I've noticed a trend this week in the world of blogging and that seems to be the topic of Reality TV, so here is my contribution.
I remember when I was little all the fuss that was made over this show on MTV called The Real World, however at the time I was not allowed to watch MTV growing up. Occasionally I'd catch a glimpse of the the channel while at my best friend's house, as her brothers were older and would watch it. I remember thinking Road Rules was interesting after we watched the episode where they came through our town, and thought it was neat to follow people on a trip cross country, but didn't really understand all the drama.
My next encounter with Reality TV was in early high school. I was volunteering at my church's summer daycamp program and one of the other volunteers was talking about this show Big Brother, in which one of the contestants was from our town. I tried to watch it for an episode, just to see what it was all about, but I just didn't get it - random strangers stuck in a house... what's the appeal? By this point shows like Survivor and Fear Factor were pretty popular, but I didn't have an interest in those either as they seemed a big gross.
It wasn't until college did I get sucked in.
During my first year of college, Fox aired a show called Joe Millionaire. The premise was that this constructor worker named Evan would pose as a millionaire to try and find his love. It was a test for him to weed out which girls were there for the money and which were there for love. The cast was likable (I was rooting for eventual winner Zora when the show first started) and I thought the premise was pretty interesting.
After watching this one, I got sucked into watching American Idol, the 2nd season, as it was on after Joe Millionaire and living in the dorms, these were shows everyone on my floor would get together and watch.
The next year, I moved into a suite and had new roommates. During this year, Fox premiered a show called "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance" where this woman was setup with this guy who matched the title of the show. If they could both convince their families they were getting married in a month and have them all attend they'd get like $50,000. The twist, that the girl didn't know, but the viewers did, was that her 'fiance' was really an actor, as were his family. He played the part awesomely, being the worst, most obnoxious date you'd never want to bring home to meet the parents! After this one, American Idol season 3 aired. We watched the auditions, but I just couldn't get into the rest of the season for some reason and haven't been an avid watcher since.
The next year I was in college, VH1 got the rights to The Surreal Life, where a bunch of has-been celebrities live in a house together. This one was followed up by The Surreal Life: Fame Games where has-been celebrities from the previous seasons have to compete in all these games that test their "fame status." I forgot which season it was (one of the last though) where you had Vanilla Ice, Mini-Me, Ron Jeremy, Adrienne Curry, Christopher Knight, Jane from the Go-Go's, Flavor Flav and Bridgette Nielson. This season lead to a few VH1 spin-offs, My Fair Brady, which followed the growing relationship between Curry and Knight, and Strange Love, where Flavor Flav sets off to Europe to reconnect with Nielson after their brief affair on the show.
While I couldn't get into Strange Love due to Flavor Flav (I think he's annoying), this was actually where the birth of VH1's Celebreality programming began.
When Strange Love finished, VH1 gave Flavor Flav his own dating reality game show, Flavor of Love, and then, after getting rejected by Flav on the first 2 seasons, contestant Tiffany "New York" Pollard got her own dating show "I Love New York." Now I didn't watch New York's show as I didn't watch Flavor Flav's, so I had no clue who she was or why she had her own show. Flavor of Love also had another spin-off, "Charm School" where girls from the first 2 seasons were sent to a Charm School run by actress Mo'nique to fix their "bad" behavior.
Due to the success of Flavor Flav's shows, VH1 decided to use the same formula, but try it with has-been 80s rockstar Bret Michaels in the show "Rock of Love" which appealed to even more viewers, including myself. I liked it for the drama, the premise and I thought Bret Michaels was kinda hot for an old guy, my husband liked it for the girls.
From here on, VH1 produced other reality shows that we watched, such as Scott Biao is 45 and Single/46 and Pregnant, and The Pick-Up Artist which transformed shy, geeky guys into ladies men.
After the first season of I Love Money, we were giving Rock of Love Charm School with girls from both seasons being trained to be ladies under the watch of Headmistress Sharon Osbourne. We also got the I Love Money/I Love New York spin-off Real Chance of Love, with brothers Real and Chance looking for their loves.
Then came the next installment of Rock of Love, titled Rock of Love Bus, where instead of Bret living in a house with the ladies, he took them with him on a cross-country tour to see if they could handle life on the road.
During this time, VH1 also aired 2 new original reality series: a match making show called "Tough Love" where famous matchmakers Steve Ward and his mom Joann worked with 9 girls to teach them the error of their dating ways and to snag a winner of a man and Tool Academy, where bad boyfriends were taught the error of their ways and went through couples counseling with their upset and hurt girlfriends.
