There have been endless different reality TV shows across multiple networks over the years. However, some make more sense than others. It’s not uncommon for networks to throw something at the wall just to see if it sticks, which is why so many reality shows feel like some sort of fever dream that never should’ve made it to air. While there have been many successful shows and franchises, these are the craziest reality TV shows to ever grace the airwaves.
Flavor of Love
Flavor Flav, the viking-horned member of Public Enemy, first caught viewers’ attention on the VH1 show The Surreal Life. Due to his wild antics, Flavor Flav became an overnight sensation. So, the network quickly pulled the trigger on a dating show featuring their new golden goose.
The resulting show was completely nutters, and it was hard to tell who was more wild, the lead or the contestants. Flavor of Love ran for three entertaining seasons between 2006 and 2008, though Flavor Flav never actually dated any of the winners. The “relationships” on the show may have been a joke, but viewers got some incredible moments and their first taste of Tiffany “New York” Pollard.
Rock of Love
Rock of Love was Flavor of Love’s trashier hard rock loving cousin, and it was just as insane. In this spin off, Poison frontman Bret Michaels searched for love…or maybe just some chicks to make out with.
Like Flavor of Love, viewers also only got three seasons of Rock of Love, which aired from 2007-2009. The two shows had the same format but different vibes, and they almost seemed like two sides of the same coin.
The resulting show was both trashy and fascinating, with perhaps the most alcohol consumption of any reality TV show. Contestants got completely hammered on the regular, which was no issue for Bret. If anything, he actively encouraged the hard rock lifestyle that the women adopted. It doesn’t seem like Bret had any intention of dating any of the women from any of the show’s three seasons. For Bret, he was looking for nothing but a good time, and viewers were the true winners.
While Flavor/Rock of Love gave fans good trash, The Swan was problematic trash. The Swan’s premise would do well as a Black Mirror episode, as the show cast women deemed “ugly ducklings” and subjected them to extreme makeovers.
The makeovers included not just hair, makeup, and wardrobe, but also copious amounts of plastic surgery. Each episode featured two women, and at the end of the episode, the “prettiest” of the two would advance to a Swan beauty pageant, while the other was kicked to the curb.
It was a horrific show that destroyed the self image of the women undergoing makeovers. Even after building them up and raising their expectations, the women were still harshly judged for their appearance, and many were told they weren’t good enough. The show aired two seasons in 2004, and it’s still shocking that The Swan existed.
This CBS reality TV show only aired for one season in 2007, but that doesn’t take away from its impact. Kid Nation featured 40 children between the ages of 8 and 15 who were dumped on a remote ranch and tasked with creating a functioning society…no big deal.
The lack of adult supervision was astonishing, and it was incredibly strange watching children attempt to function as adults. On the show, the age differences between the children was also very apparent during daily challenges. While the younger children didn’t hesitate to pick, say, a fleeting pizza party over a more practical prize like a barrel of cocoa powder, there was more of an internal struggle in the older children.
Though the children were paid for their time on the show, it still felt weird to create a Lord of the Flies-style colony of kids who had to fend for themselves.
If you thought the proposals on The Bachelor happened too quickly, then The Proposal should leave you gobsmacked. This ABC show aired in 2018 and featured a bachelor or bachelorette, hidden from view, interrogating a group of contestants with the ultimate goal of getting engaged within the span of a single hour of television.
This show absolutely did not set its participants up for success, and the premise was totally bonkers. Each episode was its own trainwreck, and the show felt like a condensed version of The Bachelor. It’s no surprise that The Proposal got only one season, though fans of really trashy reality TV (myself included) were disappointed.
Beauty and the Geek
Before “geek culture” took hold as something not just for geeks, there were still a lot of jokes being made at nerds’ expense. Beauty and the Geek is a prime example. Created by Ashton Kutcher, of all people, Beauty and the Geek featured teams of two—one “beauty” and one “geek”—competing in challenges to win a $250,000 prize.
The show was supposed to be a social experiment that taught the contestants and viewers about inner beauty, but turned out to be exploitative of both the beauties and the geeks. However, the show was an absolute hit, airing for five seasons and spawning dozens of international versions.
I guess making fun of vapid pretty people and nerds will always appeal to some folks.
Sexy Beasts is one of the more recent shows on this list, but it definitely deserves to be here. The show first aired in the UK in 2014 before being rebooted by Netflix in 2021. On this nightmare fodder TV show, each episode features one male or female single going on dates with three suitors, narrowing their way down to the one they’re most interested in.
The twist is that all four of them are sporting heavy prosthetics and makeup to make them look like a “sexy beast.” However, these “sexy beasts” are absolutely terrifying, and watching them interact on a mundane date is extremely jarring. Bottom line, don’t watch this show before bed if you don’t want night terrors.
My Strange Addiction
When TLC came up with My Strange Addiction, they really nailed the ‘strange’ part. Each episode features individuals who have truly bizarre additions. There have been balloon fetishes, coffee enema addicts, people obsessed bathing in bleach, and countless individuals addicted to eating weird things, including bricks, dryer sheets, couches, glass, dry wall, and even cremated human remains.
The show is equal parts fascinating and nauseating, and every single episode delivers mind blowing addictions. However, the show can be extremely dark, as most individuals featured are battling major mental health issues. The show aired for five years, between 2010 and 2015, before TLC pulled the plug.
It’s probably for the best that the show got canceled, My Strange Addiction is so cringey that binging has to be bad for your health in some way.
The Pickup Artist
This VH1 show from 2007 is dedicated to the “art” of the pickup…excuse me while I roll my eyes. Hosted by a pickup artist named “Mystery,” The Pickup Artist featured a group of men who had trouble dating and wanted to learn how to
be terrible people pick up women.
Over several episodes, Mystery provided his “expert” guidance to the men, teaching them how to neg and wear pieces of flare. The men would test their skills in the club, with Mystery watching along and judging their pickup attempts via planted cameras.
The Pickup Artist’s objectification of women was pretty gross, and it’s a good thing the show didn’t make it past two seasons.
TELL US – WHAT DO YOU THINK ARE THE CRAZIEST REALITY TV SHOWS OF ALL TIME? SHOULD ANY OF THESE SHOWS MAKE A COMEBACK?