Right now, Donald Trump, a reality TV star who was elected President of the United States, is involved in a will-they-won’t-they relationship with the leader of a Juche state that has nuclear weapons that could destroy us all. Every morning is a fun adventure about whether or not this will be the last day we see the sunrise. What a time to be alive.
Last week, however, some marvelous news crept through the fog of anxiety. Variety reports that USA network (home of Suits! They gave us Meghan Markle!) is considering reviving Temptation Island, one of the trashiest, most amazing reality TV shows of the early aughts. Variety notes that the show will most likely be changed a bit for the #MeToo era, which is probably a good idea. A 2001 Entertainment Weekly recap of an episode was titled “Heavy drinking leads to steamy lap dances.” That’s what led to trouble on Bachelor in Paradise.
Nevertheless, the original, pre-woke Temptation Island was glorious in its time. It involved taking four incredibly good-looking couples and splitting them up so the men lived in a house with a dozen women models, and the women lived in a house with a dozen male models. For lack of a better word, temptation was all around them. But for me, the show was also a learning experience. A contestant named Genevieve confessed that she’d gotten her tubes tied, while her partner Tony revealed that he wanted 2.5 kids (it remains unclear how you have half a child). Awkward. But it was the first time I’d heard of the concept of getting one’s tubes tied. Until then, I thought a vasectomy was the only way to induce sterilization. The more you know, thanks to a reality show (do do do doooo).
I’d been slowly getting obsessed with reality shows for a while by the time 2003 rolled around. I used to go to my boyfriend’s house during lunch in high school to watch Blind Date (which ran from 1999 to 2006). I’m sure he was thrilled to be watching TV when we had the house to ourselves, but the heart wants what it wants — and it wanted to see Roger Lodge narrate uncomfortable blind dates before going back for AP Physics. I also forced him to watch Shipmates, hosted by Chris Hardwick, where two strangers had to go on a cruise together. Imagine being stuck on a Tinder date that lasts three days during which you’re stuck on a boat? Nightmares.
When we hit 2003, though, the networks looked at early successes like Survivor and The Real World and thought “what if we did that, but garbage?” And filth they made. It’s the 15th anniversary of some of the most addictive, trashiest reality shows of all time. Let’s celebrate the shows that aired during that glorious time in 2003 right here.
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