The 16 Most Awkward Reality Shows
On Bravo’s new reality show A Night With My Ex, former couples reunite for an entire evening to rehash their relationship. Sound uncomfortable? It is — and there are plenty more series just as cringe-worthy. Ahead, check out 16 of the most awkward reality shows, from Room Raiders to Dating Naked.
Dating Naked, VH1 (2014-2016)
Premise: Strangers strip down in tropical locales and try to find common ground as they embark on adventurous dates (body painting, yoga, or paddling in giant inflatable shoes — yes, really) in just their birthday suits. Whoever started out the week gets to then pick one of their three potential matches to join them on the remainder of the dating journey.
So how awkward is it? Multiply any “first” you’ve ever had by about 1,000 to get anywhere close to the awkward moments of Dating Naked. The combination of nudity, the innate discomfort that accompanies nearly any first date (along with forced conversation and too-soon revelations of baggage) make for one brutal hour. —Jami Ganz
Married at First Sight, FYI (2014-2016) and Lifetime (present)
Premise: Singles are paired off by relationship experts and married at first sight as we follow couples through their wedding day, honeymoon, and first six weeks of marriage. After six weeks, they get to choose to stay married or get divorced.
So how awkward is it? Your wedding day is supposed to be the happiest day of your life — not the most awkward first date of it. As of June 2017, only two of seven couples remain married, suggesting that marriage at first sight is more likely to create cringe-worthy television than a happily-ever-after. —Maureen Lee Lenker
Love at First Kiss, TLC (2016-present)
Premise: Two strangers meet in an otherwise empty room, kiss, and part ways. Should either party believe there’s chemistry, they move to a separate room where they wait for their partner to join them and begin a speed date. The hope is that the awkwardness subsides and, afterward, they’ll secure a real (but still televised) date.
So how awkward is it? That all depends on how comfortable you are a) making out with a total stranger, and b) making out with said stranger on national TV. —J.G.
Date My Mom, MTV (2004-2006)
Premise: This is basically Room Raiders, but swap rooms for moms: One person goes out on dates with three contestants’ mothers and then chooses one of said contestants based on those dates.
So how awkward is it? The moms are pretty game — they signed up for a show called Date My Mom, after all — but even that can’t take away from the strange dynamic of a mother going on a romantic outing with her son or daughter’s possible partner-to-be. —Ariana Bacle
The 5th Wheel, syndicated (2001-2004)
Premise: Two couples are sent out on a double date that is then crashed by a fifth person. At the end of the episode, each participant votes on whom they want to spend more time with.
So how awkward is it? First dates are weird enough. Adding another couple and a solo straggler to the mix is just asking for some unpleasant tension. —A.B.
Baggage, GSN (2010-2015)
Premise: Three contestants play for a potential date’s affection by opening actual baggage on stage containing unique, strange, or even sick revelations about their personal life. When there’s only one contestant left, the date has to open their baggage, and the final contestant has to decide whether she can accept it. Oh, and it’s hosted by Jerry Springer, so imagine him reading these 100 percent real secrets aloud: “I use baby wipes instead of bathing.” “I keep my foreskin in a safe.” “I eat dog food for money.” “I make jewelry out of my own teeth and skin.”
So how awkward is it? It seems like there is a shared understanding between the players that the game is for fun, and no one really wants to go on a date, so there are no hard feelings. The most awkward thing about the show is the painfully rehearsed and scripted lines the contestants say as they are sent home like, “I wasn't going to let you dirty my sex towel anyway!” —Eric King
Naked Attraction, Channel 4 (2016-present)
Premise: Someone picks out a person from a lineup and then goes out with them on a date. Twist: Everyone in the lineup is naked, and the chooser just sees them from the neck down.
So how awkward is it? You know when you’re in front of a crowd of people and you’re like, “Just imagine they’re all in their underwear!” and then you accidentally imagine that you’re in your underwear? This is like that… but without the underwear. —A.B.
