The 10 best slices of American reality TV pie

Killers, cooks and pawn stars - Jessica Schuster scours the British schedules to create a tantalising menu of little-known Stateside television treats


From housewives to hoarders, the reality of everyday life in America is laid bare on British television in all its glory, but many of the best bits are scattered far and wide across the schedule. Fortunately, we’re here to do the legwork for you and we’ve enlisted the help of our top US hack to unearth the following tasty television morsels that you might never have tried…

Pawn Stars — History Channel (Sky 529, Virgin 234)

Move over David Dickinson. The Harrison family invite you into the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop located on the outskirts of Las Vegas. Pawn Star doesn’t just document their life inside the pawn shop, it tells the often moving stories behind the merchandise and how their former owners came to part with them. Bargain hunters will also appreciate tips on how to separate the tat from the treasure.

Extreme Couponing All-Stars — Discovery Real Time (Sky 240, Virgin 27)

More bargains to be had! Your standard supermarket coupon book won’t look so glossy after watching this show, which takes discount shopping to a whole new level. The eponymous All-Stars somehow manage to turn a few dollars into an Aladdin’s cave of groceries. While it may seem over-the-top, the world surely needs a bit of inspiration in the midst of the global financial crisis. Get clipping, people.

The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills — Bio. (Sky 156, Virgin 242)

Of course there are a few people who wouldn’t be caught dead with discount goods. But even the glamourous environs of Beverly Hills can fall under a dark shadow. In its second season, The Real Housewives follows six of its residents and the battles they must overcome including divorce, alcoholism and domestic abuse. It just goes to show that money can’t always buy you happiness.

Hoarders — Bio. (Sky 156, Virgin 242)

For those who think ‘pawn’ is a dirty word, there’s this show. While the participants hog the screen with all the household junk and niggling neuroses they’ve collected over the years, the rest of us can feel a lot easier about the mess piling up in the corner over there. It digs a lot deeper than you might expect though, earning an Emmy nomination in 2011 Emmy Award for Outstanding Reality Program.

Snapped: Women Who Kill — Crime & Investigation Network (Sky 553, Virgin 237)

According to this show, it’s not often that women are accused of killing, but thankfully, there are just enough to make a compelling series of criminal profiles. What’s really striking (apart from that frustrated housewife with a meat cleaver) is the varied backgrounds of these women, ranging from high-flying socialites to someone you wouldn’t look twice at in a coffee shop. And that’s a shame, because that latte might be spiked… Just the thing to perk you up on a dull Monday evening.

Chopped — The Food Network (Sky 262, Freeview 49)

No, it’s not another true crime series — unless you count undercooked scallops as a felony. In 30 minutes, four chefs must create a three-course meal from a bag of mystery ingredients to win the title of Chopped Champion. It sounds a bit like Ready, Steady, Cook, but the Americans do everything bigger, with a side order of hype, hence the $10,000 prize. Hosted by Food Network’s Ted Allen and judged by at least three of Food Network’s celebrity chefs, this competition turns up the heat on its contestants as well as inspiring you to get in the kitchen after work.

Through the Wormhole with Morgan Freeman — Discovery Science (Sky 524, Virgin 219)

If anyone could lull you into the deep vacuum of space, it’s Morgan Freeman with his powerfully soothing voice. His narration is its own natural wonder, taking the average educational space documentary and making it personal; relating our daily existence to profound matters such as astrophysics and string theory. Brian Cox can only look skyward and dream about having so much charisma. The wonders of space just got a bit more wonderful.

Mythbusters — Discovery (Sky 520, Virgin 212)

Whatever the scientists tell you, some things in life just cannot be believed…that is until Mythbusters make it happen. A team of special effects wizards that includes Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman apply their skills to see if the mysteries of life can be proved true — preferably with a big explosive finish. If you thought things like dental floss, laptop computers and daddy longlegs were boring, prepare to have your world rocked.

Giuliana and Bill — The Style Network (Sky 253)

Giuliana and Bill aren’t quite Will and Kate, but they have created an honest and touching look at what it’s like to be a young power couple in America. Along with the usual stresses of living life in the public eye, this season reveals Giuliana’s battle with breast cancer and the way the couple handles this daily battle. It sends a heartening message to others in similar situations about the importance of staying positive — and the Americans have always excelled at looking on the bright side.

Paranormal State — Bio. (Sky 156, Virgin 242)


Even when life takes a fatal left turn, you should keep the cameras rolling. You might capture a ghostly flash of light, or get a close-up with a poltergeist (ouch!). This otherworldly footage comes courtesy of the Paranormal Research Society, or PRS. Don’t scoff. This group is funded by an actual university (Penn State) to investigate alleged paranormal activity and thankfully, there’s enough of it to sustain a weekly TV series. The girls and boys who make up PRS will quickly suck you in with their sheer enthusiasm like the GhostBusters with their modified mousetraps.