Photo: The evolution of the VH1 logo.
In December 2003, VH1 dropped “Music First” from its name and refocused its branding. First, the network changed the infamous circle logo into a box structure; next they adjusted the programming to include reality television series. Following the lead of its sister network, MTV, VH1’s programming subtly shifted from simply music videos to fun, quirky shows about pop culture. The new line up of production started with the “I Love the…” series, followed by “The Greatest…” series. Next came the “40 Most Awesomely Bad…” series and then someone had the idea to mix celebrities into the already successful reality series category and the genre Celebreality was born.
In September 2004, VH1 took over a show called The Surreal Life (the first two seasons aired on the WB). The reality show was much like The Real World, except for the houseguests weren’t just strangers. The people featured in The Surreal Life were quasi-celebrities and those that have already made names in the entertainment industry. Ironically and for the first time since reality TV had been introduced to the world, it seemed famous people were seeking to appear regular instead of regular people seeking to become famous–and VH1 dedicated itself to showcasing this phenomenon.
Fast forward to today. With the release of a newer logo this past January, VH1 appears to be rebranding itself once again and leaving its reality series history in the past (there has been a halt to reality production ever since the suicide of Ryan Jenkins, a former contestant of Megan Wants To Meet A Millionaire). But before VH1’s reality goodness escapes our memories, below is a compiled list of the best and worst VH1 reality shows and also solid reasons why VH1 will always play a large part in reality TV history.
The Surreal Life
Best. Show. Ever. Who doesn’t want to spy on celebrities in a controlled environment? There’s so much to dissect, like how the stars interact with each other, how the stars behave out of character and then all the drama that ensues when any number of random people are paired together. The Surreal Life lasted a total of six seasons, and it’s a shame it hasn’t returned to our TV sets since. Could you imagine a Celebrity Big Brother? Fun!
Most Like: The Real World
How It Ends: With Tawny Kitaen crawling on the floor and a butt-load of spin off shows.
The Best Parts: Brigitte Nielsen and Flavor Flav’s union; Verne Troyer (Mini-Me from Austin Powers) getting so drunk he urinated in the corner of a room; the fight between Ron Jeremy and Vanilla Ice; Alexis Arquette in creating transgendered awareness.
The Worst Parts: Janice Dickinson’s mouth, Christopher Knight and Adrianne Curry’s union, the three-legged dog Lucky
Media Rating: Could be worthy of an Oprah couch interview.
Reality Nation Accolade: Most Personality
Every woman that watched General Hospital had a crush on Antonio Sabato Jr, and so to create a show surrounding the handsome latino made perfect sense. The former soap star got a second chance at love in his own Bachelor-esque show in Hawaii when fourteen women competed for his love. While on paper it may have sounded like a good idea, on television the show became a mess, especially when Antonio’s bossy mother and ex-wife show up to interfere with the contestants. Unlike the popular The Surreal Life, this show came and went before anyone even noticed.
Most Like: The Bachelor
How It Ends: Antonio picks Brooke (although the couple split before the finale even aired).
The Best Parts: The Sculpting Naked Antonio Challenge, um, hello.
The Worst Parts: Listening to ex-wife Tully Jenson
Media Rating: Likely to be a feature in In Touch magazine.
Reality Nation Accolade: Cheesiest Performance
Celebrity Fit Club
This show hit the British airways before making it to America, but when it did it lasted seven fun seasons. The premise of the series was very similar to Biggest Loser, except there were only eight contestants in teams of four and winnings were usually donated to a charity. The first six seasons were hosted by once Last Comic Standing contender Anthony Kalloniatis, better known as Ant.
Most Like: The Biggest Loser
How It Ends: Individual winners from each season include Biz Markie, Season 1; Phil Margera, Season 2; Young MC, Season 3; Tina Yothers, Season 4; Maureen McCormick, Season 5; Willie Aames, Season 6; Jay McCarroll, Season 7.
The Best Parts: Intro of Boot Camp; all things Dustin Diamond; seeing Kevin Federline fat; the host Ant
The Worst Parts: Daniel Baldwin’s down-spiral from narcotics abuse
Media Rating: Totally a feature in People magazine.
Reality Nation Accolade: Most Improved
Hogan Knows Best
No one could have predicted that the Hogan family would wind up in such dire straights, but there once was a time when Terry, Linda, Brooke and Nick happily lived under one roof. For four seasons viewers had the opportunity to watch the professional wrestler and his family be domestic, including the emphasis put upon daughter Brooke’s attempt to make it in the music industry. In late 2007, Nick was in a car accident that left his friend with serious brain-injuries and Terry was accused of cheating on his wife. Nick was ultimately charged with a felony and the latter incident led to Linda filing a divorce. Amidst all the chaos the show was canceled, even though there was originally talk of a following season.
Most Like: Keeping Up With the Kardashians
How It Ends: In heartbreak and in a complete mess.
The Best Parts: Terry’s intimidation tactics when it came to Brooke dating; the sibling rivalry
The Worst Parts: The nickname “Brooke-tini”; fakeness of the entire show
Media Rating: Front page of TMZ.
