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Reality TV offers an extremely wide array of programing options. There are obviously elements that make all of the programs similar but there are competitions, melting pot dramas, documentary style shows, and more. For me I prefer the game show competitions shows, in particular the food based ones. Since I began watching my diet a few years back it became much more important to me that the food I eat offer me a new experience, since I’m not allowing myself to go right for the junk that I love more than most other things. With that I started watching food shows and found myself extremely interested in the competitions. With those shows there’s a sports-like battle but I also manage to learn something from them. I either discovered some new fruit I’ve never tried or some flavor combination that never occurred to me or something else similar. So of my three favorite shows two of them are food battles, or well…..”food fights”.

Chopped throws a group of chef’s together with mystery ingredients and limited time to use them. There are three rounds, appetizer, entrée, and dessert that each feature different ingredients. This is an extremely simple show with very little drama but tons of energy and much to learn about food. It’s sort of veg out TV too. You know, it’s the sort of thing you can turn your brain off too but still enjoy after a long day. This show doesn’t make me feel stupid for watching it unlike others that fall into the veg out category.
Other great honorable mentions include Master Chef, Top Chef, Diners Drive-Ins, and Dives, and Iron Chef America. OK, now I’m starting to get hungry.

Face Off
Face off is a fascinating competition show on the Syfy network that offers a behind the scenes look at how make up is created for horror and science fiction TV shows and movies. A group of special fx artists are given assignments each week with the worst execution sending that particular artist home. One week they may have to create a classic monster and the next an alien and so on. As a filmmaker I love to see the craftsmanship that goes into these creations. From a reality show perspective the drama can get fairly tense as the clock begins to tick away the remaining minutes of time in which they have to work.

There’s really only one similar honorable mention to Face Off and that’s another show called Hot Set that also airs on Syfy. HBO ran a series for a few seasons called Project Greenlight that’s available on DVD that takes all of this artistry to the highest levels. It’s a must see.

Storage Wars
Storage Wars brings about a whole different sort of reality show; the treasure hunters. On this show a group of people bid for storage lockers that have been abandoned by their original owners or foreclosed on. The challenge is that the bidders only get the vaguest idea of what’s actually inside these lockers. These bidders are literally treasure hunters. Most often they just hope to be able to make a profit off what’s in the lockers that they buy but in the back of their heads they hope that one of these lockers will have that one treasure that will allow them to retire. Again there’s a competition aspect to this show but the personalities make the competition a gamble rather than a simple game. These bidding wars are often full of bluffs and multi layered gambles. For example one bidder may try to run the price up on a locker against his biggest competitor in order to get him to spend up his money making the next locker easier to win. The personalities are fairly pigeon holed by the producers of the show far as to even give each bidder a nickname that matches his personality. This show is often funny and always fascinating from a voyeuristic perspective. I find myself wondering “why would the owner of this locker leave something so valuable in there?” “WTF? Really?”

Honorable mentions include American Pickers and Pawn Stars, both good shows but somehow they just don’t end up being recorded in the DVR.
There are many other shows that I follow. I didn’t even get into the travel based reality shows that I enjoy. The cute headline limited me to only three picks! The Amazing Race is a game show at its heart but outside of that element the show offers me the opportunity to see different parts of the world at a level of detail that I might not get to see any other way. But wait, am I cheating now because this is my fourth pick?