14 Utterly Ridiculous Reality TV Shows You Definitely Forgot Existed
Over the past two decades, reality shows have overtaken TV. These shows typically feature participants vying for a large cash prize and taking on any number of challenges, from looking for love or surviving life on an island to wrestling for WWE or solving crimes. Thousands of reality shows have aired on TV over the years, and chances are you've seen at least dozens of them. What about the ones you missed, though? Or even the ones you simply forgot?
The graveyard of TV is littered with the corpses of failed reality shows as networks tried to find the next big hit that would take the pop culture landscape by storm. After all, if The Bachelor is such a hit, why wouldn't networks try every potential reality dating show concept under the sun in hopes of finding something that would also find an audience?
Far too many of those shows never found the audience they were looking for. There are a number of reasons for that. Perhaps, the network didn't promote it properly. Maybe the characters were just too unlikable to want to root for. Could it be that the show's concept was just too awful (we remember you, Hulk Hogan's Celebrity Championship Wrestling)? So take a stroll with us down memory lane as we revisit the remains of TV's most utterly ridiculous reality TV shows. We promise you, these all existed, whether you remember them or not.
1. Murder in Small Town X (2001, 1 season)
This reality series only lasted a single season but deserved so many more. Murder in Small Town X turned contestants into detectives in a murder mystery that spanned across a small New England town. Yes, the show essentially took over the entire town, filled it with actors playing characters, and set a fictional murderer on the loose on what was equal parts horror movie and mystery thriller. Contestants searched out clues and did the work to figure out who was behind the killings as they were picked off, one by one, every week.
2. Kid Nation (2007, 1 season)
Take a bunch of kids and strand them in an abandoned Wild West ghost town to build their own civilization. What could go wrong? That was the premise for Kid Nation, a nearly perfect reality series that only lasted one season because having 40 kids between the ages of 8 and 15 filming for 24 hours a day probably isn't the best idea. Granted, the crew on the show were adults, so the kids weren't totally alone. One did drink from a bottle of bleach, though.
Still, this group of children built a pretty decent society and handed out cash prizes to each other. One kid--Jared, the real star of the show--even launched his own business in the town, selling things to children and nicknaming himself the Bill Gates of Bonanza City. He was the hero we all needed back then.
3. Big Brother OOT (2016, 1 season)
Typically, a season of Big Brother airs three episodes each week, plus fans can watch the online feeds from within the house filled with strangers figuring out how not to hate each other. For the one and only "Over the Top" season, though, things changed a bit. The episodes were available exclusively on CBS All Access (now Paramount+) and the live feeds became far more integral to the experience of the show. Events that were normally blocked from the feeds (games, moving into the house, major moments being saved for TV) were shown live online. It was Big Brother's attempt to make CBS All Access a major player in the streaming world. It didn't work. Additionally, it aired outside of the typical summer window for a season of Big Brother, coming shortly after a proper season ended. It was just too much of the show for anyone and the gamble didn't really pay off.
4. Joe Millionaire (2003, 2 seasons)
In the early-'00s, reality dating shows were all the rage. So many people wanted to go on TV to find the love of their lives. With Joe Millionaire, they got more than that too. The show's aim was for a millionaire to find true love in a group of women who competed for his attention. The wrinkle was that the man the women were all vying for was not a millionaire. In fact, he was actually a rookie independent wrestler in Southern California (and a construction worker and former underwear model). Shockingly, the woman who "won" the show did not stay with the faux millionaire. Still, the pair got to split a million dollars, so it wasn't all for nothing.
5. The Search for the Next Elvira (2007, 1 season)
Surely, you're shocked this series even exists. It does, though. Cassandra Peterson, Elvira herself, had a whole show about essentially finding her replacement. The goal of the series was to find a new horror host to carry on the tradition. The series only lasted for four episodes, with writer April Wahlin being crowned as the winner. You may be surprised to find out that Wahlin didn't, in fact, replace Elvira. In fact, Elvira is still doing her thing.
