The 10 Weirdest TV Shows of All Time
If you’re shocked that New Jersey housewives have their own reality TV show, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
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. Yikes.
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. Make sure you check out the most memorable game show contestants of all time.
Armed & Famous
This reality TV show took grade-B celebrities and had them train as cops with the police department in Muncie, Indiana. “It turns out that celebrities with badges didn’t only produce bad entertainment; they produced bad police work,” wrote cracked.com. “Jack Osbourne and La Toya Jackson got the show sued when they mixed up their addresses and ransacked” the wrong home.
America’s 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 grow, a far cry from the most riveting television cliffhangers of all time.
Border Security: Australia’s Front Line
This show, also known as Nothing to Declare, 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
The 100th anniversary of Norway’s Bergen railway was in 2009. So how did television producers choose to honor the centennial? By broadcasting the entire seven-hour-and-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 five million, 1.2 million tuned in, with 172,000 watching the whole thing.
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.) Get a laugh out of these hilarious real answers from game show contestants.
Set in Los Angeles, Cop Rock was a run-of-the-mill police drama—except for the fact that it was also a musical. While the story lines and dialogue of this 1990 show were dramatic and serious, the characters would break into song, complete with choreography, at least once during every episode, making it quite the challenge to take seriously. It was panned by critics and only ran for 11 episodes, but it’s developed something of a cult following. We’re sure this weird show was guilty of many of the things TV crime dramas always get wrong.
Off the Air
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Debuting in 2011 and still gracing screens today, Off the Air is one trippy TV experience. The show appears on the Adult Swim channel—at 4 a.m., no less. With no structure other than episode-by-episode themes, Off the Air is a stream of animations, music videos, Public Service Announcements, and other only vaguely related images that run one into the next with no breaks or explanations. Whether it makes more, or less, sense to the sleep-deprived devotees who watch it live at that time of day is unknown.
If you like your weird TV shows with a major dose of unsettling creepiness, this David Lynch brainchild might be your next must-watch. In what looks like an eerily lit diorama, three people in rabbit suits go about their lives. The rabbit trio exchanges unrelated bits of dialogue, though their mouths never move; laugh tracks are scattered throughout at totally random moments; creepy music swells and fades out. Whether you consider it a surrealist masterpiece or major nightmare fuel is a matter of personal choice. Take a sneak peek, if you dare. For more weirdness from the television world, check out these secrets reality TV producers won’t tell you.