The Reality TV of 2004 | Arts & Entertainment | Salt Lake City Weekly

The Reality TV of 2004 

If you think reality television is bad now, it's nothing compared to 20 years ago.

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My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance - FOX TELEVISION
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  • My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance

We're finally here: Actual reality is worse than reality TV. Shows like The Masked Singer, America's Got Talent and The Golden Bachelor may be garbage, but they're still an improvement over what TV was hacking up in, say, 2004. Let's take a look back at reality TV of 20 years ago: None of these shows are available outside of grainy YouTube clips, as they've all been rightfully relegated to the dustbin of history.

My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance (Fox): In the early 2000s, Fox was the king of sadistic reality competition shows, and My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance was the network's finest/worstest hour. The setup: If Randi and Steve can convince their families that they're going to get married, each will win $250,000. The twist: "Steve" was an actor out to sabotage the game with John Belushi-lite zeal. After putting Randi through psychological torture for six episodes, the ruse was revealed, and she won $1 million. Blowing a perfect finale, Steve wasn't executed.

The Rebel Billionaire (Fox): The Rebel Billionaire: Branson's Quest for the Best was a Fox ripoff of another rich guy's reality competition show—more on that later—with a dash of Fear Factor. In addition to subjecting aspiring entrepreneurs to business challenges, Branson would also take them skydiving and hot-air ballooning because ... rebel? The ultimate "prize" was to win $1 million and become the acting president of Branson's Virgin Group for about five minutes (rounded up). Not Fox's dumbest show, but up there.

Battle for Ozzfest (MTV): The prize of $1 million was the standard of 2000s reality TV, but not on MTV's Battle for Ozzfest—no way was Sharon Osbourne giving away a dime. One member of eight painfully obscure metalcore bands would compete in challenges and general nonsense in order to win a noon slot on a flatbed trailer by the port-a-potties at Ozzfest. By the fourth episode, Ozzy was making contestants wear bondage masks and bite the heads off of "bats" through a glory hole. The winning band was outlived by their tribal tattoos.

The Player (UPN): If a reality show aired on UPN in the 2000s, did it ever really exist? (UPN was a TV network, kids.) Despite its obscurity, The Player could be a player today: 13 spike-haired himbos competed to seduce a hot model (Dawn Oliveri, who went on to be an actress in House of Lies and 1823) against the douchey backdrop of South Beach, Miami. The Player is so trash-timeless, it's shocking that Paramount+ hasn't rebooted it complete with Dawn's dismissal phrase, "Don't hate the player, hate the game." Get on it, P+.

Superstar USA (The WB): By 2004, American Idol was the reality TV show, and the country's infatuation with Satan's Bleached Anus himself, Ryan Seacrest, was well underway. The WB (it was also a TV network, kids) inexplicably countered American Idol with Superstar USA, a spoof singing competition that rejected talented singers and advanced tone-deaf caterwaulers. To keep the audience from laughing during the finale, the producer told them the singers were terminally ill "One Wish Foundation" kids. Yeah, 2004 went hard.

The Casino (Fox): It had a theme song written by Bono and The Edge, it was created by reality TV king Mark Burnett, and it was set in the flashiest city in America, Las Vegas—and yet The Casino couldn't attract enough eyeballs to even finish its 13-episode Fox run in the summer of 2004. The problem: The show starred a pair of millionaires with the combined charisma of a plastic palm tree. The other problem: It was filmed at the Golden Nugget on Fremont Street, which may as well have been in Mesquite (Vegas nerds, represent).

The Apprentice (NBC): The root cause of everything terrible now in the 2020s, as NBC's The Apprentice yanked one Donald J. Trump from the edge of celebrity oblivion and made him a household TV star on Jan. 7, 2004. The "Business Survivor" series was notable in that it spent more time raking over the losers than celebrating the winners, a Trump tactic that has, exhaustingly, spanned the ages. It'll be so awkward if NBC, and the rest of the Liberal Media, are shut down by again-President Trump in 2025 with a wheezing "You're fired."

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