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Top 10 Worst reality series ever (broadcast division)

By ED BARK
CBS' upcoming Kid Nation is taking a lot of overblown heat lately, but it can't and won't compare to the worst of the worst under the reality show Big Top. This list includes only broadcast network eyesores. It also leaves out contestant-less, celebrity-in-the-title dung such as Chasing Farrah, Breaking Bonaduce and I'm With Busey. Still, it's a very fertile field, as you'll see.


10. The Benefactor (ABC, 2004) -- Sorry Cubes, but your $1 million giveaway (of ABC's money) pretty much played like a nickel-and-dime amateur hour. Gotta do more than play Jenga and cackle maniacally to keep viewers from switching to reruns of Benson. Still, ABC must have liked some of what they saw in Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. He'll be keeping his feet busy this fall on the network's fifth edition of Dancing with the Stars.

9. Joe Millionaire 2 (Fox, 2003) -- Fox struck it rich in the ratings with the first Joe Millionaire, in which a bevy of golddiggers got deceived into thinking that well-chiseled construction worker Evan Marriott was loaded. But the second version, set in Italy and starring Texas rodeo cowpoke David Smith, quickly turned into high-priced bull manure. European women supposedly unaware of the show's sucker play watched Smith ride toward their villa on an even handsomer stallion. Mama mia, that's a spicy hick with a lotta dough. But Smith's portrayal of an oil tycoon played flatter than Lubbock. And his conniving suitors proved to be too vacuous even for American audiences.


8. My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance (Fox, 2004) -- Imagine a fake groom who's coarser than John Belushi's "Bluto" Blutarsky in Animal House. Inflict him upon a mother and father of the bride who think their daughter is actually going to marry this lout. Then throw a bunch of money at everybody in the end after the fake groom reveals it was all a ruse that even the would-be bride didn't entirely understand. NBC tried much the same gambit last season with The Real Wedding Crashers, which was a colossal flop. Big Fat fared better in the ratings, prompting Fox to try an ill-fated sequel called My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss. Boil the titles down to Noxious and at least you have truth in advertising.

7. I Want to Be a Hilton (NBC, 2005) -- But why? Pre-dating Paris Hilton's more serious problems, this self-indulgent piffle starred matriarch Kathy Hilton as a dreamweaver intent on turning crude commoners into upper crust snobs. Fourteen way too awed supplicants were divided into Park and Madison teams before Kathy and her hoity toity minions instructed them in the fine arts of eating, dressing and behaving as though your excrement didn't stink. Rejects were dismissed with a wave of Kathy's hand and the tagline, "You're not on the list."


6. I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Outta Here! (ABC, 2003) -- The word "celebrity" has seldom been used more loosely than in this jungle-set hoot starring the likes of "Downtown" Julie Brown, Alana Stewart, "Stuttering" John Melendez, Nikki Schieler-Ziering, Robin Leach (who battled leaches along with the others), Bruce Jenner and eventual champ Cris Judd. The whole lot of 'em roughed it an Australian rain forest while competing for extra food and other creature comforts in the weekly "Bush Tucker Trial." Viewers decided whom to eliminate, with Leach the first to be sent packing. Before this career low point, he famously softened viewers with "champagne wishes and caviar dreams" on Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous.

5. The Littlest Groom (Fox, 2004) -- Sub-diminutive Glen Foster starred in this exploitive and demeaning search for true love amid a field of leggy beauties and women his own size. It mercifully lasted just two episodes, but the embarrassment stuck around a lot longer.


4. Chains of Love (UPN, 2001) -- NBC originally bought this knuckle-dragger but later punted it to a receptive UPN. Adapted from a Dutch dating show, Chains locked four women to a lord-and-master man, who eliminated them one by one, day by day. The series lasted just a month, and the "winner" received a measly 10,000 bucks. Maybe she used the money as a down payment on a brain transplant.

3. The Swan (Fox, 2004) -- "Winner" Rachel Love Fraser, pictured above, submitted to nipping, tucking, sucking and a "life coach" to be transformed from an alleged dumpy plain Jane to a stunning beauty. Each episode put two women through extreme makeovers before judges deemed one of them pretty enough to be a finalist in the show's climactic, sub-sickening beauty pageant. Two editions aired before Fox finally backed off. Fraser, the first Miss Swan, won $50 grand, a new car and a modeling contract. Few shows have had bigger ick factors.


2. Are You Hot? The Search for America's Sexiest People (ABC, 2003) -- That's judge Lorenzo Lamas above, dissecting a contestant's abs with his accusatory laser pointer. Rachel Hunter and a dude named Randolph Duke also were judges in this full-blown affront to human dignity. Howard Stern felt robbed, though, suing ABC and the producers for allegedly stealing one of his radio show's recurring features. The suit was dismissed, as was the show after a two-month run. Lamas went on to make classic movies such as 18 Fingers of Death! and Succubus: Hell Bent. CBS also allowed him to play a recurring character for two years on The Bold and the Beautiful. But only after he holstered his laser pistol.

1. Fear Factor (NBC, 2001-06) -- OK, maybe this seems a bit harsh, given the long-running popularity of the Peacock's skin-crawling gross-fest. But I'll rest my case on the show where contestants had to eat pig rectums to advance toward the show's weekly $50,000 grand prize. Further visual evidence is provided by Kelly Preston, John Travolta's wife, who participated in one of Fear Factor's celebrity editions . She's pictured above amid worms and a big scorpion or something perched on her forehead. Now maybe if that were Lorenzo Lamas . . .

Creepy host Joe Rogan enjoyed all of this way too much. So did ample portions of America, frankly. Fear Factor lowered the reality TV bar as no show has before or since. For that it gets the top spot. Take a deep bow and have a handful of chocolate-covered land slugs while doing so. Consider it just desserts.