In 1999, a competition program called “Survivor” aired on CBS and changed the landscape of TV as we know it. See, “Survivor” is considered the first real reality show, and—since then—has spawned hundreds of others. Now, we’ve got game shows, dating shows, talent shows, celebrity shows, duck hunting shows, and, well, freak shows.
Since we think (and write) a lot about reality TV, we tend to place them in three specific groups: The Greats, the Guilty Pleasures, and the Are You Kidding Me? shows.
The first are The Greats. These reality TV shows make for genuinely excellent television. They’ve usually got a competitive edge with a hints of strategy and drama. Some include “The Amazing Race,” “Project Runway,” “Top Chef,” “So You Think You Can Dance,” and “The Mole” (a wildcard, we know, but Anderson Cooper totally nailed it as host)
Then you’ve got the The Guilty Pleasures. Warning: these shows are highly addictive, if pretty pointless. Yes, we’re talking about “Keeping up With the Kardashians,” “Jersey Shore,” “The Hills,” “The Bachelor,” and all the “Real Housewives.” These shows usually follow a group of people who don’t do much, and while there’s no doubt that we kill a couple of brain cells watching them, we’re not ashamed to admit that we love—and DVR—them.
The third category, however, are the reality programs that are so bad we can’t believe they made it on the air. Watching our generation’s biggest pop star Britney Spears down bags of Cheetos and then burp them up? No thanks. Having to see Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt fend for themselves in the jungle (or do anything, for that matter)? We’ve got better things to do. And no one wants to watch Lohan family drama unfold without Lindsay. Seriously, no one.
To that end, we’ve rounded up 15 reality shows that make up this third (and frightening) category. Trust us, we’re not kidding when we say these shows make “Toddlers & Tiaras” look like “Breaking Bad.” Yikes!
1. “Britney & Kevin: Chaotic” (UPN, 2005)
Watching an episode of Britney and Kevin will make you nauseous. Literally. Both the show’s subject matter and the constant shaking of Brit’s handheld camera is not for the faint of heart. Not to mention, we want to just give the whole entire thing a good, long, bath. No wonder Britney told the Telegraph in 2013, “That was probably the worst thing I’ve done in my career.”
2. “A Shot At Love With Tila Tequila” (MTV, 2007-2008)
Yet another show that needs a good, hard scrub. For unexplainable reasons, pint-sized personality (and occasional porn star) Tila Tequila was given her own dating show for not one, but two seasons. The series was a bisexual-themed reality dating show where 16 straight guys and 16 lesbian-identified girls lived in Tequila’s house and compete for her attention and affection. In case you’re still not sold that reality TV is fake, the winner took to his Myspace page to reveal that Tila never called him after the finale taped. Ouch.
3. “A Double Shot At Love With the Ikki Twins” (MTV, 2008-2009)
Thought it couldn’t get any worse than the first “Shot At Love?” Think Again. In 2008, the world was introduced this horrific spinoff that featured twins, who went by the fitting moniker: the Ikki Twins. Rikki, Vikki, and their sharing of suitors was totally creepy.
4. “Bridalplasty” (E!, 2010-2011)
Brides want to look fantastic on their big day, but going on reality television to compete for plastic surgery procedures? That’s just sad. “Bridalplasty” wasn’t just painful to watch, but it sent a pretty appalling message to its young audience.
6. “I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here” (ABC, 2003 & NBC, 2009)
What made this show so bad was its choice of “celebrities,” that included former “Hills” weirdos Heidi and Spencer, among other D-listers. Watch Spencer (with his crazy eyes) and Heidi completely lose it when fellow contestants touch her dry shampoo. We love dry shampoo as much as the next girl but seriously?
7. “I Want A Famous Face” (MTV, 2004-2005)
Copying a star’s hair, makeup, or style can be fun, but going under the knife to look like them forever? That’s beyond creepy. Even creepier: A television show about it. We do give props to the show for their short bits on how plastic surgery can go wrong, but that doesn’t make the concept any more okay.
8. “Farmer Wants A Wife” (The CW, 2008)
Challenges on this dating show included milking a goat, and baking a pie. How riveting! Just like “I’m A Celebrity,” this show was modeled after a British program of the same name. Taking cues from the Brits is great, but as far as reality TV is concerned, well, we might want to find inspiration elsewhere.
9. “Boy Meets Boy,” (Bravo, 2006)
This show had potential, but was completely ruined by its cruel twist. “Boy Meets Boy” was touted as the first gay dating show, but what the bachelor—and the gay contestants—didn’t know was that half of the potential suitors were straight. If one of the straight men was chosen as the winner, he won money. Reality TV at its most tacky.
10. “Are you Hot?” (ABC, 2003)
A sad case in favor of those who believe that high school never ends, this show is as simple minded as its sounds, as judges rate contestants on their faces and bodies, deeming them hot or not. Thank God this one lasted only one season.
11. “The Swan,” (Fox, 2004)
The ultimate in brutal plastic surgery television, gangly women on “The Swan” not only went under the knife to become “beautiful,” but they had a beauty pageant at the end. A real self-esteem booster, right?
12. “Living Lohan,” (E!, 2008)
Okay, come on, who let this one on the air? It’s crazy that we willingly subject ourselves to other people’s family drama, but, we’ll draw the line at Kardashians, thank you very much. Sorry, Nana Lohan.
13. “Kill Reality,” (E!, 2005)
Ex-reality stars competing on another reality show is a recipe for disaster, and that’s exactly what this was. “Survivor” fans may be horrified to find out that the notorious Johnny Fairplay was removed from the show for defacing a fellow contestant’s bed… while she was sleeping in it.
14. “Dating In The Dark,” (ABC, 2009-2010)
It seems like kind of a nice idea, meeting someone in a dark room and getting to know their personality without judging them on their looks. That is of course, until they do judge them on their looks. If contestants aren;t interested they stand them up. On a side note, we have to admit that we much prefer the name of the Dutch show it was based on: Daten In Het Donker.
15. “Who Wants To Marry My Dad?” (NBC, 2003-2004)
This one has Mary-Kate and Ashley’s “Billboard Dad” written all over it! While the premise of the show isn’t completely horrendous, the relationship was totally destined for failure… Just like it’s canceled second season.
16. “I Wanna Marry Harry” (FOX, 2014)
In what might be the most offensive show ever, 12 American women were flown to London to fight for the affection of a rich British guy that might be Prince Harry. Spoiler alert: The guy isn’t a prince at all, but rather an insipid oil-spill-cleaner named Matt Hicks who’s so broke he can’t afford a car and has to bike to work. The hook? He resembles Prince Harry enough to fool the American women back at the castle. Needless to say, this trainwreck got the axe after only four episodes.
17. Who’s Your Daddy?” (FOX, 2005)
Adoption gets the entertainment treatment with this abysmal show whose premise is appalling: An adult who had been put up for adoption as a baby was placed in a room with 25 men, one of whom was their biological father. If the contestant correctly picks their dad, they take home $100,000. If they chose incorrectly, the person that they selected would get the $100,000, although the contestant would still be reunited with his or her father. Hostile press and scathing reviews caused this gem to be canceled after one episode.