11 Reality Shows That Weren’t Too Weird for Television
The Masked Singer, which premiered on Fox on January 2, has celebrity judges trying to guess the celebrity performers dressed in head-to-toe costumes ranging from “poodle” to “pineapple.”
Yes, it’s bizarre, but no, it’s not the weirdest reality show to make it to the airwaves.
Scroll down for 11 shows, past and present, that are even more absurd.
This 2015 German show featured 12 men donating sperm in hopes their little swimmers would reach an egg first and earn them a new Porsche. “Sperm Race is serious,” Endemol Germany President Boris Brandt told the German press at the time. “Fertility is a big thing in Germany.” (More like, virility is a big thing for men everywhere.)
Who’s Your Daddy?
For adopted children, the search for one’s biological parents can be an emotional and fraught process… which, of course, makes it catnip to reality TV producers. This Fox series, in which adult adoptees would win $100,000 if she correctly identified their biological parents out of a group — only aired one episode in 2005 before being shelved.
After finding runaway success with Dancing with the Stars in 2005 and so-so ratings with Skating With the Stars in 2010, ABC full-on belly-flopped with this 2013 reality competition — in which Kendra Wilkinson, Louie Anderson, and other B-listers took their best dives with the mentorship of Olympian Greg Louganis.
Once branded “TV’s most disturbing reality show,” this 2007 CBS reality show followed 40 kids ranging in age from 8 to 15 as they endeavored to create a functioning society in an abandoned New Mexico town. The show was hounded by accusations of child abuse and labor law violations, according to Slate.
This particularly sadistic 2004 British reality featured contestants trying to stay awake to win a £100,000 prize. A 19-year-old police cadet named Clare won the whole shebang after enduring 178 hours — i.e. more than a week — of sleep deprivation.
The People’s Couch
What’s way less fun than watching television yourself? Watching other people watching television, as was the premise of this 2013 Bravo show. Viewers watched viewers watching programs including Scandal, The Voice, Game of Thrones, and even the Tonys. (And somehow this show lasted four seasons.)
What’s the one thing a woman wants to do while in labor? If you guessed “answering trivia questions to win college scholarships for her newborn,” you’d at least agree with the producers of this 2015 show. After two episodes on TLC, the reality competition was pawned off to the more-obscure Discovery Life channel.
Susuni! Denpa Shōnen
For this year-long Japanese reality show, which reached its climactic finale in 1999, a naked 23-year-old man was confined to a tiny apartment until he had won 1 million yen worth of prizes from magazine competitions, all the while totally unaware he was on a reality show. “I suffered mentally every day,” he said later, per The Guardian. “I felt as if I was trapped between sanity and madness.”
This hidden-camera show, on the other hand, was far more innocuous — simply duping 12 contestants into thinking they were training as cosmonauts in Russia and then actually blasting into low-earth orbit. In reality, however, their “space shuttle” was just a simulator in a soundproofed hangar in Suffolk, England.
This 2015 WE tv series, based on a British series of the same name, had real couples having sex in an opaque box on stage before reemerging for post-coital couples therapy with relationship experts. Quoth The Washington Post, “The revelation that a 7.9 (the equivalent of a C-plus) is an acceptable sex grade is great news for sexual underachievers everywhere!”
Have you ever seen a dating show in which one’s genitals make the first impression? In this ongoing British show, the possible matches for each contestant stand fully naked behind walls that are raised in stages. Yes, the nudity is full-frontal, and yes, it’s uncensored, and yes, it’s still aired on the UK’s public-service broadcaster Channel 4.
The Masked Singer, Wednesdays, 9/8c, Fox