Ah, reality television, or as most of us call it bullshit.
There have been a plethora of reality TV shows over the last two decades that have been deemed as stupid or ridiculously dumb, some we’ve even talked about on this particular post. But where did the reality TV orgy that took over television in the 2000s really begin?
Allow us to take you back to the early 2000s and take a look at The Stupid Age Of Reality Television:
Big Brother and Survivor ends up becoming massive surprise successes for CBS helping them to take down NBC’s long dormant Must See TV lineup as the #1 rated Thursday lineup.
Fox also enters the picture with the infamous Who Wants To Marry A Multi-Millionaire? structured as a beauty pageant-like competition in which 50 women (one from each U.S. state) competed to be the bride of an unknown multi-millionaire, whom they did not see except in silhouette. The competition included a swimwear portion and a question-and-answer portion. The millionaire, ultimately revealed as Rick Rockwell, selected Darva Conger of California and married her on the spot. In addition to the television wedding, Conger also received a three-carat (600-mg) diamond ring and more than $100,000 in prizes. More than 22 million people viewed the show’s broadcast….aka 22 million people watched a woman get married for nothing but his money….this won’t be the last time people fall for this bullshit.
Survivor season two opens up after the Super Bowl and gets nearly 46 million viewers in the process thus pushing CBS into the #1 network spot from this point on.
Fox takes the concept of Survivor and adds a dating aspect to it with Temptation Island, a ratings hit, Season 1 premiered on January 10, 2001 and aired its finale on February 28, 2001. The show was controversial from the get-go, something that Fox hoped would drive ratings. Four male contestants lived in one section with a dozen female models, and the four female contestants lived in another section with a dozen attractive men. The initial couples were Kaya Wittenburg and Valerie Penso, Mandy Lauderdale and Billy Cleary, Ytossie Patterson and Taheed Watson, and Andy Lukei and Shannon Roghair. Patterson and Watson were removed from the show when the producers learned that the pair had children together. The remaining three couples continued.
The same season, Fox debuts Boot Camp. The show involved sixteen civilian contestants, known as recruits, participating in a real life military style boot camp 24 hours a day. Four drill instructors put the recruits through special training activities and obstacle courses to prepare them for the “missions” which they took part in on each of the first seven episodes. Every week, the squad would elect one of their team as the “Squad Leader” giving this recruit extra responsibilities, most notably that of leading the squad in the weekly mission. If the mission was passed successfully, the squad leader earned immunity from the next elimination, and the squad would gain a luxury prize. If the mission was failed, the squad leader became eligible for dismissal, and the entire squad would receive a punishment.
At the end of each episode, the squad gathered on ‘Dismissal Hill,’ where players would exit the team. The squad would each vote one player out of the game, and the recruit with the most votes would be dismissed. However, in a second twist, that recruit got the ability to take any other eligible recruit out of the game for any reason. Contestants regularly adapted their voting strategies as a group in order to try to avoid being “discharged” by the recruit they chose to dismiss. Due to two earlier unplanned exits, two dismissed recruits lost the privilege to discharge another from the game. Upon elimination from the game, the Recruits lost their dog tags, symbolising their life in the game.
After seven episodes, only two contestants remained in the game – Recruits Whitlow and Wolf. The format of the show shifted with the final being referred to as “The Gauntlet”. The Gauntlet consisted of seven physical and mental events, each named in honor of one of the seven dismissed recruits. The winner of each event won the dog tags of the former recruit that the event was named after. Following these seven events, the final two returned to Dismissal Hill where they faced the six (planned to be seven) discharged recruits, who were able to pledge their votes to the recruit of their choice. The recruit with the most dog tags after the combination of Gauntlet event wins and votes would win $500,000, with the runner-up receiving $100,000.
Spy TV gets introduced over at NBC as does Lost, not the JJ Abrams show, and Fear Factor, The Mole gets introduced at ABC, The Amazing Race begins its’ long unending course on CBS in which it grabs NINE fucking Emmys for Outstanding Relaity Program when it actually is boring as shit, and Fox also introduced Murder In Small Town X.
