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Checking the Vital Signs of Reality TV’s Oldest Shows

America’s Next Top Model Photo: Chris Frawley/?2012 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

The modern era of reality TV began twelve years ago this summer, when Survivor debuted right after Memorial Day and instantly became a pop-culture phenomenon. Its first episode brought a healthy 15 million viewers, and when season one wrapped up three months later, more than 52 million folks were glued to their sets for the finale. A slew of unscripted shows followed in Survivor’s wake; most lasted a few seasons and then burned out. But some members of the reality tribe’s torches have proved unsnuffable, and they’ve been soldiering on for years and still draw a crowd. Vulture decided to check in on these unscripted warhorses, defined by us as any post-Survivor show that has lasted ten or more cycles, including all-star editions. (Sorry, Hell’s Kitchen and Top Chef: At nine seasons each, you’re tasty, but not crusty enough. And we didn’t include The Celebrity Apprentice, since its “all-star” version is really its own, weird thing, as opposed to a special version of the original.) Which stalwarts are weakening? Which will outlive us all? Can anything short of Los Angeles crashing into the ocean stop Big Brother?

The Vital Signs of Reality TV’s Oldest Shows