The Man with the 132-Pound Scrotum (TLC, 2013)
Look at the title. Did anyone really need (or want) to see this?
Toddlers & Tiaras (TLC, 2009-present) / Here Comes Honey Boo Boo (TLC, 2012-present)
Our nation weeps for any series that went from simply exploiting painted-faced children to bringing back Smell-o-Vision (all the better to smell Mama June’s farts!) within a matter of a few seasons.
Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew (VH1, 2008-12) / Celebrity Rehab Presents Sober House (VH1, 2009-10)
What better way to create entertainment than to force washed-up celebrities who are standing quite literally on death’s door into tight quarters and repeatedly poke at their weaknesses? The icky show finally closed up shop in 2012 after five of its alums unexpectedly passed away.
I Love Money (VH1, 2008-10)
We have to admire VH1’s brilliant move of acknowledging their nosedive into the hair gel- and breast implant-lined abyss by naming the show exactly what, arguably, all competitive reality TV shows could be called. (The Biggest Loser could also apply.) In this shameless knockoff of MTV’s The Real World/Road Rules Challenge, loser contestants from past VH1 reality shows like Flavor of Love and I Love New York compete in sexy ‘n’ embarrassing challenges to win $250,000. Playboy model Megan (pictured) has a fake-tanned leg up, seeing as she starred in VH1’s Rock of Love 2 AND the CW’s Beauty and the Geek (season 3).
Moment of Truth (Fox, 2008-09)
Fools sit in a hot seat (that should really be animated according to how much sweating/fidgeting is going on) and take way too long to answer increasingly ”scandalous” questions about their usually uninteresting personal lives. It’d be easier for host Mark L. Walberg to just ask everyone, ”Are you a total $$$$ing idiot who will do anything for cash?” But 1,000 consecutive contestants truthfully answering ”Hell yes!” would make this crapfest even more tiresome than it already is. That sentence was… … … … … …true.
JAIL: O.J. Simpson Special (My 9 Network, Feb. 11, 2008)
It’s no surprise that the creator of an original new-low show, Fox’s COPS, is behind this series, which this season included ”exclusive footage” of O.J. Simpson doing time after his 2007 armed-robbery arrest. As a cute TV touch, O.J.’s placed in room #32 — widely considered the NFL MVP of Clark County Detention Center Holding Cells.
Kid Nation (CBS, 2007)
Hey, let’s exploit children! Forty kids, aged 8-15, attempt to form a functioning society on a glorified movie set in Bonanza City, New Mexico. At least the casting was apt: Nearly all of the kids — excuse me, ”pioneers” — had very early in life developed the typical reality-TV-star trait of being really annoying. I’d honestly rather watch a live-action version of the hit 1985 floppy-disk game The Oregon Trail.
Britney and Kevin: Chaotic (UPN, 2005) / Hey Paula! (Bravo, 2007)
The Anna Nicole Smith Show (E!, 2002-03)
Here we had the same ”Follow That Loon” concept as Chaotic and Hey Paula!, but with less talent and more poodle-on-furniture humping. Producers went out of their way to make Smith — who at the time was overweight, broke, and often slurry — seem as pathetic as possible. In the wake of Smith’s 2007 death, recalling the lavish TV attention heaped onto her troubled life is more than a bit eerie.
The Swan (Fox, 2004) / I Want a Famous Face (MTV, 2004-05)
Contestants on The Swan endured multiple plastic surgeries for the chance to win a beauty pageant that basically judged which plastic surgery had turned out the least wonky…I mean, ”best.” Famous Face wannabes went under the knife to acquire the features of their fave celebs, including Britney Spears (pictured) and — no joke — Dustin Diamond. These shows, in turn, began shows including 2010’s Bridalplasty and 2011’s Pretty Hurts. Gross. People: The Ugly Duckling is a fairy tale. It’s not self-improvement if your goal is to become a different person.
Temptation Island (Fox, 2001-03)
Four unmarried couples (who couldn’t have been that into each other if they agreed to do this) visit a Caribbean island to have their loyalty tested by ”The Singles,” a.k.a. hot bodies of the opposite sex. Mark L. Walberg, clearly the poster boy for Great Moments in New Lows, hosted the series with a straight face. Bonus (negative?) points: It spawned foreign versions with lots more nudity and, indirectly, a dud called Love Cruise: The Maiden Voyage, which could have had potential if it had been sci-fi.
Cheaters (Syndicated, 2000-present)
People cheat on their lovers; other people catch them on camera. Since the show’s syndicated, it’s actually kind of hilarious to find out which parking lots, forest reserves, and health-code-violating bars in your geographical vicinity all the cheaters prefer while attempting to cheat. But when a camera crew jumps out of a tree and actually lands on the cheaters (it’s happened! Check the Northwest Indiana listings), a little part of your soul shuts down forever. Then, inexplicably, you giggle. See? New low!