Just when you think it can’t get any worse…
The year begins with MTV grabbing a massive surprise hit out of The Osbournes, featuring the domestic life of heavy metal singer Ozzy Osbourne and his family. The series premiered on MTV on March 5, 2002, and, in its first season, was cited as the most-viewed series ever on MTV…and then it tanked after that, it ran for two additional seasons before it was axed in 2005 but the impact it led afterward is still hurting today.
Around the same time, E! entered the game with The Anna Nicole Show, the show follows the exploits of Anna Nicole Smith and her entourage; much of the focus of the series was on the fact that Smith had gained weight after falling out of the public eye, no longer received regular modeling or acting work, and, at the time of the series’ debut, was in a precarious financial state after lavish spending sprees and the battle against her stepson for her deceased husband’s fortune. Story arcs included Smith’s alleged period of unwilling celibacy (which Smith referred to as “the dry spell”); her struggle to cure her miniature poodle’s habit of attempting intercourse with inanimate objects; her love-hate relationship with her toothless, redneck cousin; and her “fashion feud” with interior decorator Bobby Trendy.
Although termed a reality show, many, if not all, of the episodes began with situations contrived by the producers (i.e., Smith goes to a dating service; Smith participates in a game show based on The Bachelorette); the show was a “reality show,” however, to the degree that Smith’s and the other individuals’ interactions and reactions to the events occurring around them were unscripted.
And thus, the term ‘reality show’ becomes a whole heap of bullshit from here on out.
ABC introduces two extremely successful reality franchises in Extreme Makeover and The Bachelor and Fox debuts the long running American Idol…and ends up destroying its’ reputation within a year of its’ debut.
American Idol’s success leads other networks to cash in on the success quickly from CBS launching a new version of Star Search with Arsenio Hall as the host and ABC launching Are You Hot?, A panel of judges including Lorenzo Lamas, Rachel Hunter, and Randolph Duke evaluated contestants on the sole criterion of their physical attractiveness. Yeah, because when I need to know if I’m hot or not, I go to 50 year old Renegade and Stacy’s Mom….can you see why this didn’t stick around?
UPN succeeds much better with Tyra Banks and America’s Next Top Model, which is still running to this day on MTV. NBC also launched Last Comic Standing.
Fox finds success with Joe Millionaire, the basic premise is that bachelor Evan Marriott has inherited millions of dollars and is searching for a potential bride. He takes a group of hopeful women on several dates to exotic and luxurious locations, eliminating women at the end of each episode until only one woman remains. The main gimmick of the show is that the entire “millionaire” premise is actually an elaborate ruse. The women are not aware that this bachelor is in fact a working-class construction worker. (The Smoking Gun later discovered that Marriott had also been an underwear model for California Muscle) After all other contestants have been eliminated, the secret is revealed to the last remaining woman. If she decides to stay with Marriott anyway, the couple is surprised with a real check for a million dollars….and then it got cancelled the next season but not before spawning the quickest set of ripoffs yet with NBC’s For Love Or Money and Average Joe, Fox’s Married By America, and Fox’s Mr. Personality, hosted by Monica Lewinsky…because let’s give the intern who had sex with Bill Clinton in office her own reality show to host…..I’ll leave you to guess how long that shit last.
ABC found success with the spinoff to The Bachelor, The Bachelorette….and it took them 17 years to finally cast a bachelorette that wasn’t white….PROGRESS!!!! ABC also found success with the spinoff, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which actually ran much longer than the original Extreme Makeover did.
The WB introduced us to The Surreal Life, a reality television series that sets a select group of past-their-prime celebrities and records them as they live together in Glen Campbell’s former mansion in the Hollywood Hills for two weeks. The format of the show resembles that of The Real World and Road Rules, in that the cameras not only record the castmates’ participation in group activities assigned to them, but also their interpersonal relationships and conflicts. The series is also likened to The Challenge in that previously known individuals from separate origins of entertainment are brought together into one cast. The show’s first two seasons aired on The WB, and subsequent seasons were shown on VH1, which later led to the creation of Celebreality but we’ll get to that later.
