22 worst reality TV shows of all-time (so far)
"Born in the Wild" (Lifetime, 2015)
Arguably the most irresponsible reality show ever made, "Born in the Wild" documents couples who want to have a more "natural" birthing experience by delivering a baby in the great outdoors—unassisted by modern medicine. The show was slammed by medical experts, as a premodern birth process is associated with vastly higher infant mortality rates. The actual show plays a bit like a miracle-of-birth version of "The Blair Witch Project"—and when a show's suspense is generated from viewers wondering if a mother and her newborn are going to die, you've got to wonder how this ever got a green light. —James Hibberd
"CHEATERS" (Syndicated, 2000-Present)
The concept: Catch suspected relationship cheaters in the act. The execution: As tasteless as it sounds. Lowlight: Host Joey Greco getting stabbed during a confrontation.
"Boy Meets Boy" (Bravo, 2003)
The first same-sex dating show could've been groundbreaking TV. Instead, viewers watched gay bachelor James Getzlaff romance 15 men; unbeknownst to him, almost half of them were just pretending to be gay. Cruel, offensive, and worst of all, boring.
"Britney and Kevin: Chaotic" (UPN, 2005)
Britney began her intimate look at the great American love story that was Federspears by asking "Can you handle my truth?" The "truth" turned out to be a blandly narcissistic collage of home videos, in which Britney often raved about the duo's great sex life. TMI, y'all.
"Dating Naked" (VH1, 2014)
VH1 is known for dating shows with interesting premises, but "Dating Naked" is perhaps the most awkward and controversial one the network's ever attempted. The blind (yet totally exposing) dating show allows contestants to "remove barriers" in more ways than one. Hosted by Amy Paffrath, each episode puts a guy and a girl on a remote tropical island. They go on nude dates with three different people, ultimately deciding if they've made a connection made with anyone. While the participants are eventually allowed to put their clothes back on, it's tough to withstand nearly an hour of strangers stripping down upon meeting. —Taylor Weatherby
"Are You Hot?: The Search for America's Sexiest People" (ABC, 2003)
The ugly, short-lived series marked the first (and last) time that Lorenzo Lamas—the crude laser-pointing judge—was considered an "expert" in anything.
"I Wanna Marry Harry" (FOX, 2014)
To anyone interested in a) British royalty, b) trashy TV, and c) schadenfreude, this latter-day "Joe Millionaire"-clone sounded like a slam-dunk. Like "Joe," it revolved around a group of ladies trying to win over a con artist (this time, an average British bloke named Matthew—who kinda-sorta-maybe bears a resemblance to Prince Henry Charles Albert David of Wales, if you squint)—but the show was too shy to come right out and claim that Matthew actually WAS the prince, and none of the contestants seemed all that convinced by the ruse. Which meant that underneath all that royal pomp, "Harry" ended up being a fairly conventional dating show—and a surprisingly boring one. —Hillary Busis
"House of Carters"
There are two words to describe the Carter family: hot mess. Initially, a reality show starring both a Backstreet Boy and his pop-star younger brother sounded like a great thing. But once the show aired on E!, it became clear that the Carters were both dysfunctional and dull. The series featured grown-up siblings Nick (26), Aaron (18), Leslie (20), Angel (18) and Bobbie Jean (24) living under one roof to "plan their futures," which ultimately resulted in childish fights, censored foul mouths, and a reminder that most of them had problems with drinking, drugs, or both. House of Carters was essentially a West Coast Jersey Shore with characters far less intriguing than Snooki, The Situation and Pauly D—which is probably why it only lasted eight episodes. —Taylor Weatherby
"Kill Reality" (E!, 2005)
When a bunch of fame-craving (ex?) reality stars got together to film a horror movie (and a series about filming said movie), two sets of cameras made them act twice as infantile: Jonny Fairplay of "Survivor" was asked to leave the show for defecating in a "Bachelor" castoff's bed. The tribe has upchucked.
