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ABC’s What Would You Do Is the Most Underrated Reality Show on TV


ABC's What Would You Do Is the Most Underrated Reality Show on TV


Summary

  • What Would You Do?
    showcases genuine reactions to public scenarios, often revealing the innate goodness of people who intervene selflessly.
  • Despite its feel-good nature,
    What Would You Do?
    flies under the radar, lacking mainstream recognition compared to scandalous reality shows.
  • The show’s success is hindered by irregular scheduling and minimal promotion, yet its heartwarming content deserves more attention and appreciation.



Everyone loves a good, trashy reality show. Though they rarely live up to the “real” in their name, audiences feed on the drama and chaos. Why else would something called MILF Manor exist? Reality shows are cheap, easy to manufacture, and almost always a guaranteed hit. But are they all designed to appeal to the lowest common denominator? Not exactly, as that’s where ABC’s What Would You Do? comes in.


Airing since 2008, this hidden camera show places actors in scenes of public conflict or disagreement to see if any unsuspecting bystanders will intervene. Unaware they’re on TV, most participants explain they jumped in just because it’s the right thing to do. This refreshing honesty from people who help others without knowing they’re on camera is a welcome break from the overly manufactured bulk of reality content.

Yet despite that feel-good vibe and its 15-year run, What Would You Do? receives almost no attention in the media. It gets decent ratings, and several participants state they’ve heard of the show when the ruse is revealed, but it isn’t talked about like the popular reality shows of today. Why is that? Let’s look at the ins and outs of What Would You Do? and why it deserves more public recognition.


What Is What Would You Do?

Primetime: What Would You Do?

What Would You Do?

Release Date
February 26, 2008

Main Genre
Family

Seasons
16

Streaming Service(s)
Hulu


The basic premise of What Would You Do? is pretty simple. Two or more actors stage a scene in a public location, such as a store or restaurant, equipped with hidden cameras. The actors could disagree about a personal issue; one may be doing or pressuring another to do something wrong, they might face abuse or discrimination, etc. The goal is to see if any bystanders will intervene to defend an actor, take sides on the issue, or offer their own point of view. If no one immediately steps up, sometimes the actors will appeal to the bystanders directly.

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The participants are understandably shocked when host John Quiñones and the camera crew emerge. When Quiñones asks them why they intervened, most people say that stepping in was the right thing to do. Not everyone feels this way, as some players take the side of the actor who is in the wrong. Those are the people whose faces end up blurred on TV for understandable reasons.


The actors typically perform well, but in hindsight, some of the scenarios are obviously staged. A recent episode featured two male actors putting something illicit in a female actor’s drink. Mind you, they discussed this loudly at a crowded bar, even drugging the drink around several people. Another featured an actor shoplifting from a clothing store by taking complete outfits off the rack and shoving them in her purse with no subtlety. Yes, some are hammy, but most people believe the scenarios as one wouldn’t immediately think they are on a hidden camera show.

Why Has What Would You Do? Slipped Through the Cracks?


What Would You Do? first launched in February 2008 and has aired roughly one season per year since. It did take a break from 2020 to 2024 due to the logistical challenges of public filming in the COVID era. Still, that 16-year run makes it one of TV’s longer-running reality shows. But think about this. How often have you heard about What Would You Do? in the media? It’s rarely discussed despite offering intriguing scenarios and showcasing genuine reactions to the situations that are presented. As a whole, What Would You Do? doesn’t get much attention. ABC rarely promotes it, and it’s typically scheduled for whenever they have an empty slot on the lineup to fill.

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Many bystanders state they know the show when the staged scenario is revealed, yet that doesn’t help its lack of mainstream recognition. So what happened? One possibility is that it’s been drowned out in the sea of other reality shows. So many sensationalist, headline-grabbing shows feed off scandal, lies and deceit. Viewers naturally flock to these chaotic series, so one built on wholesomeness doesn’t immediately come to mind.


Some of the blame can fall on the network as well. ABC throws What Would You Do? around the schedule with little consistency in its airing. It can be difficult for viewers to even know it’s on with those sporadic premieres and little promotion. Other reality shows also have regular characters and ongoing storylines to hook their viewers, while What Would You Do? relies on several independent scenarios in each episode. Several factors are working against it, but how could that change?

What Would You Do? Season

Viewership (in millions)

Season 1

7.77

Season 2

6.47

Season 3

4.59

Season 4

4.56

Season 5

4.88

Season 6

4.72

Season 7

3.88

Season 8

2.95

Season 9

4.23

Season 10

4.13

Season 11

2.33

Season 12

3.35

Season 13

3.25

Season 14

2.69

Season 15

2.49


What Would You Do? Is a True Feel-Good Show

Yes, What Would You Do? does have its fans. As with every show, it has regular watchers who pop up in online comments or social media posts. But outside that, it has a way to go. That is too bad, as it’s one of the best feel-good shows there is. Unsuspecting public patrons jump to the rescue of people who need it because it is the right thing to do. They don’t know they’re on TV, so audiences can’t argue that they only step in to look good on camera. In this divided world, viewers need reminders that humans are fundamentally good people who will help out their fellow people.


So many shows, both real and fictional, thrive on depicting the worst of humanity. What Would You Do? is a feel-good reality show that displays the other side of the coin. Given the content covered and the work that goes into setting up the various scenarios, it deserves far more mainstream recognition than it gets. If more people took notice of its wholesomeness, maybe its place in the public eye could grow. What Would You Do? airs on ABC and is streaming now on Hulu.

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