20. High School Stories (2004-present; 56 episodes)
TV Formula: Dazed and Confused + reality – fun
Recap: For obvious reasons, MTV gears a lot of its programming towards recreating the high school experience, whether through reality shows like My Life as Liz, originals like Skins, goofs like Silent Library or trips down memory lane like When I Was 17. But for some reason, the longest-running HS-set show still on MTV is High School Stories, a boring recreation of various teenage “scandals, pranks and controversies,” narrated in first person by their perpetrators. Some of the pranks are amusing, but there’s never any suspense, because they all end the same way—with the kids getting caught and punished for their crimes, because otherwise they wouldn’t be on the show in the first place. Eventually, it becomes a frustrating metaphor for the futility of teenage rebellion, and how un-rock and roll is that?
Fun Fact: Spanning over six years, High School Stories is the longest-running MTV series on our list, though whether or not that should be considered an accomplishment is up for debate.
19. Why Can’t I Be You? (2006; 22 episodes)
TV Formula: Made + Single White Female – explicit psychosis
Recap: Maybe naming a TV show after one of The Cure’s all-time most jealous, insecure and creepy singles wasn’t exactly starting it out on the path towards greatness, but Why Can’t I Be You? actually turned out to be worthy of its musical source material (except, y’know, without the super-catchy guitar and horn riffs). The show was like a more desperate, lower self-esteemed successor to the program’s successful series of self-empowerment Made, in which rather than a young person learning from a mentor about how to accomplish a specific goal, they are taught how to be exactly like that mentor, through general socialization and better hair products and whatnot. The endings are usually happy, but in an era where our Little Monsters are taught to celebrate their own special Born This Wayness, the lessons taught of conformity and direct emulation seem somewhat unsettling.
Fun Fact: Host Nick Zano has since gone on to an extraordinary career of acting mediocrity, landing key roles in such ’00s blockbusters as College, The Final Destination (not to be confused with regular Final Destination) and Beverly Hills Chihuahua.
18. ‘Til Death Do Us Part: Carmen and Dave (2004; 7 episodes)
TV Formula: (Say Yes To The Dress + Bridezillas) x a larger budget
Recap: The first in several awful voyeuristic reality shows to make our list. As a celebrity couple, Carmen Electra and Dave Navarro were the precursors to Nick and Jessica, as their initial courtship was televised in 2002′s Carmen and Dave: A Love Story (so continued documentation of their engagement and wedding was the next logical step). They were marketed as the more risque, alternative coupling compared to the Homecoming King and Queen on Newlyweds, and while it was interesting to watch their mushy—and at times sloppy—declarations of love for one another leading up to their big day, it was also awkward seeing Dave wear more makeup than Carmen. Sadly, they also set the trend of MTV couples who subsequently divorced. (Not that we’re pointing fingers.)
Fun Fact: The show may not have helped their marriage, but Carmen and Dave still owe a lot to reality television: before her Baywatch days, Elektra could be found escorting horny males on MTV’s Singled Out, while Navarro tried to milk the rest of his appeal by hosting the the ill-fated Rock Star: Supernova with Brooke Burke in 2006.
17. Taquita and Kaui (2007; 8 episodes)
TV Formula: (Making The Band 3 – Danity Kane) x (The Simple Life + Vegas)
Recap: Diddy’s Making the Band 3 rejects looked like great reality show personalities during their competition days—seriously, after watching rounds and rounds of wannabe divas, Taquita was ingenius comedic relief—but perhaps giving them their own reality show and encouraging them to take their singing and acting talents to the Vegas strip wasn’t the best idea MTV producers have ever had. Their slapstick proved grating and the ladies just didn’t bring the same drama that Sir Combs is able to invoke with a single stare or threatening request for cheesecake.
Fun Fact: Before she broke it down in front of Diddy and a room full of cameras, Kaui performed in front of arenas of fans on a nightly basis as a dancer for the Denver Nuggets.
16. Exposed (2006-2008; 43 episodes)
TV Formula: Blind Date x Lie to Me
Recap: Or, as you probably remember it, “that dating show that used the lie detector.” MTV had a whole rush on dating-type shows in the mid-00s that used some kind of surveilled or third-party knowledge to provide a twist—Room Raiders and Parental Control were two of the more successful examples—but the cheesiest by far was Exposed, in which a dater questioned two prospective datees, while a friend sat stationed in a nearby RV equipped with a polygraph-type machine to test the veracity of their answers, obnoxiously pronouncing his findings to his friend through an earpiece. Of course, the entire thing was undercut by a disclaimer at show’s end: ‘The Voice Stress Analyzer is used for entertainment purposes only. It is not operated by a trained professional or under conditions that would provide a reliable means of lie detection. No representations are made regarding the accuracy of any results.” Great! So, uh…why are we watching this show, again?
Fun Fact: The show has seen an impressive amount of reality TV royalty pass through its hallowed RV walls, including Making the Band‘s Aubrey O’Day and Flavor of Love‘s Pumkin.
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