Reality Nation Accolade: Most Unlikely Outcome
Rock of Love
Back before Bret Michaels won The Celebrity Apprentice and won his crown for king of reality TV, VH1 snagged up the Poison lead singer for a dating game show. In its first season, 25 women competed for the rock star’s heart until winner, Jes Rickliff, admitted at the reunion show that she didn’t have romantic feelings for the rocker. So Bret was offered a second chance of the dating game on Rock of Love 2 and then a third chance on Season 3. You know what they say about rock stars and women. Blah. Blah Blah.
Most Like: The Bachelor, minus the seriousness
How It Ends: Bret’s quest to find a lover is still on. Look out ladies!
The Best Parts: Seeing the kinds of women that want to bed Bret (like Heather who got his name tattooed on her body); the women too wasted to show up to elimination
The Worst Parts: Seeing the kinds of women that want to bed Bret (that Angelique girl was nasty)
Media Rating: TMZ Online
Reality Nation Accolade: Most Spirited
Flavor of Love
No matter what anyone says, the dating show that featured rapper Flavor Flav from Public Enemy was a guilty pleasure for almost everyone. In fact, Flavor of Love Season 2 was the second highest non-sports basic cable show of 2006. True story. People love the little guy that wears big clocks around his neck. Not to mention the dates and antics that the rapper expressed during the show. Flav’s actions were just as amusing as the contestants that vied for his undying love, which often caused laugh out loud moments for those of us at home.
Most Like: Nothing ever seen before.
How It Ends: After three seasons, Flav chose not to marry any winners or contestants and ended up marrying the mother of his seventh child, Karma.
The Best Parts: Flav’s smile; The “Lip Chap” beatdown; Hoopz; Flav’s Nicknames; the fights
The Worst Parts: Was there a worst part?
Media Rating: National Enquirer, because you know it’s bad but it’s so good.
Reality Nation Accolade: Best Comedy
Like many of VH1’s celebreality shows, Strange Love was a spin off show. But not in the way you first might think. Brigitte Nielson and Flavor Flav united on the third season of The Surreal Life and when the season ended, people wanted more of the odd couple. So VH1 gave it to them in the form of Strange Love, a realty series that featured a lot of screaming, yelling and fighting between the two love birds. When the two went separate ways, Strange Love died but the Flavor of Love was born.
Most Like: A strange scene from RHONJ
How It Ends: Brigitte chooses Mattia Dessi, her Italian boyfriend, over Flav
The Best Parts: Trying to figure out what these two see in each other.
The Worst Parts: All the yelling and fighting.
Media Rating: TMZ online
Reality Nation Accolade: Most Unlikely Couple
I Love New York
Now I Love New York was a direct spin off of Flavor of Love. Thanks to the outbursts and outrageous behavior of contestant Tiffany Pollard, or “New York” as she was dubbed by Flav, VH1 gave the 31-year-old her own dating race. For two seasons, men competed for New York’s love and affection and also the approval of her mother, “Sister” Patterson. After two seasons of competitive dating, New York went on to star in many other reality series such as I Love Money, New York Goes To Hollywood, Real Chance of Love and New York Goes To Work.
Most Like: Flavor of Love
How It Ends: In a slew of other reality shows with many failed relationships.
The Best Parts: The ridiculousness of the show.
The Worst Parts: New York’s bantar
Media Rating: A small news bit in US Weekly
Reality Nation Accolade: Most Diverse
Megan Wants a Millionaire
This particular reality series stemmed from a comment made by Megan Hauserman while on the Rock of Love: Charm School series. The 31-year-old claimed to want to be a trophy wife. So VH1 rounded up seventeen men with a net worth over $1,000,000 to compete for her attention. However, the series was cancelled just after three episodes due to contestant Ryan Jenkens’ brush with the law. He first was suspected of killing his wife, a model named Jasmine Fiore, and then officially charged with murder later in the case. On August 23, 2009, he was found dead in a Canadian hotel room from apparent suicide. These series of events were horrific enough for VH1 to immediate pull the plug on the series, and eventually encourage the network to pull away from producing reality TV all together.
Most Like: The Bachelorette
How It Ends: Though a finale show never aired, many people suspect Ryan Jenkins was the winner or at the very least in the Top 3.
The Best Parts: Watching men who think they are better than they are.
The Worst Parts: The crime that caused the cancelation of the series.
Media Rating: Dateline Special
Reality Nation Accolade: Most Scandalous
Glam God with Vivica A Fox
I must admit I never saw an episode of Glam God until I started researching for this article (thank goodness for You Tube and online videos). I must also admit I didn’t know that people who dress others for red carpets had a proper name besides stylists, or Rachel Zoe. But according to Vivica A. Fox they are called Glam Gods. The one-time model used the eight-episode reality series to showcase the Glam God world by having twelve stylists move into an LA loft and compete to become the ultimate red carpet dresser. Looking back, it seems this show may have been ahead of its time and consequently never received the attention it deserved.
Most Like: A trashier version of Project Runway
How It Ends: The winner, Indashio, is chosen and we never hear another thing about the show, or Vivica A. Fox for that matter.
The Best Parts: Education about the rules of the red carpet
The Worst Parts: There’s a lot of dead time; and the contestants are ridiculous
Media Rating: A feature on Entertainment Tonight
Reality Nation Accolade: Most Underrated
Can you recall your favorite Celebreality moment? Which show was your favorite?