We were then given I Love Money 2, which upped the ante as a good portion of the cast had seen the first season and knew how to play and a few contestants from the first season were given a 2nd chance to play the game. We also had a another new show, For the Love of Ray J, which followed singer Brandy's little brother Ray J (most known for his sextape with Kim Kardashian) finding his love a la reality game show.
Next up was Rock of Love spin-off Daisy of Love, where annoying season 2 contestant Daisy tries to find herself a rocker dude with the help of Ricky Rachtman whom she never listened to his advice.
We also got Charm School 3 with Ricki Lake, which was a bit different from previous seasons because it combined girls from both Rock of Love Bus and Real Chance of Love - girls from mostly entirely different lifestyles! Yes, there was a some racial drama! Real Chance of Love season 2 also aired during this time.
After Daisy's show, we were given another Rock of Love/I Love Money/Rock of Love Charm School spin-off with contestant Megan (who also won a season of Beauty and the Geek) who interviewed in Charm School that her goal in life was to become a trophy wife. In her show, men who have a net worth of at least $1 million compete for this unashamed gold digger's heart. She is aided by fellow friend and contestant Brandi whom she was on I Love Money and Charm School with, as well as her friend Cecil from Beauty and the Geek. This show had potential to be great, as some of these men were just outrageous, hot or creepy, but unfortunately after the first few episodes aired it got put on indefinite hiatus, as it was reported contestant Ryan was wanted for murder of his new wife (he was found, hung after a week long manhunt for him). Ryan was also involved in I Love Money 3, which has since been canceled and because of that, I Love Money 4, which was filmed right after I Love Money 3 is now stuck in limbo, as some of the cast from 3 was on 4 and make mention of things that occurred during 3.
In light of the sudden absence of Megan's show, VH1 filled the time slot with Tool Academy 2 and I Love Antonio, which follows former soap star and model Anthony Saboto, Jr. find a lady, with the help of his mom. Neither of these interested me though, so I quit watching for a bit.
What drew me back in?
Frank the Entertainer, from I Love New York and both seasons of I Love Money finally got his own show. While I've only seen clips of him on I Love New York, I found him to be pretty hilarious and entertaining on both seasons of I Love Money. The running joke with him, is that he's like 30 and still lives in his parents basement. So in this show, they give him a small family sized house and him and his parents have to live with all these girls in the tiny house while he chooses one to try and have a future with. This one also led me to watch Tough Love 2, which aired after it.
VH1 has also aired For the Love of Ray J 2 and is getting ready to air Tool Academy 3. Other past shows I failed to mention were Hulk Knows Best, which follows his family around a la MTV's The Osbournes, and the spin off, Brooke Knows Best which follows Hulk's daughter Brooke as she moves into her own place in Miami, gets her music career back on track and shows her dealing with the divorce of her parents and her brother being sent to jail.
There was also 2 more New York spin-offs, New York goes to Hollywood and New York goes to Work - where at first we see her try to get back into her acting career, and then we saw her try various odd jobs where if she did a good job, she got paid, otherwise she got nothing. They also tried a show called "The Cho Show" following Margret Cho, but that one didn't really "take off." There's been others I haven't watched which feature hip hop and R&B artists, such as Fantasia and Salt n Pepa, as well as football star TO, but I never really got into those...
Another series VH1 created was Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew and its spin-off Sober House and Sex Rehab. This one is a bit different from the others as it takes a more serious tone and takes place in a rehab center. Celebrities who struggle with hardcore addictions with drugs, alcohol, and eventually sex, are put in a group therapy setting with Dr. Drew and the rehab's staff. In Sober House, some of the cast from the first 2 seasons chose to move into a Sober Living environment after their time in rehab.Some have relapses, others take this time to rebuild their life without drugs or alcohol.
While I have enjoyed my VH1 reality shows the last 3 years (that's right, these have all been since 2007, it is getting a bit ridiculous with all the spin-offs of a spin-off. I will admit, it is hard to watch a "normal" reality dating show on say ABC or CBS after watching the ones on VH1, just due to the fact the VH1 ones have so much more drama!
I also can't stand all these "fake" reality shows - scripted dramas if you will - such as The Hills. Yes, I realize that a lot of these shows on VH1 are a bit scripted, but they don't feel as fake as shows like The Hills, which is partly why I can stomach Keeping Up with the Kardashians from time to time - the cast likable and entertaining (my favorites on the Kardashians being Bruce Jenner, the laidback dad stuck in this whirlwind chaos that surrounds him, and Khloe, who seems to be the most down to earth of the 3 eldest sisters).
This flood of reality TV programming will fade eventually, but we'll always remember the shows we watched the most!