Bravo unveiled Queer Eye For The Straight Guy, another reality series that was successful in its’ first season and then the value dropped off quickly. The series is premised on and uses the stereotypes that homosexual (“queer”) men are superior in matters of fashion, style, personal grooming, interior design and culture. In each episode, the team of five homosexual men known collectively as the “Fab Five” perform a “makeover” (in the parlance of the show, a “make-better”) on a person, usually a heterosexual (“straight”) man, revamping his wardrobe, redecorating his home and offering advice on grooming, lifestyle and food.
MTV showed us how fucking stupid Jessica Simpson is in real life with Newlyweds: Nick & Jessica. It followed the marriage of then husband and wife Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson. The show premiered on August 19, 2003, and ran for three seasons, with 41 episodes in total. The last season started on January 26, 2005, and the show concluded on March 30, 2005.
Simpson and Lachey were married on October 26, 2002 and filed for divorce on December 16, 2005. On June 30, 2006 Jessica and Nick’s divorce was finalized.
Part of the show’s gimmick involved displaying Simpson’s naive personality, playing on the popular stereotype of “dumb blondes”. Perhaps the most famous example comes from the first episode, in which Simpson, confronted with a can of Chicken of the Sea tuna, asked Nick “Is this chicken, what I have, or is this fish? I know it’s tuna, but it says ‘Chicken… by the Sea’ [sic].”
Fox ripped off itself with American Juniors, a kids version of American Idol, and the failure of From Justin To Kelly but at least American Idol was still successful enough to bring Fox its’ first #1 season.
Then, at the end of the year, the world was introduced to The Simple Life courtesy of Fox, The series depicts two wealthy socialites, Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, as they struggle to do manual, low-paying jobs such as cleaning rooms, farm work, serving meals in fast-food restaurants, and working as camp counselors.
NBC launches The Apprentice….and you all know what came of that so let’s move on. NBC also launched The Biggest Loser this year too.
Fox tries to appeal to the midget audience with The Littlest Groom, the miniseries followed salesman Glen Foster, a 4’5″ little person, in his search for love within a group of both little women and women of average stature…it only lasted two episodes. But that’s okay, Fox made it worse by having half of its’ lineup in the fall being nothing but reality shows with stuff like Nanny 911, Trading Spouses: Meet Your New Mommy, and My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance and its’ spinoff that debuted the same year, My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss. They also debuted their Extreme Makeover ripoff, The Swan, and their Apprentice spinoff, The Rebel Billionaire with Richard Branson.
More stupid people getting reality shows in The Gastineau Girls on E!, Growing Up Gotti on A&E, The Ashlee Simpson Show on MTV, ‘Til Death Do Us Part: Carmen & Dave also on MTV as well as Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, and The Simple Life 2 on Fox.
ABC launches Dancing With The Stars to great success. MTV launches another shitty reality dating show with Next, deals with a single person, going on blind dates with possibly 5 other single people who were secluded on a RV, referred to as the “Next Bus”. The added twist was that the date could end at any time by shouting “Next”.
Each show featured 2 segments. Each segment deals with a single man or woman, and 5 other single men or women. The single man or woman begins the episode describing themselves to the audience. They would usually explain a hobby of theirs that they enjoy, and what they like, and dislike in a person. Often chiding that they would “Next”, a person if they had this attribute.
Immediately following, 5 single people of the opposite sex (In LGBTQ episodes, the same sex), would describe themselves to the audience.
From this point on, the 5 single people are secluded into the back of a RV, and the single person is at a location where the date will be held, which later on will probably be relocated. Unaware of what the single person looks like, and vice versa. In a pre selected fashion, the 5 single people are put into an order to go on a date with the single person.
