It’s become the televisual revolution of the new millennium. Although reality TV existed before the year 2000 with shows like MTV’s The Real World, the last 16 years have made the genre really come into its own. They are many in number, global and divisive, just as they are seen by the raft of contestants who sign up for the shows as super-fast highways to fame and fortune.
Of course, many TV executives think and feel very different to the fame-hungry hordes yearning for their 15 minutes of fame. This sense of desperation makes for compelling and more often than not, amusing viewing, as people debase themselves for a scrap of validation from TV bosses and baying mobs of viewers.
This desperation is a winning formula and allows producers to push the bar higher – or lower, depending on perspectives – to achieve more outrageous moments in reality TV. Almost reaching the point where the term “reality” is growing more and more vague as a description of the genre. It is due to those boundaries being tested that recent years have seem some real moments in reality TV that have strayed a little too far in what is being broadcast… and here are 20 of those shocking moments!
20. Bone Breaking Broadcast
British TV station Channel 4 created a reality series that really gets into the winter spirit and the serious injuries of its contestants, like no other. The show, called The Jump, features a cluster of faded celebrities like a dim smudge of a far-off star-cluster through a telescope. The contestants on The Jump range from former musicians and actors, to retired sports stars and the object of the entire show is to compete in winter sport events in an elimination-style contest. The object was never to have a succession of minor celebrities injured, though. One of the injured celebs on this year’s edition of the show was British double Olympic gold medalist, Rebecca Adlington, who damaged her shoulder.
In American reality show Survivor: Pearl Islands, the winner lands a $1 million prize for lasting the distance on a marooned desert island. It certainly brings “survival of the fittest” back to the 21st century and such a philosophy doesn’t fit well with fair play. So the ironically named Jonny Fairplay, not only crossed that line but left it cast away on a deserted island! In order to spend 24 hours with a friend, Jonny had his best bud inform Jonny that his grandma had died. Of course this was all a lie! He’d pretended that his grandmother was dead to garner sympathy and progress through the show. It failed, as Jonny learned the meaning of “Fairplay,” by being banned from all events associated with Survivor!
18. A Stitch In Time…
Known for being as outrageous and as racy as possible, some TV producers seem to have taken the opposing view. Why not push the edgy boundary, by going as slow as possible? As the motto of the fable Tortoise and the Hare reminds us: “slow and steady wins the race.” Maybe this was the reasoning behind Norway and their “Slow TV” ethos? The whole Scandinavian trend began with a live broadcast of a train travelling from the port town Bergen, to Norway’s capital, Oslo, for seven hours! This was followed up by a ferry journeying for the same amount of time across open water, the entire trip televised as it happened. If this wasn’t full throttle enough, Norwegian TV executives then went off the deep end, by broadcasting knitting… live! Knowing the knitters were going for a world record no doubt made the whole thing more heart-in-mouth. How else would this get up to three million Norwegians to tune in?
17. Buzz Cut Cook
Bravo’s Top Chef has been popular and has spawned several successful chefs that have gone on and achieved big things. One of those big achievements certainly wasn’t taking an electric razor to the head and cutting away all of your hair! The above clip shows a drunken contestant, Elia, shaving off her hair as part of inebriated hijinks. However, the antics continued off camera when one contestant accosted a sleeping contestant and pinned him down, trying to shave off his hair too. This was deemed a little too aggressive for the producers, who axed said contestant, Cliff, from the show.
16. Australia’s Next Top… Presenter?
Not exactly model behavior in this instance that’s for sure. It was the finals of the Australian edition of the hit model search show and the two finalists were awaiting the announcement of champion, to be announced by presenter Sarah Murdoch, daughter-in-law of billionaire media mogul, Rupert Murdoch. After the customary pause that lasts longer than the actual show leading up to it, Sarah announces the winner and recipient of $25,000 ad campaign, $20,000 cash, a car and a trip to New York, as Kelsey Martinovich. Although Kelsey was runner-up! After several moments of jubilation and grudging acceptance from opponent, Amanda Ware, Sarah Murdoch realizes the horrible mistake she’s made and announces that Amanda was truly the winner. A laughably embarrassing faux pas and if Sarah Murdoch kept her job, the show certainly lost the extra $25,000 and second New York trip it had to fork out for outraged runner-up Kelsey.
