Out the trash can and into our hearts: The worst & weirdest reality TV

ByKim Staples
Dog flying a plane

Reality TV is doing pretty well at the moment. Reality-specific streaming service Hayu launched not too long ago, and the BAFTA award for best reality and constructed factual show had some decent nominees – from the genuinely entertaining First Dates to the fascinating Secret Life of 4, 5 and 6 Year Olds.

But the genre hasn't always had a good run. In fact, it's been downright awful at times, when it isn't just plain old odd. Read on, because broadbandchoices has rounded up the very worst and weirdest of the reality TV roster.

Paris Hilton's My New BFF

Paris Hilton's My New BFF

Why's it so bad? - Because it popularised the acronym TTYN - "talk to you never" - for a brief and awful moment.

The 00s were a strange time. Dubya Bush was in the White House, everyone used MySpace, and Paris Hilton was considered a thing that was important. And with that importance came My New BFF: a competition to become the heiress' best pal, because obviously that's how friendship works.

In usual reality TV style, each episode an unworthy BFF was eliminated. Except that in this show, reasons for elimination included "she didn't take Paris' makeup advice" and "the dog growled at him".

Winners included the big name stars Brittany Flickinger and Stephen Hampton. What do you mean, "who?"

The Jump

Why's it so bad? - Because it's probably caused more injuries than any other TV show.

On the surface, The Jump sounds like a fairly standard reality entertainment show: it's celebrities competing in snow sports to see who can do them best.

But, like so many reality shows, it became plagued with pain. Celebs ended up withdrawing left, right and centre with injuries, which is bad enough, but it all came to a head in the latest series. Not only were there more withdrawals than ever before, participant Beth Tweddle injured her back and had to undergo surgery to fuse two of her vertebrae back together. Ouch. Several viewers said the show was too dangerous and demanded its cancellation.

Plus, writer Jonathan Whiley said it was "manufactured, emotionless crap wheeled out through desperation." So… there's that too.

You Are What You Eat

You Are What You Eat logo

Why's it so bad? - Because Dr Gillian McKeith's qualifications are, uh… questionable.

You Are What You Eat had perfectly noble aims - it gave people a chance to get healthier with a better diet - but it went about it in the worst way possible.

The show advocated for crash diets, colonic irrigations, rubbing people's stomachs to see how their organs were doing, rifling through faeces, and dozens of other things with absolutely no scientific basis whatsoever.

This was all resided over by Dr Gillian McKeith, who got her doctorate from the unaccredited Clayton College of Natural Health and is a member of the American Association of Nutritional Consultants. To give you an idea of how esteemed that is, science writer Ben Goldacre's dead cat is also a member.

Still, at least a dodgy eight-week diet is easier to fix than a suite of cosmetic surgeries…

The Swan

Why's it so bad? - Because it gave people plastic surgery then (allegedly) contributed zilch to aftercare.

In The Swan, so-called ugly women were given extensive makeovers involving styling, exercise, dental work, and a few rounds of plastic surgery, ready to compete in a pageant to be crowned the eponymous Swan. Pretty standard reality TV show fun, right? Think again.

Firstly, there's the iffiness of perpetuating a dangerous beauty standard. But it gets worse.

Old contestants claim the show ruined their lives. Season two participant Lorrie Arias spoke out a decade later about how her life has been since the show, and it's not been good. After filming stopped, Arias claims she was given next to zero follow-up treatment, and no mental health guidance to help with, you know, having a brand new face. Now she suffers from depression and body dysmorphic disorder. Yikes.

My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss

Why's it so bad? - Because our writer Duncan swears that he watched it once, but we can't find anywhere online to stream it, and that's not fair because this show sounds awesome.

The premise of My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss was essentially The Apprentice. The participants were given business-related challenges, and at the end of each episode someone was eliminated, based on the whims of the mysterious "real boss" - who we never saw.

But here's the kicker: at the very end the "boss" was revealed to be a chimpanzee. He span a wheel to randomly select each week's loser.

The entire thing was a spoof, which seems obvious when you realise it did things like making the contestants market hydrocyanic acid to eight-year-olds, or showing them the literal Excalibur sword in the boss' home.

Dogs Might Fly

Dogs Might Fly

Why's it so bad? - Do we really need to say it? It's about dogs flying planes. If you want to see a smouldering wreckage of what used to be a cute animal but is now an unidentifiable charcoaled mess, just come round to my flat for a roast dinner some time. It's far less expensive and slightly less cruel.

Like so many terrible reality shows, Dogs Might Fly had a noble cause. In this case, it was to show just how intelligent our pooches really are - and they're intelligent enough to fly a plane, apparently.

As it happens, this ridiculous premise actually had positive results. As far as we know, no dogs were harmed in the end. Quite the opposite: a dog really did fly a plane, 12 stray pups got new homes, and a lot of people learned about canine intelligence.

 

Topics: Digital TV

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