The person who is first prepares to exits themselves out of the RV to meet the single person. Right before they exit, the screen pauses, and intimate/personal facts are subtitled about the person, and the person introduces themselves to the single person.
The date begins at this exact moment and a timer is shown at the bottom of the screen which captures the length of the date. The date usually varies, but most of the time, it consists of a challenge, or an activity that the single person asks the person who was on the RV to participate in. However, it isn’t uncommon for a date to feature the two contestants conversing, or eating lunch or dinner.
At any time the single person feels that the person isn’t a match, whether it be due to looks, a problem that happens during the date or learning more about the person as the date goes along, they will exclaim “Next”, and the date is immediately over, and the person is sent right back to the RV, never to see the single person again. They will usually either say a positive, or negative thing about the person, to give the remaining contestants on the RV an idea of what the person is. It isn’t uncommon for the person to shout next, within seconds of first meeting the person. Also if the person shouts next and the contestant was riding in a vehicle with the single person that followed the RV around, usually to transport them to the date location, the vehicle will immediately pull over.
The person who was on the RV, will receive $1, for every minute the date lasted. If the person was “nexted” before one minute, they received 1 dollar.
The same process continues with the next person in line.
A date doesn’t always end with the person being “nexted”. A date can end if the single person feels they have gathered enough information, possibly due to attraction and time spent on the date, and would tell the person, “You have been on a date with me for (X amount of minutes), you can either take the (X amount of money), and run, or go on a second date.”
The screen would then pause on the RV contestant, and a review of their date will be played. Along with that, flashbacks of positive and negative traits from the date, and comments from contestants on the RV explaining the single person will be played. At this point, the contestant can either take the money, or go onto a second date. If the contestant decides to take the money, he or she will go back to the RV, just as if they were “nexted”, and tell the contestants about what happened. The single person will then be left alone by themselves. If the contestant decides to go on a second date, the single person, and the person on the RV walk away together, and the remaining contestants on the RV would say in unison a derogatory term to both persons.
This contestant could either be the first or the last to meet the person. If the contestant was not the last, the remaining contestant(s) never come into contact with the single person, or go on a date.
This is usually how a segment ends. But the segment can also end if the person “nexted” all 5 contestants.
The segment ends either when the contestant finds someone he or she is interested in, or if all the contestants were “nexted”.
VH1’s Celebreality block begins with Strange Love featuring Brigitte Nielsen and Flavor Flav that aired on VH1. Sparked by their on-screen romance in the third season of VH1’s The Surreal Life, it is a spin-off that focused solely on Brigitte and Flav. The series premièred on January 9, 2005 and ended its run on April 24, 2005.
Due to mutual jealousy, the couple was constantly fighting and yelling, and they went their separate ways in the end, with Nielsen choosing instead to live with her Italian boyfriend, Mattia Dessi. Flavor Flav would go on to have his own reality show, Flavor of Love, where he continued to search for love.
NBC tries to spinoff The Apprentice with Martha Stewart only for it to fail miserably in the process.
Fox introduces the world to Gordon Ramsey with Hell’s Kitchen.
More stars acting like idiots on reality TV, Being Bobby Brown, the infamous Britney & Kevin: Chaotic, Filthy Rich – Cattle Drive, I Married A Princess, Kathy Griffin – My Life On The D List, Run’s House, Tommy Lee Goes To College, and Simple Life 3.
VH1 debuts Flavor Of Love after Flavor Flav breaks up with Brigitte Nielsen. Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise begins with Orange County.
MTV debuts another shitty reality dating show in Parental Control, A girl was to interview five boys, and after a set of about five questions for each person or an activity of some sort, the father will eliminate one of the contestants. This continues until one contestant remained.
In the latest version, parents are unhappy with their child’s current boyfriend or girlfriend. The parents interview and select prospective partners who vie for the affections of their child. Afterwards, their child goes on a date with the two selections that each parent chose. The child then has to decide whether to keep their current relationship, stay single, or chose one of the new prospects.