15. X Factor Fist!
The UK singing contest show The X Factor has always provided an endless supply of dreadful singers for the general public to laugh at and pour scorn on. This duo of friends Abi and Lisa, dubbed “Ablisa,” proved no different. But what followed was more than a little back-chat towards the judges. After storming off once, singing horrendously and then asking Australian actress and singer Natalie Imbruglia, of number one single “Torn,” who she is, Lisa loses her temper with friend Abi’s rudeness and decides to swing a punch at Abi’s face before storming off a second time – before waiting to see if they got four no’s (which they did!) The judges were shocked to say the least, but not as horrified as the viewers!
14. Go (Ja) Mad
Simon Cowell’s (Insert Nation Here’s) Got Talent franchise has gone global, with even nations like Afghanistan indulging in parading their population in front of cameras to perform. India’s Got Talent, however, showed that the death defying stunt element will reach any length for a few moments of fame (and enduring internet fame!) This group, called Warriors of Goja, begin their dance routine, by throwing in some combat stunts and fight moves common to the warrior class of the Sikh religion. Then things get crazy, the warriors Go (Ja) insane! Flogging each other, eating glass and smashing bricks over one another’s heads! Never mind India’s Got Talent… India’s Got Guts!
13. Bare Essentials
If Survivor (and the outright lies the show prompted) wasn’t enough, then this show, by the Discovery Channel, strips all other reality away! Naked and Afraid dumps a man and a woman alone on a deserted island without anything… that includes without a stitch of clothing! Needing to survive with not even the clothes on their back for 21 days, it is clearly reality in its “barest” form! After the ordeal, there isn’t even a prize at the end, the experience is apparently the prize… seems like the producers have a bit of a thing for having nothing on!
12. Repo Guns!
Operation Repo is an American Reality drama featuring, that’s right, repo men, filming their daily duties in taking possession of items from people who have run up debt they haven’t paid. In this clip, the guys they visit nearly take possession of the repo men’s lives! Managing to tow the Chevy that they have come for, this still doesn’t stop the guys from attacking their car with a baseball bat and the other pulling a gun on the repo men. Several shots are fired as the repo men speed off with their Chevy prize, and luckily their lives intact!
11. Living Doll
Beauty pageants can be freaky enough as it is. A parade of women walking around with robotic smiles planted on their faces. One could be mistaken for thinking they had stumbled into Miss Stepford Wife. However, this creepiness ascends to an entirely new level with the quite gross trend of toddler pageants. These have even been covered in reality show, Toddlers and Tiaras. Nothing is more stomach churning than a parent dressing up their 2-year-old in Madonna’s infamous coned breasts outfit! There is no “Congeniality” in such a performance… these pushy parents need pushing off the stage!
10. Tyra’s Tirade: Part One
America’s Next Top Model hasn’t found a top model yet, but it still remains popular, due to the cattiness of many self-absorbed wannabe models packed together in a house. Yet in season 4, host Tyra Banks blew all of that passive aggressive crap away by launching a volley of anger at recently eliminated contestant, Tiffany. Defending her apparent nonchalance, after making a joke once voted out, Tyra screamed over her. Yelling at Tiffany, the host demanded Tiffany take some responsibility and how everyone was rooting for her and she let everyone down. Hardly “model’ behavior from Ms. Banks there…
9. Tyra’s Tirade: Part Two
This rant from America’s Next Top Model host was far more justified and included some serious pawnage of homophobic and sexist wannabe model, Denzel. The contestant didn’t take it well when fellow male model, Will, who is also gay, wore six-inch leather heels during the competition. After making remarks about “acting like a man” if you’re gay, Denzel confronted Will, who rightly reacted badly. Later, when confronted with Tyra, she let Denzel have it, after he said he had a problem with gay men and for Will “not to act like a girl about it.” Tyra schooled Denzel, letting him know that in a predominantly female industry, there would be stereotypes that every male model is gay and she herself said: “who gives a f*ck?”
8. Jungle Fever!
Viewers of 2010’s edition of I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, saw celebrity nutritionist, Gillian McKeith bear the brunt of the public’s ire, by being subjected to every gruesome task, dubbed “Bush Tucker Trials.” Bush Tucker Trials can range from being forced into a small space to hunt for stars that equal meals for the camp, small spaces crammed with bugs or snakes. It can involve aerial obstacle courses. Or, worst of all, force celebrities to eat vile things in order to gain the stars. Dr. Gillian McKeith was known for her series, You Are What You Eat. In this series, Dr. McKeith would verbally lay into people about their bad diets – as well as inspect their poo – yet on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, Gillian McKeith couldn’t handle the tough “sh*t!” After successively being chosen for the trials on the show, McKeith fainted as she was about to participate in the live trial. Seems difficulty is not part of her “diet.”
