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Explainer: TV's top 10 outrageous reality shows
When news first broke about an upcoming reality show wherein brides-to-be would battle it out for a chance to make their plastic surgery dreams come true, some readers were shocked and believed reality TV had finally gone one step too far.
But when looking back at the history of reality hair-raisers, “Bridalplasty” hardly seems extreme. After all, this is the genre that once rewarded lies with big bucks, showcased infidelities as a point of interest and put marriage to a public vote.
Extreme is commonplace for reality TV. Just take a look at the top 10 most outrageous examples.
10. 'Who's Your Daddy'
One adoptee faced off against 25 potential daddies for a chance at a payday and a paternal figure in “Who’s Your Daddy.” If the adult-child guessed which man did the deed, it meant $100,000 and a reunion. One wrong guess meant the money went to the convincing false father.
Not surprisingly, like many of reality TV’s most outrageous offerings, “Daddy” ended early. Though in fairness to those other jaw-droppers, most of them lasted a little longer than a single episode run. Seems public outcry, along with rock-bottom ratings, put the brakes on this 2005 show.
9. 'My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance'
In 2003, “My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé” showcased one woman’s efforts to effectively lie to all of her loved ones and convince them she’d soon marry an ill-mannered buffoon. Lies were told, feelings were hurt and money was shared by all, so the experiment was a success.
The single-season program was not.
8. 'Married by America'
Back in the early aughts, before wedding-themed reality TV was the norm, “Married by America” gave viewers the chance to play matchmaker between total strangers. Once the nation gave the nod, the contestants became engaged before being properly introduced.
First came the proposals, then the hellos and eventually, if all went well, the weddings on live TV — only in this case, the participants wisely declined that option.
7. 'Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?'
Of course, not everyone has that kind of wisdom. Take alleged multimillionaire Rick Rockwell and his brief bride, Darva Conger. In the two-hour reality fest “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire,” Rockwell took his pick of would-be brides and married one on the spot — an act Conger later came to regret.
Thanks to subsequent controversies over domestic violence and low net worth, “Multi-Millionaire” never aired again.
6. 'Temptation Island'
“Temptation Island” brought couples together in a tropical locale, and later ripped them apart to test just how strong their bonds were. Four couples arrived and only those that didn’t cheat their way through the show survived — a surprisingly rare event.
As controversial as the “Temptation Island” premise still seems today, this infidelity challenge lasted for three long seasons.
While it’s shocking to learn the extremes some people will go to for a huge cash prize, it’s even more surprising to see the women of “Bridezillas” volunteer their worst sides with no competition in sight.
This reality TV guilty pleasure regularly features brides-to-be mistreating their family members, abusing retail employees and misbehaving in every way possible until they finally get the flawed and anger-filled wedding they always dreamed of.
4. 'Megan Wants a Millionaire'
VH1 reality TV regular Megan Hauserman attempted to become a trophy bride to one of 17 rich bachelors in “Megan Wants a Millionaire.”
Despite the cringeworthy premise and the “Rock of Love” reject, the short-run series might have quietly slipped past most people’s reality TV radar had contestant Ryan Jenkins not killed his girlfriend and then himself after just three episodes aired.
3. 'The Will'
In “The Will, a multimillionaire agreed to bequeath his prized ranch to the friend or family member who endured a series of grueling and humiliating challenges and came out the winner. At least that was the idea.
In an unexpected “Who’s Your Daddy”-like real-life twist, “The Will” was canceled after just one episode.
2. 'The Swan'
Several “ugly ducklings” were offered a chance to become “The Swan” in this plastic surgery competition and beauty pageant all rolled into one. Each contestant underwent several surgical procedures and healed in isolation, until one day she was allowed to see the unfamiliar face staring back from the mirror. Then it was pageant time.
The can’t-look-away show aired for two whole seasons in 2004.
1. 'The Real Housewives of New Jersey'
Sure, one of these things is not like the others, but when it comes to outrageous reality TV, it would be wrong to leave out the adventures of Danielle Staub, Teresa Giudice, the Manzos and the rest of the Franklin Lakes gang.
They put the competition, and sometimes each other, to shame.
Ree Hines would like to add honorable mentions for “Breaking Bonaduce” and that mess with Tila Tequila. Follow @ReeHines on Twitter and share your reality TV picks.