“OK, wait, why is Kim Kardashian famous, again?” How many times have you asked that question? No matter how hot reality stars might be, their existence is hard to justify. Thankfully, a new show delivers on the promise of the genre, making TV worth watching again.

But first, let’s be honest about what most reality TV is in 2012: rich women with too much plastic surgery getting into catfights. While there’s a certain attractive train wreck quality to it, you can get better stuff on YouTube. And doesn’t every guy know too many catty women already?

Octane Academy pits world-renowned action sports athletes against each other. On their teams? People like you. But this is no Cinderella reality show.

Reality stars have become a subset of celebrity, and the most irritating kind at that. When you’re checking out at the grocery store, you see them on the covers of down-market tabloids, being famous for being famous. Or for being on TV, anyway. You have no idea who they are, and you don’t care. Other than behaving like brats, living off other people’s money and displaying the maturity of middle schoolers, what have they done?

They got recorded doing it. That’s what.

Perhaps even worse than that parade of whiny well-off women is the Cinderella reality show. You know the type: a dowdy lady is plucked from her home in Nebraska, given a personal stylist, a plastic surgeon and new wardrobe and sent off into her new life as an attractive person. It’s interesting to witness the transformation, but isn’t actual struggle where all the drama comes from?

Compare these instances to the type of reality television embodied by shows like Survivor, The Contender or even The Apprentice. Participants begin being entirely incidental. You don’t know their names and you don’t care a whit about their backstory, what got them to the point where they appeared on reality television. Then they steadily earn your admiration by working hard, being clever and, ultimately, besting the competition. Isn’t that sort of thing more worthy of actual respect?

Enter the Octane Academy, founded by Ford. It takes world-renowned action sports athletes and pits them against each other. On their teams? People you’ve almost certainly never heard of, people like you. But this is no Cinderella reality show. You’re going to see the regular Joes (and Jills) clawing their way to the top. The prize? Four finalists go home with a Ford whip of their own. That’s when the real competition for the Ford Racing experience of a lifetime begins.

The show stars four motorsports legends: Formula D star Vaughn Gittin Jr., rally and stunt driver Tanner Foust, rally and off-road truck racer Brian Deegan and Ken Block of the Monster World Rally Team and Gymkhana (YouTube) fame. Watch as they coach aspiring stars in competitive endeavors like rally racing, drifting, snowboarding and obstacle courses. You know, all the rough-and-tumble action you’d include if you were creating a reality show.

It’s real. It’s exciting. And as the kudzu of most reality TV increasingly chokes out quality programming, we’re just glad to glimpse a great one reason not to throw our TVs out the window.