Flavor of Love, Flavor of Love 2, Flavor of Love 3, I Love New York, and I Love New York 2 (VH1, 2006-10)
Without even scraping the bottom of the barrel regarding eventual spinoffs like Charm School, Real Chance at Love (2 seasons!), and Frank the Entertainer in a Basement Affair, stare at the mere titles long enough and you’ll feel culture disintegrate within your brain like sand pouring through a timepiece necklace. (Not sure what that meant; I just want one of those damn clocks to break.) What does it say when a network rewards its craziest, most obnoxious reality-show contestant (and her mom) with a reality series of her own? I believe it says — to quote New York — ”Do I look like I give a f—? ‘Cause I don’t.”
Keeping Up With the Kardashians (E!, 2007-present) / The Bad Girls Club (Oxygen, 2006-present)
They’ve each spawned a gremlin-like army of spinoffs, including the Kardashians’ Kourtney and Khloé Take Miami, Kourtney and Kim Take Miami, Kourtney and Kim Take New York, and Khloé and Lamar, plus Bad Girls Road Trip, Love Games: Bad Girls Need Love Too, Bad Girls Club: Flo Gets Married, Tanisha Gets Married, and Bad Girls All-Star Battle.
That’s said, here’s an official list of reasons — even stupid ones — for either of these shows to exist:
Shows Centered Around the Concept of ''Millionaires''
On Fox’s 2000 one-night special Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? (right), Darva Conger triumphed over 49 pageant contestants to wed Rick Rockwell — whom she’d never met — on the spot. Contestants on Joe Millionaire (2003, also on Fox, of course) thought they were pretending to fall in love with a millionaire dullard, but it turned out he was just a dullard…with a construction gig and a short-lived underwear-modeling career. Score? $1 million to the first person who cleans up my vomit.
Wife Swap (ABC, 2004-present) and its carbon copy, Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy (Fox, 2004-07)
Two wives switch houses, boss around the other’s family for a few days, ruin everything, fall into mind-numbing despair, and then return home. It wouldn’t seem so horrid if ABC didn’t insist on such extreme pairings — like a multimillionaire New York heiress with a rural New Jersey brood (pictured), or a gun-toting conservative with the anti-NRA/animal rights activist. This doesn’t make ”good TV,” it just makes ”me uncomfortable.” Especially when celebrities get into mix including Sarah Palin and Gary Busey (well, let’s face it, Busey’s always in the mix).
Chains of Love (UPN, 2001)
Look at the picture.
The Simple Life (Fox, 2003-05; E!, 2005-07)
The basic message of Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie’s televised road trip, to me, was ”Do poor people suck or what?” No. You two suck. Now don’t fill up on gas, and drive home.
My Super Sweet 16 (MTV, 2005-08)
People on TV are usually beautiful, talented, or have lots of money. MTV’s disgusting 15-year-old brats who treat their parents, friends, and the occasional hired troupe of little people like garbage while planning the party of their dreams? They’re the ones with lots of money — and the most jarring part of the show is that they’ve deluded themselves into thinking their parents’ wealth means that they’re sexy.
Actually, speaking of MTV...
The following additional charges have been leveled against MTV:
A Shot at Love With Tila Tequila
A Double Shot at Love
Date My Mom
Every Other Show on This Channel
Didn’t This Channel Used to Play Music Videos?
The Littlest Groom (Fox miniseries, 2004) / Age of Love (ABC, 2007)
The Littlest Groom followed little person Glen Foster on a quest for true love, first with 12 little women and then — avalanche alert! — with a few average-size women thrown into the mix to help Foster ”decide whether height should determine whether or not you find someone attractive.” Switch out ”age” with ”height” in that last sentence, and you have the basic premise of Age of Love. Would anyone care to cringe?
The Bachelor (ABC, 2002-present)
This series — plus its incestuous spin-offs The Bachelorette and Bachelor Pad — has been around so long it sort of seems like the outdated, slightly sweaty, definitely panting grandpa of slimy TV. Forget the morally objectionable concept of dating 25 people at once and the almost complete lack of diversity, and let’s just focus on how absolutely vile it is to have to watch the same dude (or dudette) make out with different people over…and over…and over. And…tongue. And…I’m flipping the channel.
(Oh no! Not a Rock of Love rerun! Extreme close-ups of Bret Michaels’ greasy-tongue Olympics are even worse!)
The Jerry Springer Show (Syndicated, 1991-present)
Without the trash-tastic, often topless brawls that Jerry encouraged on his set, would TV have been inspired to achieve Great Moments in New Lows in the first place? Let me take a spin on Maury Povich’s fail-proof Wheel of Paternity to seek out the answer. In the meantime, take another tequila shot from the mansion’s bathtub, and go on a date with this 3-foot-tall plastic surgeon I found on a remote island hanging out with Mark L. Walberg. He could be a millionaire!