We've gotten so used to singing, dancing and dating reality shows that it may be hard to believe there are other options out there. Well, here are a bunch of reality series that are WAY out there. Behold: ten of the world's weirdest reality series.
Human Tetris (Japan)
Japan has given the world a ton of reality TV over the past few decades, such as "Dragon's Den," "Wipeout," and anything featuring the possibility of extreme injury or humiliation. But their oddest show has to be "Tonneruzu no Minasan no Okage deshita," literally translated as "Thanks to the people of Tunnels (A comedy pair)" or more helpfully translated as "Human Tetris." Here's the skinny: the contestant wears a Tron-like costume and stands in front of a pool of water while a giant block with a cut-out shape comes at him. If he can morph his body into that shape, he'll pass through the block and earn points. If he can't, the block will push him into the water. For added weirdness, a Japanese Betty Draper points at him and laughs. The American version now airs on the Cartoon Network as "Hole in the Wall."
Who wants to donate a kidney? (Netherlands)
The Dutch invented "Big Brother" and unbridled televised nudity, so it makes sense they'd be the ones pushing reality TV boundaries again. In 2007, they did it by putting on a one-time reality TV special in which a 37-year-old terminally ill woman got to choose which of three contestants she'd donate her kidney to after her death. Viewers were encouraged to text in who they wanted to receive the transplant. "De Grote Donorshow" courted controversy and got it in spades. Even the Dutch Prime Minister worried the show would damage the country's reputation. But when it aired, the show was revealed as a well-intended hoax. The woman was an actress and the three transplant hopefuls participated as a publicity stunt to raise awareness of the shortage of organ donors in Holland. It worked: over 7,000 people signed organ donation forms in the month after the show aired.
The Ba-aachelor (Croatia)
Ever feel like reality show contestants are just a bunch of sheep? In Croatia's 2005 reality show "Stado," they actually were sheep. This online series trained a webcam on a herd of seven sheep and encouraged viewers to follow their interactions 24-7. The sheep the viewers didn't like would be voted out, and perhaps eaten. The winner received poetry written in his or her honour. Animal rights groups protested but the show's organizer claimed he wasn't "an insensitive bastard who abuses animals" - he was just trying to demonstrate that "more and more people, especially those who take part in reality shows, are made to look like sheep in every situation."
Habitat for inhumanity (Russia)
With Russia's economy in tatters for decades, cutbacks have become a way of life. Those apparently include combining several reality show ideas into one, and then making the humble contestants work really hard for their prize instead of giving anything away for free. The result, "Dom-2," mixes "Extreme Makeover," "The Bachelor," "Big Brother" and "Million Dollar Mansion" by getting contestants to build a house, try to find love while living in it and then compete as couples to win that house. Got all that? One couple got engaged after the show aired, so that was a happy ending for them. But another houseguest got arrested on the set and sentenced to four years in jail after a viewer he'd conned money from recognized him. Guess another thing that got cut from the show was background checks.
Who's the boss? Pamela Anderson! (India)
The premise for India's "Bigg Boss" reality show sounds just like "Big Brother": a motley crew of housemates live under one roof for 14 weeks. But this show is on our list for one weird reason: they got Pamela Anderson to be a houseguest last fall. She wore a sarong and did housework and everything. Sure, that means she's attention-starved and can't get on a reality show closer to home. But she must've gotten good exposure in return. "Bigg Boss" is watched by 114 million viewers in India and another 100 million people around the globe. That's a lot of eyes taking in Anderson's, um, talents.
Virgins for sale (Australia)
Last year, an enterprising Australian producer got the sexy idea to make a reality series in which a group of virgins auctioned off their deflowering to the highest bidder. Needless to say, he found willing contestants, including a 21-year-old woman who needed the money but thought that since it was a "one-time thing," she wouldn't have to think of herself as a prostitute, and another young man who said he just wanted to meet people. The prize was set at $20,000 AUS plus 90 per cent of the winner's sale price. Needless to say again, the show was shut down by Australian authorities, who said it really did amount to prostitution. So the enterprising producer moved filming to a brothel in Nevada. No word yet when (or if) the auction will happen.
A million poets can't be wrong (United Arab Emirates)
If you saw "Sex and the City 2" and were disturbed by its suggestion that all Abu Dhabi women want to do is take off their burqas and wear slutty, ridiculous clothes like Carrie and her friends, take heart. The most popular reality show in the Middle East is "Million's Poet," an "American Idol"-style competition in which ordinary people recite poems they've written for the chance to win over $1.3 million CAD. Last year, Hissa Hilal became the show's first female finalist after reciting her politically controversial poem about religious extremism. She took home third place and about $800,000 CAD. Unfortunately, she also took home death threats.
Stupid human tricks (Germany)
The German reality show "Wetten, dass..?" ("Wanna bet that"?) is basically David Letterman's Stupid Human Tricks segment with the added element of betting on whether the stunt can be pulled off. There's also the added element of celebrity guests getting in on the betting. Celine Dion bet on whether a guy could lap up a bowl of water faster than his dog, and ended up gamely gargling a glass of water to the tune of "My Heart Will Go On." Other celebrities to trot onto this show include Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lopez, Michael Jackson and Bill Gates. Unfortunately, one contestant was seriously injured when he tried to jump over moving cars with springs attached to his shoes. Perhaps the show should be renamed "The Darwin Awards."
Too-organized crime (Brazil)
In Sao Paolo, state legislator Wallace Souza hosts the popular true crime show "Canal Livre," where he always seems to be first on the scene of a drug dealer's murder, capturing the gory footage before police arrive and take over. In 2009, the state police intelligence chief got suspicious that Souza and his son were ordering the executions and then rushing their TV crew there as a way of boosting ratings. Not incidentally, they also think Souza is involved in drug trafficking on the side and likes to eliminate his rivals on air. Souza denied the allegations but died (in a San Paolo hospital where he was being treated for chronic liver disease) leaving the mystery unsolved.
Hello Baby (South Korea)
When the Pussycat Dolls made a reality series, "The Pussycat Dolls Present," it was all about girls competing to join their group. In South Korea, an all-girl group called Girls' Generation made a reality series about themselves competing to see who would make the best... mom? "Girls' Generation's Hello Baby" is either a pre-feminist pile of crap or brilliant post-feminist entertainment, depending on your point of view. Each week, the girls visit a different couple - sometimes college students, sometimes celebrities - and babysit their infant for the day. The dad gets to vote for the Best Mom and Worst Mom, which nets the winner a gold sticker on a chart and the loser another chore to do. If only the Pussycat Dolls realized that all we really wanted to watch them do was change diapers.