The Strangest Reality TV Shows Of All Time
Thankfully most of these only ran for one season!
Remember “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?” The reality show that launched a thousand ever weirder, wackier and absurd reality shows? The show, which aired live on Fox in 2000, was widely regarded as a disaster save for the fact that it may have helped bring these other odd reality shows to our screens.
“Naked And Afraid”
Network: Discovery Channel
Air Date: 2013 to Present
Discovery Channel’s “Naked and Afraid” is a bit of a head-scratcher. Why would anyone agree to be paired with a random stranger and filmed completely naked while trying to fend for themselves with little to no tools in the wilderness for 21 days? And they don’t even earn that much money for doing it! Yet, the show is a success, having been on the air since 2013. There’s also “Naked and Afraid: XL,” a spinoff.
We do think it’s impressive that contestants manage to fight off bugs, the elements, starvation and personal conflicts — all while nude. We just don’t necessarily want to watch them doing it.
“I Wanna Marry ‘Harry'”
Air Date: 2014
A few problems: 1) The guy playing Harry, while sporting a close appearance to the real royal, doesn’t look exactly like him. Would the women believe it was him? 2) He’s done some off-the-wall things, but what are the chances that Prince Harry would really appear on a reality show looking for love? Viewers agreed. The 2014 show lasted only four episodes before being canceled.
Meghan Markle just won the real-life version of this contest so don’t expect a second season.
Air Date: 2003
Monica Lewinsky hosted the short-lived Fox 2003 reality show “Mr. Personality” where the woman seeking love has to pick from suitors all wearing masks, so she can only judge them by personality not appearance. What would have been more interesting is if the gender roles were reversed. Though the masks would be creepy no matter what. And did we mention one of the contestants was a hypnotist who might have been working his skills on the leading lady?
The show was canceled after five episodes.
Air Date: 2004
Controversial Fox “makeover” show “The Swan” gave female contestants extensive plastic surgery along with fitness, diet, styling and therapy sessions. The women were not allowed to see themselves for the couple of months they were being “transformed.” At the big reveal, a curtain was lifted so they could see their often-unrecognizable selves in a mirror. And all of the made-over women then competed against each other in a beauty pageant with one winner being crowned “The Swan.”
The show got good enough ratings to be renewed for a second season before being canceled. At least one contestant said the show ruined her life with its message that all you need is tens of thousands of dollars of plastic surgery to feel good about yourself.
“My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance”
Air Date: 2004
Randi Coy, a first grade teacher, thought she and another contestant were in it together to convince their families of their engagement and pending wedding when “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance” aired in 2004. Randi and Steve, her rude, crude and not very attractive “fiance” did manage to convince her family to turn up to their quickie wedding. (There are so many awkward moments in this show we lost count.)
But it turns out her “fiance” was actor Steven Bailey, and Randi had no idea she was a part of the elaborate practical joke from the show’s producers. Don’t feel too bad for Randi and her family, though. She got $500,000 and her parents and siblings split $500,000 as well!
Air Date: 2013
Looking for a “real-life” version of “Clue”? ABC tried it out for one season in 2013. No, people weren’t really murdered, but contestants were given clues and challenges each round, and the loser had his or her “murder” staged for the camera. The winner of the show was the last person standing who correctly guessed which of their fellow contestants was the “murderer.” The show, while a fun idea, was quite hokey. Plus some viewers actually thought the show’s murders really happened!
“Who’s Your Daddy?”
Air Date: 2005
“Who’s Your Daddy?” was a Fox show that had an adopted adult guess their biological father’s identity from a pool of men. In the pilot, the contestant quizzed and tested out a series of men pretending to be her father in order to try and pick the real one among the pretenders.
T.J. Myers, the adopted woman, correctly chose her father and won $100,000. However, the show offended many for its exploitation of adoption and for never mentioning the parents who adopted and raised Myers. It was canceled after one episode.
“Best Funeral Ever”
Air Date: 2013 to 2014
The Golden Gate Funeral Home in Dallas was showcased in a 2013 TLC reality show with an unbelievable title. The funeral home goes all out to turn funerals into unique moments of celebration.
Barbecue funeral? Check. Disco funeral? Check. Christmas funeral? Check.
It’s not the large and uncommon funerals that were the issue with this show. “Best Funeral Ever” came across as making fun of the mourners and those who helped them mourn. As an op-ed in The Washington Post stated, “I have no issue with Golden Gate Funeral Home doing what they do to make money, but TLC’s exploitation of how families mourn their dead is shameful in an era in which we can barely focus on keeping each other alive.” The show had two short seasons before being canceled.
“Megan Wants A Millionaire”
Air Date: 2009
Reality-show regular and proud gold-digger Megan Hauserman got her own show, “Megan Wants a Millionaire,” on VH1 in 2009. Seventeen wealthy men sought her affections, á la “The Bachelorette,” and she slowly winnowed the group down to a winner.
However, audiences never got to see the end of the show as one of Megan’s millionaire’s turned out to be a murderer! Real estate developer Ryan Jenkins had a quick courtship and marriage to a different woman, Jasmine Fiore. Jenkins, who had a previous criminal history but somehow passed VH1’s background testing, was charged with murdering Fiore before killing himself. After that news came out while “Megan Wants a Millionaire” was still airing, the show was axed.
