The general consensus is that reality tv is the lowest form of television entertainment. But it is also true that there are some shows that redeem the genre (The Amazing Race, Biggest Loser, So You Think You Can Dance, etc.). What about the other end of the spectrum? When it comes to the lowest of the low, which reality shows stand at the bottom of the pit?
Before I answer that question, I will divide the worst of reality into three categories:
- The Premise – Some shows are bad from the moment the idea is born in the creator’s mind. The premise is simply too ridiculous or pointless to merit any attention, and the show thus sucks valuable brain cells out of its viewers.
- The Ethical/Moral Dilemma – Some shows just seem plain wrong. Maybe I don’t agree with what it stands for, or what it puts its contestants or cast through. Maybe it shows the worst sides of humanity. Maybe I think it sends the wrong kind of message to impressionable viewers. These are all reasons that this type of show shouldn’t remain on the air.
- The Pseudo-Celebrity – These shows are the ones that make me roll my eyes, and since there seems to always be a new “celebrity driven” reality show, I do a lot of eye rolling. Whether it’s a last ditch act of desperation to save a faltering career, or a ploy for attention from those riding on the coattails of their more famous family members, these shows have no redeeming value. Whatever happened to the value of privacy? And why should we encourage these people to continue their shenanigans? They need to go home, behind closed doors, and work out their issues.
Now that I’ve laid out the categories of bad reality, I’ll move on to the contenders for Worst Reality Show. My choices were limited to the shows available to watch on Hulu. (This is one of the latest categories in the Hulu Awards.) I’ve whittled a list of more than 100 choices down to ten. I’ll list them below according to category:
- Hole in the Wall – Maybe this idea could work as part of a more elaborate obstacle course game show. But as a stand-alone concept? Absurd! Not to mention, it humiliates the contestants. If I had to see the promo one more time of that obese woman shouting out in disbelief as the skinny person cut-out moved quickly towards her… This has to be the worst reality show concept ever.
- The Real Housewives of Orange County/Atlanta/New York City (take your pick) – Why should we care what a bunch of materialistic, self-involved women spend their time doing? These shows are extremely staged and completely lacking in any worthwhile plot. Total waste of time.
- America’s Got Talent – I wasn’t really sure which category to put this one in. It’s not really that a talent show is a bad idea. I (mostly) enjoy American Idol, and I grew up watching the original Star Search. The problems with America’s Got Talent began when the judges and host were selected. I can’t stand to watch this show because of its cheesy, manipulative tone, and its judges who seem to think they are uber-important. I can’t stand to listen to or even watch Sharon Osbourne, David Hasselhoff, and Piers Morgan as they react to the performers and offer their “critiques.” Jerry Springer, as the host, is equally annoying. So the casting of the judges/host, along with the shabby production values (mainly the editing and camera work), make this a big loser in my opinion.
The Ethical/Moral Dilemma
- Temptation Island – In our culture, people generally believe that it is a good thing to be committed to your significant other, and that you should avoid temptation. So then, why does this show encourage people to cheat, and turn the “will they/won’t they” into entertainment for the masses? This show is wrong in so many ways.
- The Girls Next Door – According to the summary on Hulu, this show “takes viewers beyond the gates of the world-famous Playboy Mansion and into the lives of Hugh Hefner’s girlfriends, Holly, Bridget and Kendra. Through the eyes of these gorgeous gals, you’ll see this fantasy land come to life like never before.” Okay, so this show is voyeuristic, giving viewers an inside look at an exotic fantasy land. And it condones Hugh Hefner’s polygamous lifestyle. Most people would agree that this is not a healthy form of relationship, and I also think that this show and the Playboy culture it portrays are demeaning to women. Some people would probably tell me to loosen up, but I don’t think a show like this adds anything positive to our society. I should add that I also find The Bachelor/Bachelorette series offensive, in the way they turn selecting a partner into something akin to a meat market.
- Battle of the Bods – Hulu describes this as “a steamy reality show in which five sexy girls rank themselves in order of attractiveness and try to match the rankings of a panel of male judges, for a cash prize.” I don’t think I can imagine a more horrid premise. Strange, then, that this isn’t too dissimilar to the concept of beauty pageants, which I’m also not a fan of. Battle of the Bods is another show that objectifies women. In this case, these women knew what they were getting themselves into, but that doesn’t mean we as viewers should encourage them to continue in their current mindset. Rather than starring in a show that has them competing to be the sexiest, they should be guests on a talk show that has them delving into their issues of self image, self worth, etc. I just don’t know what would drive someone to participate in something like this. How much money is it really worth?
- The Moment of Truth – This show “puts contestants to the test – the lie detector test – to reveal whether or not they are willing to tell the truth for a chance to win half a million dollars.” That description alone doesn’t sound too bad; it’s the way that Fox produces the show, and the content of the questions, that makes this an awful show. Some things just shouldn’t be played out on national television. These people need to air their dirty laundry in their own homes, not in the living rooms of strangers.
- Denise Richards: It’s Complicated – I could have chosen any number of “celebreality” shows for this space, but I went with Denise Richards because this show really seems to have no point. Plus, if Denise was tired of the paparazzi following her around, why willingly let a camera crew have full access to her and her children? She can claim it’s to “set the record straight,” but all I see is someone who is seeking attention in the wrong places.
- Living Lohan – Where does E! come up with the ideas for their shows, and who continues to watch them all, thus encouraging the production of more pointless celebrity reality shows? This show is one of the lowest of this lowest form of “entertainment.” It follows the adventures of Dina and Ali Lohan, mom and sister to Lindsay, as they try to become superstars in their own right. So, not only are they not really celebrities, but they are trying to “break into the biz” just like thousands of other people. Is the fact that they have a famous family member really enough reason that they should get their own show, when so many others are going through just the same process?
- Rob & Amber: Against the Odds – I have never been fond of Rob and Amber using their Survivor super-couple status to prolong their 15 minutes of fame. After their (admittedly) impressive win on Survivor: Marquesas, the parade of reality appearances began: The Amazing Race, Survivor – All Stars, The Amazing Race – All Stars, Rob and Amber Get Married, and finally, this poker-themed show that had Rob being tutored by professional player Daniel Negreanu on his quest to become a professional player. It’s not surprising that Against the Odds ended abruptly when Rob and Amber got the more lucrative opportunity to appear on The Amazing Race: All Stars. I was over Rob and Amber about halfway through their first season of Survivor, so I have become increasingly annoyed by each of their subsequent reality appearances.
So there you have it – my picks for the top ten worst reality shows (on Hulu). Which of these would you pick as the very worst? Or maybe the top three worst? I need help choosing a “winner”!
- Worst Reality Show – This post on The Hulu Review gives the full list of shows eligible for the Hulu Award for Worst Reality Show. See if I missed any other worthy contenders, and place your own vote in the comments section.
- My Proposed Nominees for Best Reality TV – For a more positive take on reality tv, check out the shows I nominated for the Best of Reality categories for the Hulu Awards.
- Sorting the Lentils of Reality TV – My definition of “good” reality tv