During each date, the parents and the current partner watch and comment, often antagonistically, as the date unfolds on television. When the dates are finished, the child selects their new partner from amongst the competitors and current partner. First, one of the three is picked to leave before the other two. Then the child chooses between the two remaining potential partners, commenting what they liked from the remaining parent’s choice and from their current boyfriend/girlfriend. The whole process often results in unpleasant behavior from the two who were eliminated. Usually, the current boyfriend/girlfriend is selected which angers their parents who had hoped to be rid of their child’s significant others. In some occasions, the child chooses their parents’ choice of boyfriend/girlfriend, resulting in the significant other to leave angry and make rude comments. In other occasions, the child chooses to stay single, and eliminates the current significant other and the dates that his or her parents orchestrated. In a rare occasion, the child’s chosen date would reject them and go with their previous significant other. Another rare occasion had the child’s chosen boyfriend/girlfriend break up with them right away, leading the angry parent to chase after them.
MTV does find success however in The Hills and Rob & Big that same year.
Very noticeable lack of celebrities acting stupid this year with A&E only having Gene Simmons Family Jewels.
Made a sex tape and you’re hot? Then you could be just like Kim Kardashian and get your own E! reality show with Keeping Up With The Kardashians…..because who needs real talent anymore?
CBS created Kid Nation, the show, featuring 40 children aged 8 to 15, was filmed on location at the Bonanza Creek Movie Ranch, a privately owned town built on the ruins of Bonanza City, New Mexico, eight miles south of Santa Fe, with production beginning on April 1, 2007.
The show stresses the difficulty in creating a viable society. While each child received $5,000 (equivalent to $6,000 in 2016) for their involvement, Gold Stars valued at $20,000 (equivalent to $23,000 in 2016) and $50,000 (equivalent to $58,000 in 2016) were awarded to select outstanding participants as decided by the elected Town Council.
Speaking before an audience of television reviewers, producer Tom Forman acknowledged that Kid Nation would inevitably share some elements with William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies, which depicted planewrecked children without adult supervision. But adults were present off-camera during the Kid Nation production, including cameramen, producers, a medic, and a child psychologist, although all interacted with the children as little as possible. Participants also missed a month of school, but Forman suggested that such real-world tasks as preparing a group breakfast, doing physical chores like fetching water, and making group decisions constituted an educational experience in its own right. Foreman said that all participants were cleared by a team of psychologists, any child could choose to go home at any time, and some did.
VH1 and MTV debut a shit ton of dating shows including I Love New York, Rock Of Love With Bret Michaels, A Shot Of Love With Tila Tequila and E! debuts more reality with Kimora: Life In The Fab Lane, Life Of Ryan, and Snoop Dogg’s Father Hood. And TLC introduces us to Jon & Kate Plus 8.
HOORAY, A writers’ strike, throw so many reality shows early in the season that we don’t have time to explain.
NBC gives us Momma’s Boys, VH1 gives us Real Chance Of Love, I Love Money, and Tough Love, New York Goes To Hollywood, E! begins the first of many Kardashian spinoffs with Kourtney & Khloe Take Miami, and NBC also debuts the Celebrity Apprentice.
MTV introduces the world to the horrors that is Jersey Shore and Teen Mom, TLC introduces its’ own set of horrors with Toddlers & Tiaras, VH1 debuts Daisy Of Love, Dating In The Dark, For The Love Of Ray J, and Megan Wants A Millionaire…in which one of the contestants was a serial killer…not even joking, that’s true.
This 10 year period shows us how we went from reality television being a new or interesting concept to turning into nothing but a cheap ploy to save money and insult the intelligence of audiences across the country.
And or course, it doesn’t end there but for now, take this under consideration for the stupidity we had to deal ourselves with in that 10 year period between 2000 and 2009. We’ll see what the rest of this decade will force down our throats.
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