Naked and Afraid, Discovery (2013-present)
Premise: Two strangers — a man and a woman — are paired off, stripped down to nothing, and sent into the wild for 21 days with only one item of their choosing to help them survive.
So how awkward is it? Although the whole trying-to-stay-alive thing keeps the pair pretty distracted from the vulnerability of being completely physically exposed before a total stranger, the nudity still adds an extra layer of discomfort to their three weeks. —A.B.
Room Raiders, MTV (2004-2006)
Premise: One person combs through three potential suitors’ rooms and then chooses one based solely on what he or she finds.
So how awkward is it? Well, do you want a potential hookup looking at your sheets with a blacklight? —A.B.
H8R, The CW (2011)
Premise: With the help of host Mario Lopez, esteemed celebrities like Scott Disick and Snooki confront their haters.
So how awkward is it? The answer can be found in the best moment of this gloriously short-lived series when “hater” Dayla does what we all want the chance to do: Ask Disick, “What do you do?” —Derek Lawrence
Sex Box, WE tv (2015)
Premise: What is the polar opposite of privacy? It’s Sex Box, a short-lived remake of a British reality show in which couples dealing with various relationship issues have sex, in a box, then talk about it.
So how awkward is it? Not as awkward as it might sound. While the concept of sex happening onstage sounds titillating, the talking about the sex is what actually takes center stage. —Dan Heching
Wife Swap, ABC (2004-2010, revived for one season in 2013)
Premise: Two wives from drastically different families (vegan vs. heavy meat-eaters, country farmers vs. big-city millionaires) swap lives for two weeks. The first week they must adhere to the rules of their new family; the second week they implement their own house rules. The families come together at the end to discuss what they’ve learned (or insult each other).
So how awkward is it? The show is purposely designed to create conflict and drama by blending families from two such dramatically opposed lifestyles. But, surprisingly, fairly often, the families actually learn from each other and come to express mutual respect for one another. —M.L.L.
Joe Millionaire, Fox (2003)
Premise: A group of women vie for one millionaire’s affection — think The Bachelor — but, surprise, the millionaire is not actually a millionaire: It’s revealed to the final woman standing that he is a working-class construction worker.
So how awkward is it? If the last woman is genuinely into Joe Millionaire, not awkward at all! If the last woman was just into him because of his wealth, then, well, that’s an uncomfortable conversation they’re about to have. —A.B.
Friendzone, MTV (2011-2013)
Premise: Two friends come on the show with one preparing to confess their romantic feelings for the other, who is under the impression they’re about to go on a blind date.
So how awkward is it? Imagine telling your best friend that you have feelings for them and they reciprocate by giving you the stink face, repeatedly laughing in your face, saying, “Lord have mercy,” and coldly rejecting you. I mean, it could have been worse. They could have spit on you. —D.L.
Who Wants To Marry My Dad?, NBC (2003-2004)
Premise: The grown children of an eligible dad pick out a bride for him. By the end of the season, he gets to propose to her. Dad does get some say, though, and that — of course — leads to some familial tension when the offspring and father don’t see eye-to-eye about his bride-to-be.
So how awkward is it? It’s your dad dating, so super awkward. He’s probably the last person ever (apart from maybe your mom) you want to think about being romantic with a woman. Plus, imagine the man who taught you how to tie your shoelaces picking a woman with great boobs over the mousy, yet wholesome, elementary school teacher you approved. —Ruth Kinane
Dating in the Dark, ABC (2009-2010)
Premise: Every episode boasts six new guinea pigs: three dudes and three ladies, all looking for love. So what’s the draw? Well, they can’t actually look at anything, let alone each other, because they’re getting acquainted in the dark.
So how awkward is it? If strangers getting handsy as they try to gauge your body type (which occurred during the second season premiere) sounds like a run-of-the-mill date, you might not find this one too out there. But chances are, it doesn’t, and you will. —J.G.