6. I Wanna Marry Harry (2014, 1 season)
Before Meghan Markle married Prince Harry, a TV show tried to find love for him. Well, sort of. I Wanna Marry Harry featured a bunch of women competing for the chance to marry someone the show leads them to believe is Prince Harry. Guess what? It's not. Instead, it's a lookalike named Matthew Hicks who was definitely not a member of the royal family.
7. The Swan (2004, 2 seasons)
What a strange show The Swan was. It should have been simply called Plastic Surgery: The TV Series. On it, several female contestants deemed to be "ugly" were given radical makeovers, complete with plastic surgery. Each episode featured two contestants who were judged on the changes they made in their life following their "transformations," with the winners going on to a final beauty pageant to crown "The Swan." So it featured several women getting plastic surgery and competing to gain entry to a beauty pageant. It should come as no surprise this only lasted two seasons.
8. Next (2005-2008, 6 seasons)
MTV's 2005 dating series took the idea of a blind date and raised it to the next level. A group of potential dates hang out on a bus while a contestant on the outside takes them on various dates--sometimes said dates border on the absurd. If the person from the bus doesn't meet the contestant's criteria, he or she will say, "Next!" Then, another person has their chance to go on a date. The weirdest part of the show is if the contestant likes the person they are on a date with, they offer the chance to go on another date or the person can take a dollar amount for every minute they've been on a date. Do you like this person or do you really need $25?
9. The Pick-Up Artist (2007-2008, 2 seasons)
VH1's competition series The Pick-Up Artist is one of the cringiest shows that has ever aired, and it somehow got two seasons. Hosted by Mystery, a man in a furry top hat, the show featured him and his "wingmen" teaching guys who were unlucky with love how to lie in nightclubs in order to get women's phone numbers and more. One of the "ultimate challenges" during the show was to pick up a stripper. Yes, that was a real thing.
10. I Survived A Japanese Game Show (2008-2009, 2 seasons)
ABC brought the world of Japanese game shows to America in 2008--in what would be a precursor to the rise of American Ninja Warrior. A group of Americans were brought to Japan where they participated in Japanese game shows in order to try and win $250,000. Contestants competed in physical challenges like playing as the claw in a claw arcade game, grabbing stuffed animals from a pool filled with balloons. The show actually ran for two seasons but was quickly forgotten.
11. Date My Mom (2004-2006, 4 seasons)
In the mid-'00s, MTV had a couple of dating shows which heavily involved the input of parents. The first of these debuted in 2004 and was called Date My Mom. The premise was someone would date someone's mom and choose the mom they liked best. At the end, the son or daughter of the mother would reveal themselves. Yes, it was incredibly awkward.
12. Parental Control (2006-2010, 7 seasons)
What was more awkward than Date My Mom? 2006's Parental Control was. In this series, the parents of a child with a bad significant other would choose two suitors for their kid then have to watch the dates with their child's boyfriend or girlfriend. While the show was filled with cringe-worthy moments, it became worth it during many episodes when their son or daughter picked a new boyfriend or girlfriend over their existing one.
13. The Joe Schmo Show (2003-2004, 2013, 3 seasons)
Spike TV had a string of original, memorable reality shows in the early and mid-'00s, but nothing was as unique or interesting as The Joe Schmo Show. In the series, an over-the-top competition was crafted to fool an unsuspecting competitor. Everyone around him, from the host to his fellow contestants were actually actors, including future stars like SNL's Kristen Wiig and Mythic Quest and It's Always Sunny's David Hornsby. The whole point of the series was for them to fool him into thinking he was actually competing to win a cash prize, when in reality the entire series was a massive prank. The series ran for three seasons, with the first one being the best and most memorable.
14. Room Raiders (2003-2009, 8 seasons)
MTV sure did corner the market on bizarre takes on dating shows. Running from 2003-2009 was Room Raiders, and by the name alone, you can probably guess what it's about. Three men or women looking to go on a date have their room "raided"--like the title of the show--by a potential suitor. The men or women would sit in a van and watch it all happen as the raider found out just how messy their rooms are or how much secret pornography they have hidden under their mattress.