It's really strange how the worst reality show concepts even find their way onto television. I'm not a TV snob or anything, but every now and then I hear one that is just so absurd that I have to wonder how anyone came up with the idea. It's funny if you think about it. To that end, here are some of the worst reality show concepts I've heard of. For brevity's sake, I've only included shows that actually aired.
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1 The Swan, Fox
This has to be one of the worst reality show concepts I've ever heard. As if women didn't have enough problems with body image, this show aims to give a group of «ugly ducklings» a complete makeover and have them compete with each other in a beauty pageant. This might sound harmless, but in reality it's anything but. After having interviews about how their looks have negatively affected their lives and listening to everyone else they know say the same, the women undergo obscene amounts of plastic surgery to the point where they look very little like their old selves. There was even one woman who committed suicide because she was told that she was «beyond their help», when the truth was that the recovery time for the surgery suggested wouldn't be over in time for the beauty pageant. I'm not sure how stable she was before the show, but it's really sad when a reality show concept goes this far.
2 Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, TLC
Please know that not all of us in Georgia are like this. This spin-off of Toddlers in Tiaras is just as exploitative, except this time it makes her whole family (and the rest of us in the South) look like a bad stereotype. Like T&T, it often seems that the parents are getting a lot more out of the attention than the kids do. The kids enjoy it for a while, but the lack of boundaries and pressure to «perform» at all times eventually gets old and ends up hurting them in the long run. This image is going to follow her everywhere, whether she wants it to or not.
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3 Temptation Island, Fox
You know a concept is bad if even your local TV network affiliates won't carry it. In this show, Fox got some committed (not married) couples and put them on separate islands with "sexy singles" trying to tempt them to cheat. The idea was so offensive to some markets that the TV affiliates refused to put the show on the air. Contrary to common belief, they don't have to; if the affiliate has the money to buy the time slot from the network, they can show whatever they want. This is exactly what the one in my town did, so I got to watch my fill of Andy Griffith reruns. Barney Fife is still my dream guy.
4 Toddlers in Tiaras, TLC
This train wreck is responsible for spawning #2. We could probably trash it for that alone, but the biggest reason for the controversy associated with the show is the thought that child beauty pageants send the message that looks are more important than anything else. The fact that they're often paraded in outfits (Julia Robert's hooker outfit, fake boobs etc) that are way too sexy for their ages is just sickening. I'm all for playing dress-up, but I draw the line at using fake cigarettes for props. [businessinsider.com]
5 Married by America, Fox
As the name suggests, contestants were matched into couples via viewer votes and went through the usual things (living together, meeting the parents) your average couple goes through. At the end of the term, the couple would go on the show and say, «I do» or «I don't». In other words, they let people arrange their betrothals in the same way they vet American Idol contestants. None of the couples actually got married, but the FCC got involved [cbsnews.com] when footage from the bachelor and bachelorette parties went afoul of network decency standards. They later dropped their suit, but that doesn't make the concept any less disgusting. Arranged marriages were ditched for a reason.
6 Who's Your Daddy?, Fox
In this show, a young woman who was adopted as a child was introduced to a group of men claiming to be her biological father. After a few rounds of interviews and elimination rounds, she had to discern which of these men was really her father. If she picked her real father, she would win $100,000. If she didn't, the impostor would win. In other words, what should be a private and emotional conversation was made into a public spectacle. So many adoption advocates and local affiliates expressed so much outrage that the network canceled the show after only one episode.
7 Boy Meets Boy, Bravo
Now, this is just cruel. In this «dating» reality show, a very nice-looking gay man named James Getzlaff [en.wikipedia.org] was presented with a choice of 15 potential suitors in an effort to help him find love. Problem was, not all of said suitors were gay. The producers thought it would be a good idea to put a bunch of straight men in with the gays and not tell James about this until much later in the season. The idea was that if James picked a gay man, both would receive a cash prize and a trip to New Zealand. If he picked a straight man, the «mate» would get $25,000 and James would get nothing. He happened to pick a gay man, but can you imagine what it would be like to get your hopes up and then be told that, oops, that guy doesn't like you after all? Luckily, it only lasted one season.
It would take me forever to list all of the crazy realty shows on American TV I've heard of, but these are some of the craziest. Yes, I know that the (adult) contestants are willing participants, but that doesn't make the concepts any more savory. I suppose it could be worse. We could be the ones trying to put a group of people up on Mars trying to see whether they'll bite each other's heads off or not. [huffingtonpost.com] What are the worst reality show concepts you've heard of? Are there some that haven't been made, but should be?
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