In general, we have zero expectations about the quality of television programming. This goes double for game shows/competitive reality shows, which occasionally celebrate human ingenuity but are mostly about watching terrible people endure some kind of pain or humiliation.
Yet, as low as those expectations are, there have been multiple shows over the decades that have managed to go even lower. Here are the ones that deserve to occupy that special place in television history. (Spoiler alert: This special place is a dumpster fire.)
6The Singing Competition Where You Win a Kidney Transplant
American television is currently inundated with amateur talent competitions, so clearly it's time to up the stakes, Running Man-style. You know, like they do in Central and South America, where American Idol-type shows aren't just about a contestant's talent (or lack thereof), but about real, soul-crushing human tragedy. If a particular contestant on one of these shows doesn't win, people could die.
"I could use a lot more wine for this."
Cantando por un Sueno ("Singing for a Dream") and its sister show Bailando por un Sueno ("Dancing for a Dream") are hugely popular programs in Mexico and South America. Their setup should be familiar to American audiences -- some random nobody performs and is judged by celebrities on whether or not they suck. And like Dancing With the Stars, the contestants on Cantando and Bailando are paired up with even more celebrities. But here's the catch -- the shows' winners don't receive a record deal or a Vegas booking. No, any cash payout serves as an "intervention" designed to save the contestants from some heart-wrenching personal calamity, such as losing their business or missing out on an organ transplant. That last bit isn't hyperbole -- here's a woman singing in order to get kidney transplants for her kids. (The judges buzz the shit out of her, by the way.)
Wait, there's more! The routines on Bailando supplement boring old modern dance and tango with stripping and pole dancing, as audiences apparently relish the surprise boner interspersed between crushed contestants' crying fits.
"Tonight on Bailando, tears of sorrow will pour out of your left eye, while tears of joy will stream from the right!"
Sure, one lucky winner per season has his or her dream fulfilled. Meanwhile, the finale episodes of Bailando feature elimination ceremonies during which the losing dancers snuff out candles that presumably represent their hopes for a better life. Sorry, kids, but Mom should have danced harder.
"This shit would never happen to Jennifer Beals' kids."