"My Fair Brady" (VH1, 2005-08)
Before the Kardashians showed us just how many spin-offs can be squeezed out of one reality show, Adrianne Curry and Christopher Knight tested the limits of their 15 minutes of fame on three different programs. First, Curry won the first season of "America’s Next Top Model." Then she and Knight (who played Peter Brady on "The Brady Bunch") met and started a tentative “relationship” on "The Surreal Life." And finally, the couple got their own program: "My Fair Brady," a hot mess starring two irrelevant people desperate for attention. The series’ only high point was that Knight’s Brady stepmom, Florence Henderson, appeared on one episode.—Isabella Biedenharn
"Next" (MTV, 2005-08)
In what now seems like a live-action version of Tinder, "Next" piled potential dates into an RV, releasing them one by one to the main contestant. The minute the contestant got tired (or disgusted) by a date, he or she could just say, “NEXT!”—like a spoiled child—and be presented with a new human being to test out. Dates got cash for each minute spent with the contestant before their dismissal, and the winning date could choose to cash out or go on date #2. Guys: Always, always take the money. These are not people you want to spend extra time with. —Isabella Biedenharn
"Outback Jack" (TBS, 2004)
''Outback Jack'' had promise: 12 girls were dropped off at a mansion expecting a lavish experience, only to be immediately flown to the Australian outback to compete for former underwear model Dale’s affection. Somehow, though, the TBS reality series accomplished the difficult task of making a dating show set among snakes and scorpions boring. Check, please. —Keisha Hatchett
"Dancing with the Stars" and "American Idol" results shows (DWTS: ABC, 2005-2013; AI: Fox, 2002-2015)
Their monster performance episodes go down easy; the bloated follow-up hours of product-placement filler and endless zoom-ins on the fate-awaiting contestants were unbearable. Thank you, TV gods, for finally recognizing less is more.
Skating with Celebrities (Fox, 2006)
Exemplifying the TV industry’s regrettable tendency toward "me too" reality knockoffs, Skating was "Dancing With the Stars" plus ice — and minus any entertainment value. And then "Skating With the Stars" arrived, and despite it's short run, turned out to not be so bad.
"The Moment of Truth" (Fox, 2008-09)
Fox's notorious reality experiment seemed strategically designed to show humanity at its worst: Contestants were asked ultra-personal questions while strapped to a lie detector, then won cash prizes by correctly declaring answers that the machine deemed accurate. Putting aside the matter of lie detection accuracy (according to studies, the range is anywhere from 70-90 percent), the setup was built to feature desperate contestants humiliating themselves and nearby loved ones by revealing their secrets on national TV. One participant confessed to cheating on her husband, only to lose her winnings by incorrectly answering this question: "Do you think you're a good person?" (She said "yes.") —James Hibberd
"The Pickup Artist" (Vh1, 2007-08)
Oh, "The Pickup Artist." VH1’s answer to the reality makeover show took eight ordinary men who had severe problems with women and attempted to turn them into "master pick-up artists" with the help of some bleach and kissing tips. Arriving in their version of Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage (a mini-bus labeled "Destination: Manhood"), the men entered a mansion prepared to be guided in the ways of love by a soul patch-sporting, hat-feather enthusiast by the name of Mystery. Mystery challenged the men to learn skills like "negging"—according to Urban Dictionary, giving women "low-grade insults meant to undermine the[ir] self-confidence"—in order to make women more vulnerable. Yes, this was actually something that appeared on television for not just one, but two seasons. —Megan Daley
"The Swan" (Fox, 2004)
What was missing from 2004's already creepy plastic-surgery show "Extreme Makeover?" A pageant element, of course! After all, what good is watching a sad woman with a warped sense of self nip and tuck her face and body into oblivion if the results aren't compared and judged before a national audience?
"Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?" (Fox, 2000)
Thank this two-hour special for the advent of reality TV nuptials. The importance of thorough background checks, though, was its more critical legacy: Not only was groom Rick Rockwell's net worth questioned, it was also discovered that he had a restraining order against him. No wonder bride Darva Conger annulled the union in less than two weeks.
"The Anna Nicole Show" (E!, 2002-03)
The sneering tagline said it all: "It's not supposed to be funny. It just is." But nothing's remotely comical about the exploitation of an obviously troubled woman, whose slurred words and unsteady gait were played for laughs—and who died of an overdose four years later.