There’s no doubt about it – over the past ten or fifteen years, since the first few reality television shows began debuting, it’s become pretty clear that audiences absolutely love reality television. Sure, there’s still love for sitcoms and nail-biting dramas. However, when it comes time to unwind, many individuals have a guilty pleasure – reality television. No one can really explain why audiences tune in to watch celebrities dancing the tango or regular people competing in a variety of zany tasks, but they do.
Producers realized the endless possibilities in the reality television world and soon began cranking out show after show. There are a few, like Survivor and The Bachelor, that have truly struck a chord and managed to captivate audiences for season after season. There are also several that were on the air for a few seasons, or even just a few episodes, before getting yanked. Simply put, when it comes to reality television, many producers seem to focus on quantity rather than quality, on churning out as many shows as possible in order to see which ones become hits worth developing further.
That system means there have been plenty of truly ridiculous reality shows that you might have forgotten all about – we’re here to remind you.
11. Temptation Island
If you thought The Bachelor was a relationship and love centric reality show where producers constantly try to amp up the drama between contestants, might we remind you of a little show that aired in the early 2000s called Temptation Island? On that show, producers had no pretense of pretending to focus on finding love for one of the contestants, as The Bachelor does. Instead, they wanted to find as much drama as possible by sticking both couples and singles in a tropical paradise and basically tried to tempt them to cheat – hence the name. It was obviously not family friendly, and after three seasons it finally wrapped up.
10. S*x Box
Surely, most of the ridiculous reality televisions shows came right when the trend was getting started, back in the early 2000s, right? Wrong. This reality show, which aired in Britain, is from 2015 – and it’s basically exactly what it sounds like. On air, a couples goes into a private box, gets intimate (don’t worry, the box isn’t see-through – it’s not that kind of show!) and then emerges to discuss their relationship with a panel of sex therapists. I mean, even on paper it sounds like a horrendous premise, but for some reasons the producers seemed to think that the idea that “sex sells” would mean even the worst sex-related reality show would succeed. Luckily, this one was cancelled within a few months – which is why you’ve probably forgotten all about it, even though it only aired last year.
9. Are You Hot?
With the amount of reality television shows about plastic surgery and weight loss, it’s safe to say that our culture has an obsession with watching physical self-improvement unfold right in front of their eyes. However, this ABC show takes things to a new level. On Are You Hot?, contestants stood in front of a panel of judges, as they might on any talent-based reality show where they’d be judged on an actual skill, and their attractiveness was rated. Seriously. Unsurprisingly, audiences didn’t really enjoy watching humans being rated like objects, and the show was off the air within a month.
8. Vanilla Ice Goes Amish
No, you didn’t read that incorrectly – Vanilla Ice Goes Amish was actually a reality show on the air awhile ago. Most people know Vanilla Ice, a guilty pleasure rapper in the early 1990s who brought hits like “Ice Ice Baby” to audiences around the world. He’s been trying to get back into the entertainment industry through a variety of cameos and reality shows, including his very own on the DIY network. The premise is simple – Vanilla Ice goes to live in an Amish settlement to learn about how they make furniture (because, as you may know, Vanilla Ice is also trying to be the next DIY guru).
7. Kid Nation
Ah, the show that nearly started a thousand lawsuits. While reality television tends to focus on adults, there have been a few successful child-centric shows, such as Toddlers and Tiaras. However, Kid Nation took things to a new level. On the now forgotten show, producers took a group of young kids and essentially placed them in the middle of nowhere to create their own society. Sure, the majority of them had likely never done much beyond a few basic chores around the house, given their age, but why not assume they can entirely provide for themselves in the middle of nowhere? Predictably, it lasted one season before getting yanked off the air.
6. The Swan
While many have likely forgotten about it by now, back in the day, The Swan was absolutely huge. When it comes to reality television, the more ridiculous and the more drama the better, and this show was almost too crazy to actually believe it was on the air. The premise was simple – women who were unhappy with their appearances competed to receive makeovers… including extreme plastic surgery. They would be nipped and tucked to within an inch of their life and then emerge, all glammed up, in a big reveal with essentially an entirely different body and face. It sounds like some type of science fiction show, but it was actual reality television.
5. Whisker Wars
If you saw the title Whisker Wars and figured that there surely couldn’t be a reality television show centered on facial hair and everything it involves… you’d be wrong. They created that show in 2011 and it actually ran for several years. On the show, an American beard-growing team captain by the name of Phil Johnson (seriously, that’s a thing) assembled a team of men with amazing facial hair to represent the United States in international facial hair competitions. It might seem like a crazy parody, but we assure you – it’s totally real, and the facial hair is as unbelievable as you might think.
4. Mr. Personality
First of all, this crazy reality television show was hosted by Monica Lewinsky, which is strange enough to make you wonder what on earth it was about. Mr. Personality was essentially a weird version of The Bachelor – a woman was tasked with finding love from a group of potential suitors, but instead of getting to know them all, inside and out, she was only able to judge them based on their personalities… because they wore masks. On the surface, the idea of eliminating superficial judgments from a dating show might seem like a good idea. In reality, it was just a woman surrounded by strange masked men.
Splash can be summed up in three simple words – celebrities go diving. And trust us, it was about as exciting as those words make it sound. Now, there’s no secret that audiences love watching celebrities compete in a variety of pursuits, whether it be dancing or ice skating. Thus, some producer figured that watching someone take a plunge off a diving board would be as fascinating as watching them learn the fox trot – and they were wrong. The show was unbelievably boring, because really, watching diving isn’t that fascinating, and many of the celebrities participating ended up suffering from injuries. It was basically a train wreck from beginning to end, which is why it was so quickly forgotten.
2. Who’s Your Daddy?
Back in 2005, Fox thought it would be a good idea to take an adult who had been adopted as a child and get them to figure out who their biological father was. How did they do this, you ask? Well, the producers gathered 25 men in a room, and the adopted adult had to figure out which of them was his real father – and if correctly identified dear old dad, they would win $100,000. If they got it wrong, the contestant would still get to meet their father, but the faux dad who had tricked them would get the cash. Exploitative doesn’t even begin to cover this show, and luckily, it was off the air after just one episode.
1. Joe Millionaire
Joe Millionaire aired back in 2003, when reality television was really beginning to captivate audiences. Now, the premise of this show isn’t nearly as ridiculous as many of the other forgotten reality shows that grace this list. Basically, women thought they were competing on a Bachelor type show, where they’d try to find love with a handsome bachelor. The catch is, they thought their potential partner was a millionaire, while he was just a humble construction worker in actuality. While the potential gold-digging aspect might make for reality television gold, no one can really explain why on earth the first season of this show was so popular – the finale brought in nearly 35 million viewers! However, by season 2, it had flopped, because the novelty had worn off. While you may have forgotten about this show, it essentially set the stage for the endless relationship and dating reality television shows that came after it. Thanks, Joe Millionaire.