Remember the time before reality TV?
It's hard to think back to a day when competitions for everything from a bachelor's heart to cold hard cash didn't litter the channels like trash on city sidewalks; when soap opera-type dramas stayed confined to the realm of fiction and didn't sully reality. That's not to diss reality TV as a whole -- while some shows that debuted during the decade marked new lows in human depravity, others inspired audiences and showed what good the genre can do.
ABCNews.com rounded up the top 10 series of the '00s, when reality TV came into its own. The following shows may not have drawn the most ratings or critical acclaim, but their influence on pop culture over the past decade can't be contested. Even if they fade from the tube, their effects are likely to be felt long after the new decade dawns.
Man vs. other men vs. wild: that was the format debuted by CBS' "Survivor," which took off from MTV's "Real World" and "Road Rules" formula of thrusting a group of strangers into the unknown by stripping away their bare necessities and adding a pot of gold ($1 million) for whomever made it to the end of the ordeal. "Survivor: Borneo," the first American iteration of the show, debuted in May 2000 and quickly rose to sensation status, reeling in more than 18 million viewers in its second week. As Americans began bandying about terms like "Tribal Council" and "voted off," David Letterman introduced a recurring segment on "Late Night:" Top 10 Things That'll Get You Thrown Off the Survivor Island." While viewership declined over the decade, "Survivor's" still going strong, with season 19, "Survivor: Samoa," to wrap later this month.
Competing for the heart of another almost always begets drama, so why not film the process and call it a show? Such was the logic with ABC's "The Bachelor," which burst onto TV screens in March 2002. The premise: 25 gorgeous women leave behind their lives to hole up in a house and vie for the affection of a prince charming -- perhaps a doctor, perhaps a former pro sports player, perhaps a real-life prince. After whittling down the group through a series of dates and rose-draped elimination ceremonies, he may or may not propose to his chosen one at the end of the season -- or, as in the case season 13 bachelor Jason Mesnick, may propose to one contestant and then pull a switch with the runner-up following the season finale.
It should be noted that, to date, none of the couples that got together in any season finale of "The Bachelor" remain together today. But "The Bachelor's" format inspired a host of spin offs, notably, "The Bachelorette," in which scorned "Bachelor" contestants and other similarly-minded single females get to lord over wife-seeking men.
For the unacquainted, it might seem silly to follow a description of a show about prince charming with a blurb about a dating competition that focused on a washed-up rapper who wears a large clock around his neck. But "Flavor of Love," VH1's 2006-2008 three-season attempt to find Flava Flav a woman who might set him right (contestant Tiffany Polland, better known as New York, almost won his heart but instead won her own "Bachelorette"-esque spin-off, "I Love New York") represents how ridiculous reality dating competitions became in the '00s, and how in the end, no matter who's competing over whom, everyone's worst sides are bound to steal the spotlight.