You Need a Flow Chart to Keep Track of All These Interconnected Reality Shows

Popular reality programs are getting spinoffs and becoming a franchise. What does it all mean? (That producers are trying to trick us into watching more? That it’s working? That we’re all garbage people?)

click to enlarge Lisa Vanderpump of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" and "Vanderpump Rules" - PHOTO: Isabella Vosmikova/USA Network
PHOTO: Isabella Vosmikova/USA Network
Lisa Vanderpump of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" and "Vanderpump Rules"

Some of the most indulgent, entertaining “unscripted series” are on TV right now, and upon closer inspection, they’re all strangely connected. Characters from one show will pop up in another. Popular reality programs are getting spinoffs and becoming a franchise. What does it all mean? (That producers are trying to trick us into watching more? That it’s working? That we’re all garbage people?) 

Let’s dive deeper, with a taste of some reality TV favorites gracing our screens right now.

Vanderpump Rules (9 p.m. Mondays, Bravo) is one of the most addictive guilty pleasure shows on TV right now. Originating as a Real Housewives spinoff, the show follows the dramatic lives of the waitstaff at SUR, a Hollywood restaurant owned by Real Housewives of Beverly Hills’ Lisa Vanderpump. There are podcasts, Facebook groups and columns dedicated to Vanderpump Rules. Celebs of all kinds and normies alike tune in to see this week’s villain, find out who cheated on who and the latest bombshell rumor. What would you expect from a group of friends that have all worked together, slept together, lived together and cheated on one another (with each other!)? Intentional or not, these real-life characters are both horrifying and hilarious, thanks in part to savage editing on the producers’ part. Matron Vanderpump stirs the pot for her hard-partying employees and their cohorts as she remains the reigning queen of…

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (8 p.m. Tuesdays, Bravo). Easily the most glamorous of the franchise, this is more aspirational viewing than Rules (unless you aspire to take Jäger shots in a shitty apartment you share with roommates as you’re pushing 40). Beverly Hills is all about the mansions, cars, walk-in shoe closets, intercontinental vacations and questionable wardrobes worth more than my life! Seriously, these women travel everywhere. And the cast is full of somewhat recognizable characters — former child star Kyle Richards (aunt to Paris Hilton), soap star Lisa Rinna, actress/singer Erika Jayne and John Mellencamp’s daughter Teddi. Here, being served the wrong glass of wine could boil over into a friendship-ending feud. Meanwhile, across the country…

The Real Housewives of Atlanta (9 p.m. Sundays, Bravo) boasts a totally different vibe. These messy queens are in-your-face and unapologetic. While the Beverly Hills ladies will let a minor social infraction fester all season, these women call one another out, getting down and dirty — and dark. One of last season’s storylines revolved around the false rumor that one wife drugged and assaulted another. Domestic violence has been a major topic this season, but there are more than enough theme parties, weave changes and brunch gossip to balance it out. We’ve also got a mystery husband, an incarcerated boyfriend and a former Top Model. That’s right, the newest Atlanta Housewife is actress Eva Marcille, who rose to prominence as the winner of…

America’s Next Top Model (8 p.m. Tuesdays, VH1). Tyra Banks’ iconic modeling competition dates further back than any of these series, debuting in 2003. After a short-lived cancellation in 2015, VH1 revived ANTM, giving it a fresh rebrand not unlike the makeovers received by the model-contestants. Rita Ora took over hosting duties from Tyra (as if!), with a new panel of judges that included the arguably more famous and host-worthy model Ashley Graham. Obviously, the show could not go on without Ty Ty for long, and Ms. Banks returned to the show this year, keeping the rest of the panel that also includes creative director of Paper Magazine Drew Elliott and celebrity stylist Law Roach. ANTM is known for its insane photoshoot concepts (there has been a baby bump shoot this season and we’re only four episodes in), and one upcoming challenge will feature drag queens from…

RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars (8 p.m. Thursdays, VH1). To call this a guilty pleasure would be rude because there is no guilt to be had watching the best reality show of all. Host RuPaul summed it up best when describing the ultimate in reality TV competitions: “To be a winner on this show the contestants need to be a fashion designer, an American Idol and a top model all rolled up into one. And they definitely have to be smarter than a fifth grader.” This is the third installment of All Stars, featuring contestants from previous seasons, and the level of “charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent” is off the charts. Sickening lip syncs, epic celeb impersonations and meme-worthy reaction shots — what more could you ask for?

Contact Jac Kern: @jackern

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