When historians look back at the dawn of the 21st Century, they'll almost certainly ignore the reality TV subgenre born out of marriage of young singers Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson after they let MTV document the first (and, well, only) years of their marriage in Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica. Since that pioneering leap into celebreality, a good number of couples have let cameras capture the ins and outs of their relationships.
The latest entry in the genre is DeMarcus Family Rules, about the fabulous life of Rascal Flatts' Jay DeMarcus and his beauty queen wife, Allison. The series, which debuts today on Netflix, features the country music superstar and his triple crown beauty pageant winner wife as they raise their two precocious children in Nashville.
In honor of its premiere, here's a look back at the evolution of the celebrity couple reality series, from Newlyweds to DeMarcus Family Rules and everything in between.
Before Jessica Simpson became a lifestyle brand goddess, she was a teen pop star whose manager father invited cameras to film the early days of her marriage to boybander Nick Lachey as promo for her third album. It worked, too — thanks to Simpson's charming dumb blonde persona, immortalized in the very first episode when she asked Lachey whether the tuna she was eating was chicken or fish, since the can was labeled "Chicken of the Sea."
Actress Carmen Electra had already made headlines for her first marriage to eccentric basketball star Dennis Rodman (annulled after nine days) when she began dating Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro. After MTV captured their courtship in Carmen & Dave: An MTV Love Story, the model and the rocker allowed cameras to capture the preparation leading up to their 2003 wedding. (They would go on to divorce in 2006.)
Like its name, this five-episode series was a wild glimpse inside the private life of the biggest pop star of the time. The show was initially envisioned as a chronicling of Spears' 2004 European tour by the singer herself, but when she was sidelined by a knee injury, it became a documentary about her ultra-brief courtship with dancer Kevin Federline that aired on UPN in the summer of 2005. She would later call it "the worst thing" she'd ever done in her career.
A Ken doll-handsome action star marrying a real-life princess is exactly the type of picture-perfect relationship made for TV cameras. Alas, this series, which starred Casper Van Dien and Dynasty star Catherine Oxenberg (who is descended from Serbian royalty as the daughter of Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia), didn't catch on, lasting just one season on Lifetime.
Much like DeMarcus Family Rules, this series followed a famous musician (Blink 182's Travis Barker) and his beauty queen wife (Shanna Moakler) as they raised their children together and navigated the complications of touring life, work-life balance, and more.
This first spinoff of the VH1 fever dream that was The Surreal Life followed celebrity odd couple Flavor Flav and Brigitte Nielsen, who met while filming the third season of the series. Their love burned bright and short, with the couple breaking up at the end of filming, but spawned its own franchise: Flavor of Love.
The second Surreal Life spinoff followed Brady Bunch star Christopher Knight and model Adrianne Curry as they started a life together after falling in love on the celebrity Real World-style show. They were married in My Fair Brady's second season, and their love actually lasted for a time before they ultimately split in 2011.
No star has taken a shine to reality TV quite like the Beverly Hills, 90210 star, who debuted in the genre with this 2007 Oxygen series documenting her and her husband, Dean McDemrott, as they opened a bed and breakfast and started a family. (It would later be revealed that they didn't actually buy the inn in question, although Spelling still insists they were renting to own.)
E! News host Giuliana Rancic (nee DePandi) and her businessman husband Bill Rancic (a.k.a. the first-ever winner of The Apprentice) got their own series on E! — which only seems appropriate, since the duo met when Giuliana interviewed him for E! News. The series ultimately ran for seven seasons, and the couple is still married today.
We'll put an asterisk here, since this series, which focused on the men behind lifestyle brand Beekman 1802, wasn't so much about the couple's marriage, but rather the early days of their business. Bestselling author Josh Kilmer-Purcell commuted from New York City to the upstate farm where former Martha Stewart exec Brent was learning how to farm under the tutelage of their farm's caretaker, Farmer John.
This reality series, starring rapper-turned-TV star Ice T and his buxom model wife Coco Austin, ran for three seasons and followed the lovingly kooky couple's various business ventures and their life together. It helped usher in a golden age of celebrity couple series, with eight shows — most of them spinoffs — premiering over the next year or two alone.
