What Was Reality TV in 2023? The Answer, in 25 Parts

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Clockwise from top left: Lisa Barlow of Real Housewives of Salt Lake City, Lydia Velez Gonzalez of Love Is Blind, Ariana Madix of Vanderpump Rules, Ubah Hassan of Real Housewives of New York, Tom Sandoval of Vanderpump Rules, the cast of Squid Game: The Challenge, Raquel Leviss of Vanderpump Rules, Anetra of Drag Race, Uche Okoroha of Love Is Blind, Gerry of Turn of The Golden Bachelor. Photo-Illustration: Vulture
On March 3, 2023, reality-television fans stood still. Midway through Vanderpump Rules tenth season, news broke that series leading man Tom Sandoval cheated on his longtime partner and co-star Ariana Madix with another co-star, Raquel Leviss. The scandal wouldn’t be addressed on the show for at least two months, when an episode named after the hashtag that dominated offscreen conversation (#Scandoval) finally aired. The cameras didn’t document the affair, but they managed to capture the slow motion collision of unscripted TV and real life — of what happens when the Bravo edit slams into a narrative already built, struck down, and refashioned by TikTok scholars a hundred times over. 2023 felt like crash after crash, from Love Is Blind to The Real Housewives of New York City to Below Deck: Down Under to Squid Game: The Challenge, all of which reckoned, in various ways, with what constitutes reality and how much intervention goes into documenting it. In celebration, Vulture has rounded up 25 moments — one for every day until Christmas — that shaped reality TV in the year of the lighting-bolt necklace.

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