later in the decade, Jersey Shore left an undeniable mark on pop culture and was a huge hit – it was MTV’s highest-rated series ever, and its cast became stars. It was rebooted in 2018 as Jersey Shore: Family Vacation, featuring most of the original cast, such as Paul “Pauly D” DelVecchio, Jenni “JWoww” Farley, and “Vinny Guadagnino.

Jersey Shore

Release Date
December 3, 2009

Seasons
6

Watch on Hulu

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