If there is one category of television that is more polarizing than any other, it would have to be reality. Some absolutely love what networks have to offer, while others claim it has contributed to the downfall of (mostly broadcast) television.
Whatever your personal feeling is toward reality television (personally, I am okay with it) there have been quite a few reality series that make everyone question “what in the world are they thinking??”. Over the past few days I have gone through lists of reality television shows as far back as I could find them and picked the twenty I deemed to be the absolute worst. This list does not focus on the ratings, but the basic synopsis of the series. This list reflects on those that make you ask the question I talked about above.
20. Britney and Kevin: Chaotic (UPN)
A year before UPN shut down, they brought us a show about Britney Spears and her then-husband Kevin Federline. The show was panned by critics and Entertainment Weekly went as far as to say the show would cause career suicide for Britney Spears (which we know did not happen). The show aired five episodes, of which nearly 2 million viewers fled from the first to fifth episode. After a five episode first season, the show was cancelled.
19. Are You Hot? (ABC)
In 2003, ABC graced us with “Are You Hot? The Search for America’s Sexiest People”, which as the name suggests, searched for the sexiest people in America. The contestants were simply evaluated on their physical attractiveness and nothing else. Yikes! The series was cancelled after one low rated season.
18. Jon and Kate Plus 8 (TLC)
What started out as a nice family program featuring a set of sextuplets and a set of twins quickly turned into a train wreck. Fame went to Kate Gosselin’s head and in season five, Jon and Kate decided to call it quits. The impending divorce sent to the series to ratings highs (a whopping 10 million viewers) but afterwards people grew tired. After two seasons of simply being Kate Plus 8, the show was cancelled due to declining ratings.
17. The Real Housewives of… (Bravo)
Perhaps Bravo should consider changing the name of their network. What was once a network focused on the arts and drama reversed course when ratings were looking brighter elsewhere: reality. The network struck it big with the franchise (thanks in part to ABC’s Desperate Housewives) and most of the series’ still run to this day. The ratings may be big, but the show is one of the worst.
16. Kid Nation (CBS)
Kids dumped into a fictional town forced to live on their own. From the moment it was announced, the series was under a cloud of controversy. Many legal implications arose, such as what age the kids had to be in order to be alone and whether or not their work hours were too much. One participants mother even filed a complaint on the show after her son was hurt. In the end, nothing really came out of it, except for a cancellation notice after its first (and only) season wrapped up.
15. Kill Reality (E!)
Before there were the Kardashians on E!, there were the leftovers from various reality series. Here’s the most basic way I can sum it up: a horror movie (The Scorned) starred a bunch of reality “stars” who were seen in popular reality series, such as Survivor, The Amazing Race, Big Brother, and The Apprentice. “Kill Reality” was a behind the scenes feature as the movie was being filmed. The show ended after one season and with Jonny Fairplay (Survivor) defecating on another contestants bed while she slept.
14. Superstar USA (WB)
A few seasons into FOX’s dominant American Idol, The WB decided to go another route: find the worst singer in America. Contestants who could not hold a tun were told they had the best voices around, while the good singers were told they sucked and went home in tears. Audience members were told the singers were terminally ill and that a charitable organization had made their dream come true. The winner received $50,000 and the show was cut after one season.
13. Survival of the Richest (WB)
In the months before WB’s closure, a one of a kind series hit the airwaves. The WB took seven kids worth over $3 billion dollars and paired them with seven kids who had a combined debt of $150,000. A kid from each side was paired up and together they had to compete in challenges to win money $200,000. The casting only reinforced the typical stereotypes of the rich and poor in America. Due to low ratings and an incoming network (CW) ‘Survival’ was cancelled after one season.
12. I Know My Kid’s a Star (VH1)
The title pretty much explains this one. A parent and their kid were in a elimination-style competition in which each week the kid was given tasks to try and advance their career. Parents were always in fights with other parents because they believed their kid was the next big thing in Hollywood. Here is a hint to those who were on the show: with Danny Bonaduce as host, the likelihood of making it in the business was slim to none. As with most of the shows on the list, after one season, it was cancelled.
11. I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here! (ABC/NBC)
At the height of Survivor’s popularity, ABC decided to tweak the concept and place a number of ‘celebrities’ on an island. The show was a dud and after one season, ABC pulled the plug. NBC attempted to give the series a second go around in 2009. The show took a beating for contestants Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt, of MTV’s The Hills fame. The ratings started strong (and faded quickly), and coupled with bad reviews and D-list celebrities, NBC pulled the plug.
10. Who’s Your Daddy? (FOX)
The premise: an adult is put up for ‘adoption’ and placed in a room with 25 men. The objective is for the adult put up for adoption to correctly guess which man is their biological father. If they guessed correctly, the contestant received $100,000. If not, the person they guessed would win the money. No matter what the outcome of the money, the contestant was still told which man was their father (aww, how nice). After only one episode, and numerous affiliates choosing not to air the episode, FOX decided against airing any further episodes.
9. The World According to Paris (Oxygen)
As if The Simple Life was not enough, Oxygen decided to grace us with the presence of socialite Paris Hilton once again in 2010. The show focused on the daily life of Paris Hilton for a five month period and gave viewers a glimpse of her court-ordered community service (which she said “really sucks”) as well as her birthday party that year. The show was the lowest rated original series on Oxygen for the season, averaging a mere 290,000 viewers.
