It’s not hard to understand why, in an era of strife and tension (and pandemics), people turn to their own little corner of the world with pastimes like reality TV, movie watching and even our own Cash slots games to relax.
But, let's talk today about reality TV.
From dating and family to neighborhood gossip, unruly kids, live stage performances, fashion, home decoration, animal whispering and entitled millionaires, reality TV has it all. The popularity of reality shows can be attributed to a number of factors including the chance to turn off a part of your brain and enjoy shows that are funning and interesting with liberal doses of drama and conflict.
Some reality TV, however, is just plain weird, even for the most dedicated reality TV watcher.
Reality TV in History
When we think about reality TV we generally think about today’s shows like the Real Housewives franchise, Big Brother, Survivor and Keeping Up with the Kardashians. But since the early days of TV there have been “catch what’s happening” television shows.
Perhaps the first reality TV show was Candid Camera which debuted in 1948 and featured film from a hidden camera that was set up to spy on regular people whose reactions to absurd situations was caught on film.
Other early reality shows included The American Sportsman, An American Family, Real People, Cops, The Real World, Eco-Challenge, and The Baby Challenge.
The current wave of reality shows began about 30 years ago and has become a significant genre of today’s television listings. Some of the strangest and most unique, including hits and flops, include:
Joe Millionaire debuted in 2003 and followed a group of women vying for the attention (and commitment) of a millionaire bachelor. The first season showed how the women competed to become Mrs. Joe Millionaire but when has proven quite popular. It alters they found out that Joe was just your average Joe and not a millionaire at all, they were furious and the show was taken off the air.
The 2022 relaunch, now titled Joe Millionaire: For Richer Or Poorer, has changed the premise a bit. There are two bachelors but only one is a millionaire. The contestants compete for the affection of the bachelors, knowing that only one is the millionaire. Some compete for the money and some for love which makes it a more interesting competition.
The Worst Driver reality show debuted in 2002 in England. New variations and regional adaptations of the show have been introduced but the basic idea, that terrible drivers compete in challenges to “earn back their driver’s licenses”, has proven to be quite popular.
The drivers are nominated by viewers and their driving skills are assessed by judges, with the most-improved driver receiving a new car. A spin-off in Canada, Worst Handyman, reviewed the handyman skills of various repair people, especially electricians.
Worst Driver was cancelled in England in 2019 but may still be running in other regions of the world.
Whisker Wars looked at facial hair around the world, in particular, the art of growing your whiskers. Contestants would compete in regional championships and the winners would then move on to the World Series of Whisker Wars.
It’s hard to find much to say about a show that centers around men’s beards but it did last 2 seasons with talk about a third so someone must have liked it.
As one reviewer wrote, "I don't think I've ever seen a show so based in egotism and vanity since I last watched the Kardashians... I get that different people hold different things important.. but this subject is treated as if winning the best beard will end world hunger, aids, war, and poverty all at once. If you want to see a slice of how some other people live their lives, watch it... at the very least it's mildly entertaining as to how super serious these people get.”
The Interception is a reality show that could have only come from Russia and, sure enough, that’s where the show originated.
Contestants were given free cars which they could keep – if they evaded the Russian police in a car chase for 35 minutes. The show was created in conjunction with the Russian police who wanted to find a way to discourage carjacking which used to be quite rampant.
In the end, the rate of carjacking remained the same and, given that the cases took place in real Moscow streets amidst real bystanders, the risks were deemed to outweigh the benefits.
90 Day Fiancé
The concept of people marrying in order to obtain rights to citizenship in a specific country is nothing new. TV turned the situation into a reality TV concept by following couples who had received a K-1 visa card which meant that they had 90 days in which to marry before the non-citizen would be put in danger of deportation.
The idea is to show a couple under pressure as they plan and execute a wedding in 90 days which will satisfy immigration authorities and themselves. The show, weird as it seems, has turned out to be quite popular and features different storylines and even spin-offs.
Sexy Beasts, which ran for 7 years from 2014 to 2021, is kind of strange, especially in a world where reality shows that show dating focus on how attractive the various partners are.
In this show, the daters wear animal and monster costumes and masks so that, when they go out on dates, it’s their personalities that must speak for them. The contestants create their own costumes which give the person that they’re dating an idea of who they are. Dating scenes are filmed in regular dating spots – pubs and nightclubs (the show is English) but there’s a message in this show that supersedes how bizarre everyone looks.