7. Susan Boyle
This reality TV moment shocked for a more pleasant reason than a bad one. Britain’s Got Talent, like the myriad of other talent shows, is used to showcasing the acts that are brilliant as well as dreadful. However, the first audition of Susan Boyle was one of those moments that the judges and audience believed that this 47-year-old, rather plain and dumpy woman was going to deliver a grim performance. How wrong everyone was! Susan Boyle belted out “I Dreamed A Dream,” from musical Les Miserables and not just wowed the judges, but the entire world! The performance shot her to fame and although she was a runner up in the competition that year (losing to dance troupe, Diversity), Susan definitely became the more famous!
TV show Jackass has spawned many series’ worth of daredevil and crazy stunts, as well as three movies. Although Scott Palmer took the whole thing to a new level. Taking to the air, the Jackass star leaped out of a plane… with no parachute! It was made clear to viewers that no such safety measure was taken by Palmer, due to him making it obvious by wearing no shirt. He went through with the lunatic stunt and fell fast and far, before a trained sky diver swooped in and grabbed him. Palmer landed safely, but it takes more than a Jackass to take such a risk!
5. Big Racist?
The British version of Big Brother made contestant Jade Goody, a star of the genre. She was the first person in the show to become a multimillionaire and famous in the UK in her own right (despite coming 4th in the original series she starred in). Her life was a tragic lesson in the peaks and troughs the route of fame is often littered with and her return to Big Brother in the celebrity version heralded her fall from grace. In that series Jade, reentered the house as the star the series had created, alongside Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty. Jade and Shilpa locked horns over the shopping task and things got more heated. After the altercation, Jade raged about Shilpa to her friends, calling Shilpa, “Shilpa Poppadum.” This remark caused an international outcry and calls for Jade to be removed due to racism. She was eventually ejected and her career suffered as a result. After a stint in the Indian version of Big Brother, Jade was informed on the show that she had cervical cancer. She died soon after.
4. P***y Politician
Scottish politician George Galloway has always been controversial. His stance on the Iraq War and alleged friendship with Saddam Hussein has won him global infamy and his debate with the late Christopher Hitchens was legendary. However, a second infamy placed itself above intellectual discourse. When he entered the Celebrity Big Brother house in 2006, he enacted the most skin crawling and loathsome piece of “theatre” most people are ever likely to see. Practicing for a shopping task with actress Rula Lenska, they began a role play where Lenska was an owner and Galloway was a cat. It was skin crawling and all too real and just a little too sexual! Often there have been tales of politicians involved in scandalous affairs, this affair was a little too gruesome to watch!
3. Bigoted Brother
Series 15 of Big Brother USA stood out for bigotry more than a Trump rally! From housemates aping Asian accents, anti-Semitic remarks, homophobia and other numerous counts of casual racism. Gina Marie Zimmerman had no qualms about dropping the N-word into her conversations (though perhaps she did after exiting the house, when she lost her Pageant Coordinator job). Then housemate Spencer Clawson caused a furor after making jokes about child porn! Aaryn Gries did make a half-assed apology for her overt bigotry in the house, though it didn’t save her from getting the chop from her modelling agency.
2. Dirty Drinks
Some reality TV has blurred the lines of what happens in real life so much that it has pushed boundaries out of shocking and into the downright macabre and gross! This is precisely what happened on Fear Factor. This edition of the show evolved into a game of truth or dare… the kind played in a mental institution! Contestants were met with a challenge to drink donkey urine and semen! A challenge so disgusting that NBC eventually became reluctant to air the scene and pulled the show entirely.
1. Loos (e) Woman
British reality show The Farm was set to be an honest look at the rustic lives of farmers and the difficulties they have. A no-holds-barred inspection of the rigours farming takes from field to fork… including how the next generation of bacon rashers arrive! The task of helping sire the next generation of sows was given to Rebecca Loos, the woman ‘famous’ for allegedly having an affair with David Beckham, whilst she was the soccer star and former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham’s nanny. The footage clearly showed how Ms. Loos could handle little ones as well as male members, by jacking off a pig to free some of its juice for insemination! David Beckham was nicknamed “Goldenballs,” during his soccer career. A testament to the ease of his kicks that shot him to fame, after scoring from the midfield in his youth. Rebecca Loos on this show was certainly demoted to handling less precious balls when it came to this pig’s family jewels!