I think I've made it perfectly clear by now that when it comes to reality shows, there isn't much I won't watch. From the slightly respectable competition shows like American Idol and Top Chef all the way down to those trashtastic "celebrity" dating shows like A Shot at Love With Tila Tequila and Rock of Love (and even their more shameful spin-offs like Charm School and I Love Money), I eat it all up like a family-size sack of pretzel m&ms (true story -- just ask the rest of the editorial team). But unlike ingesting copious amounts of junk food, I actually feel better after indulging in crap TV. Smarter. Classier. More purposeful in life. I guess that's why I'll never quit -- because no matter how devastating this downward spiral in TV trends becomes, I'll almost always feel like a better, more useful human being in comparison. However, despite the many TV gems that exist nowadays, my fondest reality memories date back to days long past (you know, the early 2000s) when networks were still experimenting with this whole "realty" fad and coming up with some shows that were ridiculously indulgent, embarrassing, and downright appalling, even by today's standards. So without further ado, allow me to lead you down a short trip down memory lane to reminisce over some old favorite reality shows that sadly no longer grace our screens (except via SideReel)! I'll bet you haven't even heard of some of these!
The premise was simple: a gaggle of girls think they're on a "Bachelor"-type show in which they're vying for the affections of a millionaire, but the dude is secretly a working-class construction worker. At the end, the secret is revealed to the "winning" lady, and if she chooses to stay with him anyway despite his meager paycheck, the couple is surprised with a million-dollar prize. Sure, it wasn't exactly the best recipe for a long-term romance, but who doesn't love watching a bunch of chicks getting fooled and looking like total gold diggers on national TV?
Important lesson: if you suspect that your girlfriend might be a cheatin', triflin' ho, you probably shouldn't bring her on a show that uses muscly, oiled-up dudes to bait her into cheating on you some more. Because she probably will. And if she doesn't, your paranoid a** will be convinced that she is anyway, & you'll end up cheating on her instead. Just sayin'.
This show thrived in a time when celebrities were still fairly "new" to the reality scene, Paris Hilton wasn't yet "old news," and Nicole Ritchie was about three times the size she is now (which was still alarmingly thin). It was the perfect mix of intriguing (a couple Hollywood brats forced to work at SONIC?) and sadistic (they had to clean up cow dung! HA!), and surprisingly (at the time), Paris & Nicole were quite the comedic trouble-making duo.
Forget Making the Band. Back in the day, it was all about the WB's hit, Popstars, which followed the search for the next hottest girl band and their subsequent climb to fame (or their sad attempt at it). While unfortunately not much came out of girl group Eden's Crush except for the Pussycat Doll's Nicole Scherzinger (yes, that was her!), and I'm pretty sure one of the other girls appeared on a Vagisil commercial -- no joke -- it was entertaining while it lasted!
Similar to Temptation Island but even more exploitative with the added drama of a studio audience voting in new hotel guests to stir up some smack-talking, this show never failed to deliver the sex, scandal, betrayal, and tears. Of course, I'm pretty sure the producers just made the rules up as they went along -- seriously -- but its spontaneity definitely lent itself to plenty of surprises!
Think of Extreme Makeover -- as in the controversial people edition, not Home -- except with borderline crazy people who want to be cut and spliced (and nipped and tucked) into replicas of their favorite celebrity. Then consider MTV, who will actually jump right in before these crazy people can be convinced that it probably isn't a good idea to make yourself look like a psychotic version of your favorite star, and exploit them on one of the most disturbing series in the network's history. And that's saying a lot!
The title is pretty self-explanatory. There's a farmer. He's hot, of course. & he wants a wife. Conveniently, for the sake of entertainment, his potential suitor-wives are very "unfarmerlike," so of course they'll have to be fish out of water while they attempt to "wow" said farmer with their aforementioned lack of barn-savvy. I'm pretty sure I didn't watch long enough to find out what happened, but let's face it -- they just don't come up with ideas like they used to.
Yes, before there was Dismissed and Next on MTV -- and even before The Bachelor -- there was elimiDATE, the juiciest and most awkward of all group dating shows. This was back when the premise of multiple people fighting for the same dude or dudette on one date (cue cat-fighting) was a novel idea, so I would actually stay up way past my bedtime to catch marathons of the one that started it all. Of course, it was only entertaining if the people were especially skanky, which was pretty much every episode, so it definitely goes down as one of the winners in my book!
There was a short-lived yet prominent phase in reality TV where almost every show involved people spontaneously marrying each other for fame or profit. This particular show definitely took the cake when it came to craziness. A woman was given the task of convincing her family that she was marrying a big, fat, obnoxious guy (who was secretly an actor), and if her entire family attended the wedding -- with no objections -- they would win a hefty cash prize. This feat ended up being way more trying and traumatizing then anyone could have imagined, but um... hopefully her shrink has helped her get over it by now.
10. Celebrity Mole
I never watched the regular seasons of The Mole, but I'm going to go ahead and assume that without contestants like Stephen Baldwin, Dennis Rodman, or Kathy Griffin, the show wasn't nearly as interesting. There was something so addicting and intriguing about being able to "play" along with them when it came to guessing who the secret mole was, and while the current season of Big Brother attempted to do something similar with their new Saboteur (that was a total Fail), it's just not nearly as awesome as Celebrity Mole was!
Got any other "old" favorites I left out? Share below in comments!