Since the reality tv explosion at the end of the 20th century new so-called reality shows have been cropping up everywhere. Cheap to produce and more exploitative than a regular talk show, tv execs have been hurling these oozing pustules of unfiltered American Id at our screens with reckless abandon. Naturally, in order to snag the attention span of their ADHD viewing audiences these shows were forced to be more and more competitive, pushing the envelope wherever they could. Below is a list of shows that we consider to be the most daring therefore closest to our hearts.
10. Last Comic Standing (NBC: June 2003 to Present)
In a country where the economy is crumbling, the job market is abysmal, and professional athletes are asked not to compete on steroids, it can be tough to find a laugh.
Well, in the summer of 2003, NBC and Peter Engel—the comedic tag team who numbed the funny bone of kids all around the world with Saved by the Bell—decided to make it even tougher by airing Last Comic Standing.
This show dared to rid America of stand up comedy by convincing us that, after a nationwide search, they couldn’t find anybody funny.
9. The Swan (Fox: April 2004 to December 2004)
Ugly people serve a purpose—perhaps, the most important purpose. They let the rest of us know that we, unlike them, are not ugly. This is not only a valid role in our society, but a noble one.
Fox, as it so often does, dared to push the envelope by creating The Swan, a show that rounded up ugly contestants and, with the help of a coach, therapist, trainer, cosmetic surgeons, and a dentist, attempted to make them “not ugly.”
8. The Surreal Life (The WB/VH1: January 2003 to May 2006)
The culture of celebrity is something we take very seriously in America. Celebrities are our version of royalty, being that we’ve been denied a Royal Family of our own since the forefathers saw fit to declare our independence from England. The most important lesson for any celebrity to learn, however, is once we’re done with them, they are never to show their stupid un-famous face on our televisions ever again.
The WB and, later, VH1 dared to spit in the face of Madam Liberty by producing
The Surreal Life, a reality show that featured former celebrities who we, as taxpaying Americans, had no more use for—and, in many cases, never had a use for to begin with. I’m talking to you, MC Hammer.
7. Teach: Tony Danza (A&E: October 2010 to November 2010)
As a consequence of the crumbling economy, our education system is being asked to run on less and less money, resulting in an alarmingly high number of American students developing Brain Atrophy®. A further consequence, however, is teachers all over the country are losing their jobs.
In response to this crisis, Philadelphia’s Northeast High School decided to hire Tony Danza, the least qualified person they could find, to join their teaching staff. And, thanks to the braintrust at A&E, Danza’s last-gasp-remember-me effort was documented with the program Teach: Tony Danza.
Disregarding the fact that Danza was filling a teaching role that a less famous/more qualified person could have had—and further disregarding the fact that Danza doesn’t need the money that another out-of-work teacher could’ve used—the real daring in this program is Danza was assigned to teach 10th grade English, despite the fact that his Bachelor’s degree is in history.
6. Who Wants to Marry a Mulit-Millionaire? (Fox: February 2000 to February 2000)
One of the staples of the American Dream is that a little girl can grow up and, with enough Prettiness Quotient®, marry a millionaire. And so, in the midst of our nation’s post-Y2K hysteria, Fox appeared to hold out a healing hand to a frightened nation in the form of a two-hour television broadcast called Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?
In the end, Rick Rockwell picked Darva Conger amongst 50 other contestants to marry. It wasn’t until after the show had aired that the truth came out: Not only was “Rockwell” not Rick’s real last name, but his liquid assets were worth a measly $750,000.
Fox and “Rockwell” dared to crush the dreams of every Darva Conger in America. Thank goodness for Playboy, who helped Conger fulfill every little girls second biggest dream.
5. Solitary (Fox Reality Channel: May 2006 to March 2010)
In the short history of social psychology there have been many human experiments that, in retrospect, were deemed unethical, such as Hollywood’s experiment of permitting a talentless human (i.e. Paris Hilton, Ashton Kutcher) into the rarified air of Planet Celebrity®, cruelly convincing them that they’re worthy of the public’s attention.
For those of us who place entertainment above ethics, Fox Reality Channel provided Solitary, a show where contestants were placed in solitary confinement for up to twelve days, provided with sufficient amounts of water and tasteless nutrition bars, and systematically deprived of sleep.
Fox Reality Channel dared to claim victory from the jaws of inhumanity—and damn it all if they didn’t succeed.
4. Celebrity Rehab (VH1: January 2008 to Present)
Having talent is cute, but it’s not really required to be a sought after celebrity. A big reason why we celebrate celebrities is for their unparalleled ability to lose their minds on drugs and alcohol, while still earning boatloads of cash and consistently “entertaining” us. It’s the reason Charlie Sheen is more interesting now than ever, showing up all over the place—except for wherever Duckie is waiting so CBS can take its rusty hanger and scrape out another episode of Two and a Half Men.
In spite of America’s love affair with chemically induced celebrities, VH1 dared to serve up Celebrity Rehab, a show that actually wants to sober up celebrities—on purpose! Luckily, Dr. Drew, the disarmingly handsome wet towel of the operation, seems to have no idea what a celebrity is.
3. The Joe Schmo Show (Spike TV: September 2003 to August 2004)
Plagiarism is defined as the misrepresentation of one’s thoughts or ideas as your own. Of course, this hasn’t stopped any number of college students and Hollywood screenwriters from earning their keep by misrepresenting somebody else’s terrible ideas as their own. However, once in a while, somebody actually steals a good idea without bothering to say “thank you” or “please.”
Such is the case with Spike TV’s The Joe Schmo Show, a program that created a faux-reality show where a group of male contestants vie for the love of a single female contestant. Here’s the hook (or, to be more precise, the theft): Everybody on the show is an actor except for one man who has no idea that what he thinks is real is actually fake.
No, The Joe Schmo Show did not dare to plagiarize The Bible (though they may have a case), but rather The Truman Show, the 1998 film starring Jim Carrey as a man who has no idea the “reality” around him is, in fact, made up of sets and actors.
2. Glenn Beck (Fox News: January 2006 to Present)
*See The Joe Schmo Show (above)
1. The Ultimate Fighter (Spike TV: January 2005 to Present)
In a country conflicted by homosexuality, few television channels have dared to take on the issue of straight dudes who act gay. Fox almost did it with Seriously, Dude, I’m Gay, a two-hour special where two straight men tried to pass for homosexuals with the winner getting $50,000, but ultimately cancelled the show before it aired. Bravo took their swing at it by airing Boy Meets Boy, a show in which one gay man chooses a mate from 15 potential suitors, unaware that, among the 15, there are gay and straight men—but they weren’t willing to go far enough to be called daring.
It wasn’t until 2005 when Spike TV finally took the bull by the testis and aired The Ultimate Fighter. This show, produced by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), pits two teams of men against each other in a mixed martial arts tournament of sorts. Each man, by all accounts, is heterosexual, and the prize is a contract to rassle skin on skin with another man in The Octagon® before a worldwide audience.
So, bravo to Spike TV and the UFC for the sort of progressive, pro-gay sentiment that might not make them any friends in Mormon country, but does earn them the number one spot on this completely legitimate list.