Reality TV veteran Khloe Kardashian and her then-husband, Lakers star Lamar Odom, invited E! cameras along as they moved to Dallas following his trade to the Mavericks. At this point, Keeping Up With the Kardashians had been on for five seasons and spawned two prior spinoffs, so ultimately you knew what you were going to get with this one.
After documenting the wedding of MTV host La La Vasquez and basketball star Carmelo Anthony in La La's Full Court Wedding, VH1 ordered another series documenting their new life together.
Following rapper T.I.'s yearlong prison sentence, he and singer/songwriter wife Tiny invited reality TV cameras into their home to document the excitement of family life with their six children — subsequent seasons would cover T.I.'s burgeoning acting career, Tiny's new girl groups, and their eldest children heading to high school and beyond.
While the Jonas Brothers were on hiatus at the height of their teeny-bopper fame, the eldest sibling, Kevin, and his new wife, Danielle, filmed their own reality series on E! about the early days of their marriage (naturally, it also featured cameos from Kevin's brothers and bandmates, Nick and Joe). The Jonas Brothers broke up a year later.
Love & Hip-Hop: New York, the original installment of the VH1 reality hit about women working in the male-dominated world of hip-hop, spawned an entire franchise. But its first couple-centric spinoff focused specifically on the romantic life of rapper Jim Jones and longtime girlfriend Chrissy Lampkin. They later returned to reality TV after a two-season run for a new show about whether they should tie the knot (spoiler: they never did, but are still together).
Kendra Wilkinson rose to fame as the Olive Garden-loving third girlfriend of Hugh Hefner in the reality series Girls Next Door. After briefly fronting an E! spin-off series titled Kendra, she hopped over to WE tv for a new series documenting her relationship with football player Hank Baskett. The couple had two kids together before splitting in 2018.
Singer Tamar Braxton and her producer husband Vince Herbert documented their family life ahead of the birth of their first child — and through their subsequent marriage struggles and split — in this spinoff of Braxton Family Values.
The only Kardashian son got his own spinoff as he and model Blac Chyna prepared to welcome their daughter, Dream.
The Bachelor franchise's only couple-centric shows prior to this were one-off spinoffs documenting the show's fairytale weddings. Season 20 suitor Ben Higgins and his fiancee Lauren Bushnell scored a full series about returning to normal life outside of the Bachelor mansion, but the question mark would prove prescient. The Freeform series ended after one season when the duo announced their split.
Professional wrestler couple Mike "The Miz" Mizanin and Maryse were both reality TV veterans when their series debuted in 2018, having previously starred on The Real World and Total Divas, respectively. The series' first season documented the time leading up to the birth of their first child.
Another reality TV veteran, Kristin Cavallari, formerly of Laguna Beach and The Hills, invited cameras to document her life with NFL quarterback husband Jay Cutler as she opened a store for her lifestyle brand, Uncommon James, in Nashville. The show ended after three seasons when the couple announced their divorce in May 2020.
Rascal Flatts bassist Jay DeMarcus and his wife, Allison, co-executive director of the Miss Tennessee pageant, invited Netflix into their home for a look into their fun family life. Unlike most couple-centric reality TV of the last decade, this series harkens back to the early days of the genre — you know, way back in the early 2000s — when celebrity couple reality TV shows focused on couples who were famous for something other than appearing on reality TV.
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Jean Bentley is a Los Angeles-based entertainment reporter specializing in all things television, documentaries, and the filmography of Chris Hemsworth. Follow her on Twitter @hijean.
TOPICS: DeMarcus Family Rules, Ben & Lauren: Happily Ever After?, Britney and Kevin: Chaotic, Chrissy & Mr. Jones, The Fabulous Beekman Boys, Giuliana and Bill, Ice Loves Coco, I Married a Princess, Jim & Chrissy: Vow or Never, Kendra on Top, Khloé & Lamar, La La's Full Court Life, La La’s Full Court Wedding, Married to Jonas, Meet the Barkers, Miz & Mrs, My Fair Brady, Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica, Rob & Chyna, Strange Love, Tamar & Vince, Til Death Do Us Part: Carmen and Dave, T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle, Tori & Dean: Inn Love, Very Cavallari, Reality TV