20 Times Dating Shows Got Seriously Problematic

Ashley Hunte
Vanessa and Nick Lachey, hosts of several Netflix dating shows.
youtube | Netflix

No one watches a reality dating show because they want to watch people find true love. No, we watch these shows for one thing and one thing only: the drama.

Sometimes, though, that drama can get a little problematic. Or very problematic. Here are some dating shows that might have gone a little too far with their concepts, or are otherwise just downright bizarre.

'Boy Meets Boy' (2003)

The idea of a gay dating show is something you still don't see often in 2022. But Boy Meets Boy takes things further, by adding straight men to the mix. While gay contestants compete for a relationship, straight contestants compete for a cash prize ... by pretending to be gay.

'Playing It Straight' (2004)

As if the concept couldn't be bizarre and problematic enough, Boy Meets Boy isn't the only show with contestants who hide their sexuality. In Playing It Straight, men compete for a woman's attention. Some of them are secretly gay, and they're all pretty much gunning for a cash prize.

'Room Raiders' (2003-2009)

One single contestant visits the rooms of three single contestants, and chooses which one to date based on how much they liked what they saw. And the contestants whose rooms are raided get to watch from hidden cameras in the room. It's amazing how such a weirdly invasive show lasted for so long.

'My Antonio' (2009)

My Antonio follows a group of women who compete to date Antonio Sabato Jr. At a glance, it seems like another Bachelor-like show, but the inclusion of his ex-wife as a contestant (who gets really far into the competition) and the fact that his mother had one of the contestants spy for her, make this show pretty bizarre.

'The Littlest Groom' (2004)

Following a group of little people competing to date a suitor (who is also a little person), the show gets really weird after including "average height" contestants. Though, from the name of the show alone, you probably couldn't expect much from the producers.

'Parental Control' (2006-2010)

Parents hating the person their kid is dating isn't anything new, but this show lets the parents meddle in their kids' relationships, trying to set them up with "better" people. So the kids have to choose if they want to stay with their partner, or go out with the people their parents choose. Amazing.

'Married by America' (2003)

The show was basically one big social experiment, letting the audience put a couple together and get them married, seeing if the couple would stay together. All for $100,000 and a house. I'm not gonna lie, I get why people would want to compete on this one.

'Next' (2005-2008)

This show is so weirdly aggressive. A bunch of contestants go one-by-one on dates with a lucky man or woman, who can decide to end the date at any point if they just aren't feeling it.

'Temptation Island' (2001-2003, 2019-2022)

Think your relationship can stand any test? Then go with your partner to an island full of single people who want to get you to stray. That's the premise of Temptation Island, which is just plain ridiculous. And yet, the early 2000s show got revived a few years ago, and is still going strong.

'Joe Millionaire' (2003)

A group of women compete to win the affections of Joe, a man who they think just inherited $50 million. Little do they know, he's more of an Average Joe, and not at all wealthy. Nothing says love quite like deception.

'I Wanna Marry 'Harry'' (2014)

Speaking of dating deception... This show really exists. Before he settled down with Meghan, these contestants competed to date Prince Harry. Well, a Prince Harry lookalike who they're led to believe is the real deal. The show ran for eight episodes, but got canceled after four, and the remainder of the show was moved to streaming. I wonder why...

'Mr. Personality' (2004)

Hosted by Monica Lewinsky, this show is basically the blueprint for Love is Blind. Except, instead of a group of singles dating each other sight unseen, it's just one woman dating a bunch of men, all wearing very creepy masks to hide their true appearances.

'The 5th Wheel' (2001-2004)

The show's slogan tells you what you need to know: "...where strangers become friends, friends become lovers, and lovers become bitter, suicidal exes all on the same show."

Basically, four single people date one another, and then a fifth is added to shake things up.

'Chains of Love' (2001)

One man or woman dates four men or women at once, all literally chained together until "The Locksmith" shows up to take one of the four away. This goes on until there's just two of them left, and they basically win. And it's absolutely wild.

'Age of Love' (2007)

A 30-year-old man dates women in their 20s and 40s, seeing if he has a better shot with a younger or older woman. That's it. That's the whole premise. How do they get people to compete on things like this?

'Are You Hot?' (2003)

Not necessarily a dating show, but still in that same vein. Basically, a bunch of young, attractive people stand in front of a panel of judges who decide just how attractive they really are. Like, they sit there and point out their flaws and everything. Yikes.

'Date My Mom' (2004-2006)

A man or woman chooses a man or woman they want to date... by going on dates with their moms. Based on how their moms describe them, the bachelor or bachelorette makes their choice. It's honestly kind of amazing(ly bad).

'Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionare?' (2000).

Fifty women compete to marry a millionaire. Except, they don't know who the mystery millionaire is. As it turns out, it was Rick Rockwell, who landed in some controversy while the show was airing. Rockwell is actually Richard Balkey, who had a restraining order against him from an ex who accused him of domestic abuse.

'The Swan' (2004)

Another reality show that isn't really a dating show, The Swan takes women who lack self-confidence, and give them complete makeovers. While it's not the most problematic concept in the world, the fact that the makeovers included plastic surgery is pretty odd.

'The Ultimatum' (2022)

Nick and Vanessa Lachey have built a Netflix reality dating/marriage empire, and The Ultimatum is just the latest of their little "experiments." In each couple, one wants to get married, while the other is on the fence. So how do they fix it? By breaking the couples up and having them date members from other couples.

Does it make no sense? Yes. Is it incredibly entertaining? Also yes.