Don’t Laugh, Japan
The goal of this Japanese game show was easy: Don’t laugh. Not at the guy in the too-tiny bathing suit or the Japanese students mangling the English language. No matter how funny it is, if you laugh, you lose. Of course, it’s never easy to stifle a guffaw, but this may be all the incentive one needed: Any contestant who so much as giggled got beaten with a stick.
Man Vs. Beast
In 2003, reality TV fans—sick of watching people belittle themselves—had the chance to watch animals do the honors. In this American show, animals engaged humans in various feats of derring do. It was bear against man in a hot dog-eating competition; an ape raced a Navy SEAL in an obstacle course; and 44 little people faced off against an elephant in an airplane-pulling match.
Armed & Famous
This reality TV show took grade-B celebrities and had them train as cops with the Muncie, Indiana Police department. “It turns out that celebrities with badges didn't only produce bad entertainment; they produced bad police work,” wrote cracked.com, “Jack Osbourne and LaToya Jackson got the show sued when they mixed up their addresses and ransacked” the wrong home.
Our hirsutes take on the world’s hirsutes for the coveted title of Top Beard. This reality TV show followed some Americans with pretty spectacular whiskers as they traveled to a competition in Norway attempting to dethrone the reigning hairy champs—The Germans. It was about as interesting as watching hair grows.
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Border Security: Australia’s Front Line
This show follows officers of the Australian Customs and Border Protection service as they chase after illegal visitors. It sounds fun, what with Australia’s wild terrain, poisonous animals, and cuddly koalas. Sad to say, most of the action here takes place in airport terminals, mail centers, and workplaces.
Bergensbanen: Minutt for Minutt
2009 was the 100th anniversary of Norway’s Bergen railway. So how did television producers choose to honor the centennial? By broadcasting the entire 7 hour 16 minute trip from Bergen to Oslo—live. The show had neither plot, nor dialogue, just a lot of shots of a lot of trees and railroad tracks. What it also had? A lot of viewers. Out of a country of 5 million, 1.2 million tuned in, with 172,000 watching the whole thing.
Pavel Medzyun, Wikimedia Commons
Who wouldn’t like to receive a brand-new car for free? That was the concept behind this Russian game show. A guest would come on to the show and drive off with a car. Of course, where’s the “game” in that? So the producers added this wrinkle: After you got your car, they would report it stolen to the police. If you avoided the cops for 35 minutes, the car was yours. (Sadly, we don't have a clip to share, as the show was cancelled in 1998.)