Air Date: 2007
Put a bunch of 8-15-year-olds together in an isolated desert camp for 40 days with little adult supervision and call it “Kid Nation.” That’s what CBS did in 2007, having the kids compete for gold stars worth a lot of money. But the show was canceled following a lot of complaints and potential legal action over the show’s use of minors. Producers apparently kept state inspectors from visiting the camp when they arrived to check work permits, among many other possible violations of child labor laws.
Air Date: 2009 to 2010
VH1 aired “Tool Academy” for three seasons starting in 2009.
The premise: Rope a bunch of “bad boys” into appearing on a show they think is called “Mr. Awesome,” but actually turns out to be a charm school their significant others have signed them up for. The goal was to “train” them out of their annoying ways. As fun as that might sound, we had a hard time believing that someone can change through just a few weeks of reality-show rehab contests. Plus the bro-ness … it was overwhelming.
“Vanilla Ice Goes Amish”
Network: DIY Network
Air Date: 2013 to 2014
Robert Van Winkle, aka Vanilla Ice, has become a home-renovation TV show star in recent years with “The Vanilla Ice Project” on the DIY Network. Turns out the ’90s rapper has some serious construction and carpentry skills. But while his original TV show has been going strong since 2010, the 2013 spinoff “Vanilla Ice Goes Amish” seemed far-fetched even for Van Winkle. The series had the host spend time in Amish communities, doing home improvement projects.
Air Date: 2006
Back in 2006 — before he went to prison — O.J. Simpson starred in his own short-lived, straight-to-video reality show called “Juiced.” It was “Punk’d” but with Simpson as the star. In some of the show’s pranks, O.J. pretended to be homeless, crashed a home-showing, hit on women, played ill-received golf course pranks, got made over as an old white man and did other unfunny bits. He even signed a white Ford Bronco. His catchphrase? “You’ve been juiced!” Unsurprisingly, the show was not renewed or released on regular TV.
Network: We TV
Air Date: 2010
Seniors living out their golden years in a retirement community in Arizona were featured on We TV’s “Sunset Daze” in 2010. The pitch was “Jersey Shore” meets “Golden Girls,” or something like “Real Housewives of the Retirement Community.” Some of the scenarios the stars were sent on for “good television” seemed too artificial (a gay rodeo outing for instance). And apparently, those under 49 didn’t want to watch retirees talk about their sex lives or jump out of planes, because the show was not renewed.
Air Date: 2001 to 2003
The Fox reality show “Temptation Island” brought couples to an island, split them up with each person being tempted by attractive models, and filmed the whole thing. Would couples break up or choose to stay together? Real quality television here. The show was parodied in the movie “The Stepford Wives.” Despite “Temptation Island’s” high ick factor, the show might be coming back if recent news reports are to be believed.
“Born In the Wild”
Air Date: 2014
“Born In the Wild” took home births to an extreme level. Moms on the show not only wanted to be out of a hospital, they wanted to be out in the wilderness, giving birth in a yurt, by a stream or on a farm! While the 2015 Lifetime show set a few safety guidelines — it had a midwife on hand if needed at all the births, a medevac team on standby, it wouldn’t take any first-time mothers and stayed within a certain distance of a hospital — it was still deemed risky to mothers. “I understand everybody wants to believe we overmedicalize pregnancy and that it’s a natural process. But it’s a natural process that historically has caused an extraordinary loss of life,” one doctor told Entertainment Weekly.
“Susunu! Denpa Shōnen”
Network: Nihon TV (Japan)
Air Date: 1998 to 2002
In 1998, a Japanese reality show pushed the premise of reality TV to drastic and humiliating levels. A comedian won a contest to be filmed for a reality show, but he did not know he was being filmed live. He was put in an apartment and told to strip and then enter an endless stream of magazine contests in order to feed, clothe and provide entertainment for himself. It was like a real-life version of “The Truman Show,” except he couldn’t leave the room. There were a few more seasons and other show spinoffs. But we just feel sorry for the unwitting star!
Air Date: 2013
Take celebrities including Louie Anderson and Kendra Wilkinson and train them to do high dives for a televised competition. What could go wrong? Several contestants on the 2013 show “Splash” were injured during filming. No way you’d catch us doing a sport that Olympic athletes spend years training for. Even with Olympic diver Greg Louganis on the training team, it’s probably a good thing “Splash” didn’t last.
Network: ITV (United Kingdom)
Air Date: 2015
Calling all fans of “Babe.” Or just fans of sheep-herding in general. The 2015 British reality show “Flockstars” followed British celebrities as they tried to learn how to be sheep herders complete with the use of sheepdogs. While the professional shepherds who served as trainers on the show were easy to look at, the rest of the show’s excitement peaked with shouts of “Release the sheep!” Enthralling stuff, said no British TV viewer ever, as the show was canceled after one season.
Air Date: 2015
Quick! When’s the best time to quiz a woman giving birth? Answer: Never!
TLC’s 2015 reality game show “Labor Games” ambushed unsuspecting parents-to-be in the hospital having babies with a trivia question game. If they could grin and bear and not punch someone out, the couples could win baby-related prizes and a $10,000 college fund. Let’s hope these moms were under the influence of an epidural when being asked trivia questions during a contraction.
Air Date: 2011 to 2012
Don’t we all want to watch guys grow out, groom and talk about their beards? Or not. “Whisker Wars,” which aired for two seasons on IFC, followed American beard competitors trying to win an international beard competition in Norway. At least the show taught us that there actually is something called competitive facial hair growing. One beard champ compared the acceptance of beard competitions to that of surfing decades ago, so we have that to look forward to.