8. My Super Sweet 16 (MTV)
Spoiled rich teenagers were given the party of a lifetime, all to celebrate their sixteenth birthday. The parties often featured popular singers, lavish gifts (one girl received a $67,000 Lexus), and expensive locations. The new-teenagers often cried before their parties and lashed out at their parents for not getting a small detail of their party right. If watching ‘normal’ teens have their sixteenth birthday was not enough, MTV gave us a glimpse of some celebrities parties, such as Chris Brown and Sean Kingston.
7. Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? (FOX)
50 women from each state in the United States competed in a beauty pageant-esque competition to become the bride of a multi-millionaire, who was not shown until after the competition. Rick Rockwell was revealed to be the multi-millionaire and chose Darva Conger to marry him. Controversy arose when it was revealed Rick Rockwell was not his real name (it was Richard Balkey) and he had a restraining order against him for domestic violence. The ‘winner’ Darva Conger was later awarded an annulment, which she had asked for shortly after the honeymoon. 22 million viewers tuned into the special in 2000 and due the controversy, FOX cancelled all future installments.
6. Keeping up with the Kardashians (E!)
Eight seasons in and the show is still a hit, but it has been at the forefront of bad reviews since its inception. In the eight seasons its been on the air, critics and people all across America have accused E! of exposing a family who has little to no talent. The wedding between Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries was blasted for being a publicity stunt, especially since it lasted only 72 days. E! has also given a special to the wedding of Khloe Kardashian as well as the birth of Kourtney Kardashians first son. Has one family ever been so fame-hungry on television?
5. Jersey Shore (MTV)
Before a single episode aired, Jersey Shore was under a clout of controversy. Italian Americans blasted the cast for claiming their were Italian and giving the group a bad name. The Governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, said the show left viewers with a bad image of the Jersey Shore and its citizens. A number of sponsors, including American Family Insurance, Dell, Domino’s, pulled their ads due to the controversy. The controversy did little to hurt the show, as its ratings were the highest ever for MTV. After six seasons, ratings fell to all time lows and MTV ended the series.
4. Living Lohan (E!)
You’d think a series with the name ‘Lohan’ in the title would at least feature the most famous of the Lohan clan (Lindsay), but that was not the case. Instead, matriarch Dina Lohan tried to expose the world to her other daughter, Ali, and make her a music star. Critical reception of the series was downright pitiful, with Entertainment Weekly giving the show an ‘F’ grade and Anderson Cooper commenting on the series by saying “I cannot believe I’m wasting a minute of my life watching these horrific people.” E! gave the series a one season run and then cancelled the show. Dina Lohan said another network was interested in picking up the series, but that (thankfully) never happened.
3. Toddlers and Tiaras / Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (TLC)
No other show has exposed toddlers more so than Toddlers and Tiaras. In the series, parents (mostly mothers) throw tons of makeup on their four-six year old children, give them big hairdos, and outrageous clothing and then enter them in beauty pageants. Each episode focuses on different toddlers across the country participating in these pageants. If the show has taught viewers anything, its that there is an abundant amount of parents who are willing to do anything to make their toddler famous. The show’s most famous alumni is Alana Thompson, who now stars in the equally bad, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo. Both shows are still on the air, although Honey Boo Boo is more popular than its parent series.
2. The Swan (FOX)
FOX has been the leader of terrible reality programming on the broadcast networks, but The Swan takes the cake for bad FOX programming. The contestants on the series were given a coach, therapist, trainer, cosmetic surgeon, and dentist, who together designed to give the contestant a total transformation. Each week two contestants were featured and one of them was selected to move onto a beauty pageant, which was held at the end of the season. The serious was obviously one of the most controversial of all time. Reviewers pounced on the show for passing a message along that you need to be given extreme makeovers to be beautiful and that the women were truly ugly beforehand. Lorrie Arias, a former contestant on the show, said she was left with unresolved surgery complications and mental health problems due to the show. For whatever reason, the show ran for two seasons after rapidly declining ratings.
1. Bridalplasty (E!)
I went back and forth on who should be number one and in the end, Bridalplasty earned the title of the “Worst Reality Television Series of All Time”. The series was very similar to The Swan, but put a twist on the premise and took it one step further (at least in my opinion it did). The show followed 12 engaged or married women who were competing for the wedding of their dreams, as well as their dream plastic surgery surgery. The winner of the challenge for the week was able to get one of their plastic surgery procedures completed from their wishlist. The winner of Bridalplasty received their wedding as well as every plastic surgery procedure on their wishlist. The husband of the winner did not get to see his fiancee until the day of the wedding. By that point, was the woman even what he originally wanted in a woman? Reviews were, as expected, awful. The score on Metacritic is a awful 21 from critics and a 1.3 for viewers (and would most likely be a 0 if not for one review of a 10). After one season in 2010, E! cancelled the series due to historically low ratings. At least America knows when a reality show is downright horrible.
Do you agree with my list? Are there any on the list that do not deserve to be there? Did I leave one, or a few, off of the list? Add your opinions below!