So many of us are inherently competitive, especially those of us who have played even 30 seconds of Monopoly. So it only makes sense that our human nature would be gamified for the delight of the masses. Sometimes that gamification lasts for a bajillion seasons, like Survivor, and other times… well, they don’t last quite as long. Here are five very bizarre, very short-lived game shows:
I could talk about this show for hours on end (and have, much to the chagrin of my family when they were visiting for Easter). A staple of the short-lived Fox Reality Channel, Solitary wasn’t so much a game show as it was an experiment in how much torture the network could get away with airing. Contestants were, as the name implies, locked away from others, deprived of sleep and comfort, and put through challenges that were often legitimately physically painful. Solitary would last a surprising four seasons before being canceled, presumably because execs realized we aren’t just a country full of Jigsaws.
Murder in Small Town X
In Murder in Small Town X, a fictional town was populated with actors and actresses in a giant game of whodunnit while 10 contestants played detective. It was a pretty brilliant and legitimately compelling concept, but lest we forget, this is a country that paid more money to see Vampires Suck over Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, so it sorta tracks that Murder in Small Town X only lasted eight episodes.
An early entry in the initial reality TV boom, Temptation Island was every bit the awful romance novel the title makes it sound like. Contestants on the show, who were engaged in committed relationships, lived among beautiful singles and tested out just how faithful they were. Even though it lasted much longer than it had any right to (a full three seasons’ worth), eventually American audiences soured on the idea. We’ll watch people ruin their relationships, sure, but not actively. We’re not monsters.
If you don’t know who John McEnroe is (and let’s face it, if you’re reading this, you probably don’t), imagine if Lewis Black was a tennis player, armed with a hair trigger temper just WAITING for you to push him. Now imagine him as the host of a game show where the idea is to keep calm enough under stress to maintain a steady heart rate. Contestants on The Chair were run through a gamut of stress tests in order to scare them into panicking. We don’t really need MORE of a reason to ratchet up our heart rates, so the show only lasted 13 episodes before McEnroe went back to living in my heart and being my favorite obscure pop culture reference.
Ever wondered what would happen if American Gladiators met the scripted storylines of professional wrestling and featured a man who would go on to star in bizarre Old Spice ads? If so, you should probably talk to someone about that, because that’s a REALLY specific request. But you would be in luck, because that’s exactly what the Terry Crews-featuring Battle Dome gave us back in 1999. With events like “Rollercage of Fire” and “Ultimate Body Slam”, it should’ve lasted 47 seasons and been inducted into every television Hall of Fame there is. But sadly, after two seasons and 30 episodes, people realized that wrestling didn’t have all those pesky average joes and Battle Dome met its demise. No word on if the execs settled the issue in the titular Dome, but I sure would like to think they did.
What sort of creative abuse would you suffer for the entertainment of America? Let me know on Twitter!