I love reality TV as much as the next person. I watch Survivor, The Amazing Race, Big Brother, The Apprentice, The Benefactor (yes, it sucks, but I really like Cuban). But we all know most American reality tv shows are all about exploiting people's desire for a reward or a TV appearance, and putting them through the ringer to get to stay on TV and get closer to the reward.
UK reality TV shows have, for the most part, been different. Changing Rooms, Life Laundry, What Not To Wear, and the wonderful Would Like To Meet are shows that are all about helping people. It's basically a reverse proposition – instead of "we'll put you on TV, and in exchange we'll do nasty things to you", it's "you'll let us put you on TV and in exchange we'll help you out". Most of the British shows I mentioned have American counterparts, but they're not very successful or prominent. Queer Eye, which is successful, does help people, but every episode also includes putting the Straight Guy down in a multitude of ways.
Extreme Makeover Home Edition is the exception. It is very much an American show. It's garish, loud, all out. But it genuinely helps people, and genuinely RESPECTS the people it helps. It displays a very strong attitude of "you deserve it, you need it, so we'll help, because we CAN." And it is compelling television viewing. It is a show about goodness, and it seems goodness doesn't have to be boring or preachy. Goodness can be "good television" just as much as evil, and backstabbing can.