6 Wildly Offensive Reality Shows That Would Never Get Made Today
These controversial reality shows are beyond cringe-worthy.
For every successful reality show like Keeping up with the Kardashians and The Bachelor, there's a handful of bizarre ones that somehow make it on air. How? We may never know. From birthing babies in the wild to future brides competing to get the plastic surgery of their dreams, here are the six most wildly offensive reality shows that would never fly in 2023.
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Born In The Wild
Many parents decide to have a "natural" (or non-medicated) birth, but this Lifetime reality show from 2015 takes it to a whole new, and very dangerous, level. Born In The Wild brings expecting couples out into to the wilderness to go through labor without the help of nurses, doctors, or medicine—putting both the mother and child at risk.
Airing someone's birthing experience for the world to see seems questionable in any location, but to make this scenario even harder to swallow, the producers picked the harshest of environments from the middle of winter in Alaska to the driest of deserts in Australia.
In defense of this irresponsible program, executive producer Yoshi Stone said, "We know natural births are a hot-button issue in America. It's an ongoing, heated debate. At the end of the day, everyone is allowed to make their own choices. We are documenting people who are making a particular choice."
After receiving not-so-stellar reviews, the show was canceled after only six episodes.
You may remember The Swan, a reality show that aired from 2004 to 2005 on ABC, with a cast of women the producers deemed as ugly ducklings who needed a major makeover (i.e. full physical transformation). But this wasn't just any makeover show, the wild reality series had a very disturbing idea of before and afters.
Instead of a new hairstyle or wardrobe, the contestants got plastic surgery in hopes that they would be crowned The Swan. Watching each contestant get picked over by a team of plastic surgeons, dentists, and trainers pointing out all their so-called flaws is just as painful as watching them go through brutal procedures like mouth reconstruction and jaw implant surgery. And it gets even worse when they all compete in a beauty pageant looking like completely different human beings.
The show's creator Nely Galan doesn't seem to regret making the controversial reality series. "In The Swan, I propelled these women into action through physical transformation," she wrote on her blog. "Unfortunately, a prime-time TV show makes it impossible to see all that transpires when the cameras aren't filming: the transformative hours of therapy, the life coaching, and all of the other options and new pathways that these women were given to literally makeover their life attitudes."
Supersize Vs. Superskinny
The premise of this reality show that aired on the British Network Channel 4 from 2008 to 2014 (yes, for seven years!) is simple but problematic: An overweight person swaps diets with an underweight individual. The two opposite eaters are brought into what host Christian Jessen calls the "feeding clinic" where the live together for a week subsisting on the other's diet.
Not only do the contestants get weighed on camera, but Jessen also shows viewers what each person eats in a day through a clear tube that looks like something out of a horror movie. The scenes where one person eats a huge portion of food while the other has to watch are also quite painful.
It's difficult to comprehend how a show such as this was ever on national television. From idolizing a particular body type and reinforcing diet culture, this show gets a serious pass.
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Boy Meets Boy
This 2003 Bravo show is set up like The Bachelor or Bachelorette, except this reality show starred James Getzlaff, who was on the quest to find love with a man. Sounds intriguing so far, right?
With a surprising twist midway through the season, unbeknownst to Getzlaff and his fellow gay cast mates, many of the men on the show confess that they are just pretending to be gay in hopes of winning a cash prize. (Big yikes!)
This shocking turn of events meant that if Getzlaff were to choose a partner who turned out to be straight, that contestant would end up making $250,000. In the end, Getzlaff chose a gay man as his one true love, but it doesn't shake away the fact that this show revolved around exploiting people's sexuality.
Are You Hot?
This 2003 ABC reality show has a premise similar to America's Got Talent, except it isn't about talent at all: It's about, you guessed it, being hot.
Contestants are brought up on stage to be judged solely on their body and physical traits (no, there is no interview question segment). On a scale of one to ten, they are critiqued in three separate categories: face, body, and sex appeal. At one terrible moment, one of the judges uses a laser beam to pick out every flaw on a bikini-wearing brunette. In another cringe-worthy scene, another judge tells a contestant, "your body is too thin to carry the sex appeal. Go to McDonald's and have a cheeseburger."
It may be hard to wrap your head around how this offensive show got on air in the first place, but luckily it was canceled after the first season. Good riddance!
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While many brides feel the pressure to look their best for their big day, this E! Network show that aired in 2010 goes above and beyond—and not in a good way.
The show follows 12 brides-to-be competing in challenges to win plastic surgery procedures. From nose jobs to breast lifts, the winning contestants get to pick whatever surgery they want before walking down the aisle to say "I do."
The premise is bad to begin with, but the hosts make it even worse. When a contestant is eliminated in the first episode, host Shanna Moakler says, "your wedding will still go on, but it just won't be perfect."
It's beyond depressing watching these women make "wish lists" for their dream faces and bodies and certainly doesn't send the right message to impressionable youth. Fortunately for viewers and women everywhere, it was canceled after just one season.