In 1992, MTV revolutionized television when it began to broadcast a “true story” about seven strangers picked to live in a house together. We are, of course, talking about The Real World. In celebration of the 30th anniversary of the groundbreaking show’s first season, the entire cast returned to New York to tape a new season, even living in the same loft as before. The show is currently airing on the Paramount+ streaming service. While The Real World, Survivor and Real Housewives have all been huge successes, there have been some really terrible ideas that were turned into reality shows and, thankfully, were put out to pasture pretty quickly. Here’s a look at the 8 worst reality shows of all time.
Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? (2000)
Rick Rockwell, a supposedly wealthy bachelor, chooses a wife via a beauty pageant, with a woman from each state represented. They only get to see Rockwell’s silhouette form, only to be revealed when the “lucky” bride, an ER nurse named Darva Conger, was ultimately chosen. They actually did get married on the spot and flew to Barbados for their honeymoon, but *big surprise* they didn’t live happily ever after. In fact, they slept in separate hotel rooms and never made it to the batter’s box, much less first base. Oh, and it turns out that Rockwell was lying about his wealth. In the aftermath, all the networks issued a joint statement vowing to never create exploitative garbage like this ever again. Just kidding. The reality shows only got worse from here.
Who’s Your Daddy? (2005)
Remember seconds ago when we said “the reality shows only got worse from here”? That wasn’t a joke. This is an incarnation of The Bachelorette that demonstrates there are no limits to the darkness of humanity. T.J Myers was put up for adoption as an infant and must decide which of the 25 men standing before her is her biological father, with $100,000 awaiting her if she chooses correctly. Adoption rights organizations weren’t too thrilled with this one, and it sounds like they weren’t alone. This one was so bad that it was canceled after the pilot episode.
I Want To Marry “Harry” (2014)
Twelve American bachelorettes fly to England to win the not-yet-married-to-Meghan-Markle Prince Harry’s affection. But not really. “Harry” is actually being portrayed by a mere peasant…er…commoner named Matthew Hicks who only vaguely resembles Prince Charles’ younger son. Basically, it’s Joe Millionaire with a fake royal twist. Although it is set at a very princely country estate, the contestants are taken on extravagant dates, and the “prince” has a team of servants and security, they were not explicitly told that he’s the actual Prince Harry. At least not at first. But as the show proceeded (in so far as airing 4 episodes before it was cancelled can be considered “proceeding”), the producers just decided to flat out lie, although it doesn’t appear that any of the contestants fell for the ruse.
Sunset Daze (2010)
Imagine Jersey Shore but instead of a young, sexy cast, they’re all members of AARP and wear adult diapers. You end up with this ridiculous show, which features elderly folks who try to convince us all that you’re never too old to party. This show takes place in a Phoenix suburban retirement community of Surprise, Arizona and includes plenty of booze-filled encounters and a whole lot of shenanigans that your grandparents’ peers probably shouldn’t be engaging in. The show managed to air all of the first season’s 11 episodes, but got the axe after that.
The Swan (2004-2005)
Think you’re a beautiful lady? Sorry, but nope. You have all sorts of imperfections that need to be addressed. Now for the good news: a plastic surgeon is ready to fix you up with a new face that won’t shatter a mirror. Regarded by critics as the most inhuman reality show ever, each episode featured a pair of participants who had their faces um…medically rearranged so that they’d look more pleasing to the eye. After that, there was more judgment and embarrassment to come. For one of the ladies, plastic surgery would never be enough. Whoever was deemed to be the more “beautiful” of the two moved on to the beauty pageant held during the series finale to determine once and for all who had the least fakest fake new face.
The Intercept (1997)
Russia can be a pretty tough place to live in, but it’s nothing like it was in the years following the collapse of the Soviet Union. It was like the Wild Wild West where anything goes. This was definitely reflected in the programming that its citizenry enjoyed. Consider The Interception as a perfect microcosm of the chaos they were living through. A contestant would be given a car to “steal” (well, technically they were given the keys, although you can never be certain ‘cause, come on, it’s Russia we’re talking about!), which they would drive through the actual streets of Moscow, attempting to evade the cops. If they managed to avoid the police for 35 minutes — hopefully obeying all of the traffic laws in the process — the Lada or whatever was theirs to keep. Needless to say, the cops pretty much always won because, come on, Russia we’re talking about!
Kid Nation (2007)
What happens when you drop 40 children aged 8 to 15 off at a New Mexico ghost town, provide them with minimal adult supervision as they attempt to form a government of the kids, by the kids, and for the kids, and have it filmed for a CBS show? Well, at least in one case you end up with an 11-year-old girl who got grease burns on her face during a cooking incident. The show was even investigated by the New Mexico attorney general to determine whether any child labor laws were being broken. Although they concluded that no wrong-doing had been found, it’s baffling that the “real-life” Lord of the Flies ever got the green light in the first place.
All My Babies’ Mamas (2013)
Unlike the other reality shows on our list, the adventures of the now-deceased rapper Shawty Lo and the 11 children he fathered with 10 different women never made it to air. Gee, we wonder why. After generating significant outcry, the executives at the Oxygen channel decided that maybe — just maybe! — perpetuating stereotypes about the African-American community and glorifying having children out of wedlock wasn’t such a brilliant idea.