The Five Most Authentic TV Shows

TV shows are fake. That’s true whether they’re scripted or “reality” (you better believe it). But that doesn’t mean they can’t feel real, which is often the trademark of a really good show.

These shows are shot, scripted and acted in a way where they simply feel authentic. Like you’re watching real life with people that aren’t actually actors. Check out my picks below, and comment with any you think I might be missing.


Louie is an interesting show because the only way Louis CK said he would do it was if he had carte blanche to do WHATEVER he wanted on the show. Most of the time, it just involves him living his life. It might be seen as slow to some or lacking in actual “jokes,” but the show is genuinely funny and Louie simply seems like he’s just being himself, and having people film it. It’s practically the closest thing you can get to a reality show without it actually being one. Or being awful.


Girls is in many ways the anti-Sex in the City, which is funny, as both shows call (called) the same network home. Creator and star Lena Dunham is everything that Carrie Bradshaw is not, frumpy, poor and couldn’t care less about fashion. Between her and her quirky group of friends and strange love interests, Girls feels like a more accurate chronicle of the wandering generation of 20-somethings than any other show that’s come before it.

The Wire

Moving out of comedy, The Wire simply feels like you’re watching a documentary about life on the streets of Baltimore most of the time. You have to remind yourself that these are actual actors at times because that’s how authentic the show seems. Helping that aura is the fact that many cast members actually lived similar lives to that of the people they’re portraying. Also, there’s never any music in the show, other than what’s playing live in a given seen. Little things like that make it seem even more real.

The Office (BBC)

The original BBC Office is not the absurdist sideshow that the American version has become. Rather, it started out as a documentary of people living very ordinary lives working at a paper company. It was a mix of humor and depression, and the misery it projected from its cast was perhaps the most telling look at white collar office life anyone’s ever bothered to document.

Friday Night Lights

Friday Night Lights may have more of a “show” feel to it, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t feel real. The story of a Texas football team was more compelling week after week than any show about terrorist plots or aliens. The drama felt real, the characters felt genuine. The script, the way it was filmed and the cast all contributed it making the show about as perfect a scripted drama as you can get.

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